Art Activism

Art activism, both directly within movements and in the surrounding culture, has been a key element of social protest. Below are some general resources on the topic that give a sampling of the vast field and wide array of materials available online and in libraries. In addition to these resources, there are numerous sites and works of art activism cited in the various individual movement pages.

Featured Sites

  • Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). Great site for one of the most important public art centers in the world. Learn about the hundreds of community murals SPARC has created, preserved, and recorded.
  • Inkworks Press Archive Selections from forty years of work by one of the great poster/graphic arts producers. A major force in progressive politics in and beyond the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some Key Sites

Select Bibliography

Baigell, Matthew and Julia Williams, eds. Artists Against War and Fascism: Papers of the First American Artists' Congress. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986. Originally published under the title Papers of the American Artists's Congress, 1936.

Becker, Heather and Peter J. Schulz. Art for the People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943. Chicago: Chronicle Books, 2002.

Boyd, Andrew, ed./assembler. Beautiful Trouble: A Toolkit for Revolution. New York, OR Books, 2012.

Bruckner, D.J.R., Seymour Chwast, and Steven Heller. Art Against War: 400 Years of Protest Art. New York: Abbeville Press, 1984.

Buhle, Paul and Nicole Schulman, eds. WOBBLIES! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. London : Verso, 2005.

Cushing, Lincoln and Timothy W. Drescher. American Labor Posters. Ithaca, London: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2009. "American labor posters are widely scattered, difficult to locate, and rarely archived. . ." This book has gathered and organized into a rich compendium of 'activist graphic media,' images that illustrate the diversity of labor history in the United States.

Donald, Diana. The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III. Yale University, 1996. James Gillray and others captured the social, technological, and political revolutions of their day.

Dunitz, Robin. Street Gallery: Guide to 1000 Los Angeles Murals. Los Angeles: RJD Enterprises,

Eisenman, Stephen F. The Abu Ghraib Effect. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2007. Analysis of the Abu Ghraib photographs.

Fitzgerald, Richard. Art and Politics. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1973. Analysis of work by 5 progressive era artists: Maurice Becker, K.R. Chamberlain, Robert Minor, John Sloan and Art Young

Goldstein, Robert Justin. Censorship of Political Caricature in Nineteenth-Century France. Kent Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1989.

Gray, Mary Lackritz. A Guide to Chicago's Murals. with a forward by Franz Schulze. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Griswold del Castillo, Richard, Teresa McKenna, and Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, eds. Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965–1985. Los Angeles: Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, 1991. Rich contextualization of the first major exhibit centering on the Chicano/a movement as an artistic force.

Guibert, Emmanuel and Didier Lefèvre. The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. First Second Books, 2007.

Heller, Steven. ed. War Heads: Cartoonists Draw the Line. New York: Viking/Penguin, 1983.

---. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. London/New York: Phaidon Press, 2008.

---. and Gail Anderson. Savage Mirror: The Art of Contemporary Caricature. New York: Watson-Guptil, 1992.

Hess, Stephen and Milton Kaplan. The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1975.

Hogarth, Paul. The Artist as Reporter. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1967.

Horn, Maurice. ed. The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons. New York/London: Chelsea House Publishers, 1980.

Inkworks Collective. Visions of Peace and Justice: San Francisco Bay Area: 1974-2007. Over 30 Years Of Political Posters. Berkeley: Inkworks Press, 2007

---. Visions of Peace and Justice, Vol 2: Posters 2008-2015. Berkeley: Inkworks Press, 2016.

Jacobs, Karrie and Steven Heller. Angry Graphics: Protest Posters of the Reagan/Bush Era. Layton, UT: Gibbs-Smith, nd (o.p. 1994).

King, David and Cathy Porter. Images of Revolution: Graphic Art from 1905 Russia. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.

Kraus, Jerelle. All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page. Columbia University Press, 2009.

McQuiston, Liz. Suffragettes to She-Devils: Women's Liberation and Beyond. London: Phaidon Press Ltd. 1997. Use of the arts in the suffrage moment.

MacPhee, Josh. Stencil Pirates: A Global Study of the Street Stencil. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2004.

---, ed. Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2009.

McQuiston, Liz. Graphic Agitation: Social and Political Graphics Since the Sixties. London/New York: Phaidon Press, 1993.

Nevins, Allan and Frank Weitenkampf. A Century of Political Cartoons: Caricature in the United States from 1800 to 1900. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944.

Okun, Rob A., editor. The Rosenbergs: Collected Visions of Artists and Writers. New York: Universe Books, 1991.

Philippe, Robert. Political Graphics: Art as a Weapon. New York: Abbeville Press, 1980.

Platt, Susan Noyes. Art & Politics in the 1930's: Modernism Marxism Americanism. A History of Cultural Activism During the Depression Years. New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1999.

Reed, T.V. The Art of Protest. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2005.

---. Fifteen Jugglers, Five Believers: Literary Politics and the Poetics of American Social Movements. Berkeley: U of California P, 1992.

Resnick, Elizabeth, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, and Frank Baseman. The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Justice and the Environment, 1965-2005. Boston: Massachusetts College of Art and Design, 2005.

Shikes, Ralph E. The Indignant Eye: The Artist as Social Critic in Prints and Drawings from the Fifteenth Century to Picasso. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.

---, and Steven Heller. The Art of Satire: Painters as Caricaturists and Cartoonists from Delacroix to Picasso. New York: Pratt Graphics Center and Horizon Press, 1984.

Stewart, Virginia. 45 Contemporary Mexican Artists. Stanford University Press: 1951.

Toll, Nelly. Without Surrender: Art of the Holocaust. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1978.
Graphic art made in concentration camps during World War II.

Wright, Micah Ian.You Back the Attack! We'll Bomb Who We Want! Remixed War Propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.

Villa, Raúl Homero. Barrio Logos: Space and Place in Urban Chicano Literature and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. Brilliant reinterpretation of Chicano/a culture, including the role of murals as claims on public space.

Zurier, Rebecca. Art for The MASSES:A Radical Magazine and Its Graphics, 1911-1917.Temple University Press, 1988.