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America in Revolt: the Art of Protest

February 3rd – February 25th, 2016 

AMERICA IN REVOLT: THE ART OF PROTEST is an exhibition of original posters and artwork created by students and activists during the landmark ‘Berkeley demonstrations’ in California in the early 1970s.

Drawn from the archive of the late publisher Felix Dennis, and curated by the revered writer and counterculture historian Barry Miles, the collection is comprised of more than 150 posters, each one capturing the incendiary spirit of that time.

While the demonstrations were initially sparked by the massacre of four unarmed student protesters at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard on May 4th, 1970, they were also a response to the reinstatement of the military draft by President Nixon, and the escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.

AMERICA IN REVOLT: THE ART OF PROTEST is made up of 50 works from the Felix Dennis collection, which was recently acquired by Shapero Rare Books. All of the posters demonstrate the swift organisation of the student body. Just days after the Kent State shooting, the Berkeley Political Poster Workshop, made up of art, design and political students, took over a small space donated by a sympathetic contingent of the faculty. Here they quickly disseminated their message through an ad-hoc production line. Posters were silkscreened onto recycled computer paper and psychedelic calendars; others went straight onto cardboard to be used immediately at demonstrations.

Only a few of each of these posters were made and most did not survive, such was their immediate necessity. They are supplemented by supporting material outlining the atmosphere of unrest in America including works illustrating solidarity with Vietnamese civilians, details of American weapons, and questions over President Nixon’s integrity.

Curator Barry Miles says: ‘These posters were not designed as art, but for a specific political purpose, and yet they inevitably fit into the history of graphic art, borrowing heavily from the Atelier Populaire posters of the student uprising in Paris of May 1968 and the counter-cultural posters of the period. They are a frozen snapshot of American graphic design at the end of the sixties, as well as a unique sociological record of a society in crisis.’

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