PEACE PRESS GRAPHICS 1967-1987:
ART IN THE PURSUIT OF PUBLIC CHANGE
In 1967, Jerry Palmer—a physics graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an antiwar activist—set out to meet the communications needs of two important radical organizations of the day: the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Resistance. After experimenting with commercial printers and silkscreening posters on the floor of the Resistance office in Westwood, California, he finally invested $250 in a box of offset printing press parts. Palmer spent that summer reassembling the machine. This rebuilt AB Dick 320 press was the beginning of Peace Press. An “alternate everything” L.A. printing collective, Peace Press would go on to produce thousands of flyers, posters, ephemera, and other materials for both progressive and commercial clients throughout southern California and the country
The late 1960s were heady times, a period when art and political agitation often joined forces to encourage social change. Palmer’s project initially met the antiwar movement’s urgent need for materials encouraging draft resistance and opposing the Viet Nam War generally. Commercial printers often refused to print flyers and posters against the war, and Peace Press filled the void. Over the next twenty years, the Press would expand its interests to dozens of other causes, with its client list ranging from the Black Panther Party and the Farm Workers Union to the Feminist Health Center and the environmental group Alliance for Survival.
Peace Press Graphics 1967–1987: Art in the Pursuit of Social Change displays more than one hundred posters and flyers, as well as ephemera, which the press produced between 1967 and 1987. The posters document the events and ideas that affect social and political activists and permeate popular culture to this day. As a project under the umbrella of the Getty initiative, Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945 – 1980, Peace Press advances the region-wide efforts to showcase the vitality of contemporary art in Southern California. The University Art Museum (California State University, Long Beach) in partnership with the Center for the Study of Political Graphics have conducted extensive research about the stories behind the posters and the artists and activists who were so dedicated to social change.
The exhibition presents the breadth of the political posters printed at Peace Press, from hand-drawn expressions of anger and passion to slick concert advertisements. This project is both a celebration of many voices that combined to communicate ideas and an indictment of the injustices that continue to plague the world. Those who were old enough to experience those times are invited to remember; those for whom this is history are encouraged to appreciate the legacy of Peace Press and the art of social activism.