top of page

Exhibition Debut 5/20: Taking Museums to the Streets: Using Fine Art for Protest

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

What is the difference between fine art and protest graphics, and why do so many street artists employ familiar images in their posters? Fine art prizes authorship, originality, and uniqueness and is owned by private collectors or held in museums. Protest posters are created precisely for exposure in the streets, outside the private realm, often anonymously, most often produced in large quantities and nearly always distributed for free.

Yet the art seen in museums and the posters plastered on walls or carried in the streets do share a common tradition: image appropriation—the use of one artist’s image in another artist’s work. The more revered or well-known the art, the more likely it is to be copied, parodied, defaced, appropriated, or altered into a protest poster.

Because the images in this exhibition have become so familiar to wide audiences, they gain enormous power when they appear in the streets transformed into expressions of opposition to war, censorship, homophobia, sexism, racism, and other social ills, or to promote rights for the disabled, ecology, peace, and women’s rights. The alteration can be as simple as adding the word “censored” across the genitals of Michelangelo’s David (1501-04) during the 1989 controversy when Jesse Helms opposed art supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, or a complete reworking, as in Evolve or Dissolve by “O”, where the single figure in Munch’s The Scream (1893), multiplies into countless frightened, screaming people, running from burning oil wells during the first Gulf War. These posters demonstrate the impact of imagery when large numbers of people become involved.

The Posters in Taking Museums to the Streets: Using Fine Art for Protest transform earlier masterpieces into statements about contemporary social issues, continuing the Center for the Study of Political Graphics’ commitment to advancing the power of art to educate, agitate, and inspire people to action.

May 20 - July 9, 2023

Mercado la Paloma

3655 S Grande Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90007

Open daily: 9 am - 8 pm

Printmaking Workshop Led by Ernesto Vazquez

Saturday June 3 \ 2 - 4 pm

Join us Saturday June 3rd for CSPG’s annual printmaking workshop led by printmaker and teaching artist Ernesto Vazquez. In this hands-on printmaking workshop attendees will be guided through stencil and screen printing techniques and will leave with their own handmade poster. Unwind in the Mercado la Paloma, a beautiful community with delicious food and good people! The workshop is free but space is limited.

Educate! Agitate! Appropriate! Virtual Panel Discussion

Thursday Jun 8 \ 4 - 5:30 pm

Fine art and protest posters often share a common tradition: image appropriation - the use of one artist's image in another artist's work. The more revered or well known the art the more likely it is to be copied, parodied, defaced, appropriated, or altered into a protest poster.

Join us Thursday, June 8th 4-5:30pm for a discussion between artists, activists, and art historians on the power of iconic images and their use in collective organizing. Panelists include Karen Fiorito, Ricardo Levins Morales, Carol A. Wells & more to come.

All events are free. Space is limited for workshops.

Email with any questions

162 views0 comments


bottom of page