After the two world wars, the art of protesting
became more and more common. Both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts induced
many works of art protesting the government involvement in foreign combative
affairs. Artists also found composition inspiration in the increasing materialism
of the American public and their infatuation with mass entertainment, as
seen primarily in the Pop Art movement. Before the twentieth century, art
centered around European art and artists, however in the 1900's the United
States became the center for artistic movements. Huge museums and galleries,
sponsored by some of America's wealthiest families erupted in
major American cities. Because of their great ability to draw publicity, these museums became the focus points to protestation art.
One of the cultural meccas of twentieth century art, the Museum of Modern Art(MoMA) in New York City, found itself in the center of protestation art during the 1960's when a group of artists accused the major sponsors of the museum, the Rockefeller, of funding the exhibitions with blood money taken from the manufacturing of napalm. The group of artists christened themselves the Guerilla Art Action Group and produced leaflets and staged "die in" performances to muster support for their claims. Another blow to the MoMA came in 1974 when artist and writer Eva Cockcroft published an article in Art Forum entitled "Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War." The article revealed connections between senior MoMA personnel and the CIA, who had covertly funded some of the museum's American abstract art exhibitions. Promoted by the MoMA as the art of freedom and purity, American art countered against the Soviet communism practices and reinforced the values of democracy.
Government sponsored art exhibitions obviously try to display a certain message and elicit a specific response from the audience. The American abstract art movement was highly publicized in American magazines and journals. Life magazine dedicated an entire issue to the new American art movement, featuring Jackson Pollock--the ultimate American cowboy artist, on the cover. For the first time in artistic history, the United States had founded an art movement, and the media converted these artists into the epitome of American values: freedom of expression, movement and ideas.
American propagandist art in the 1980's and 90's focuses on social and domestic issues rather than war and foreign political conflict. Stories of the availability of heavy drugs, gang fights and debilitating diseases fill the evening news broadcasts piped into every home, while parents must decide how to discuss drug dealers, teenage pregnancies and racial tensions with their children. Diseases such as Cancer and AIDS effect entire populations, and transform opinions on health and relationships. Contemporary art documents these modern atrocities and presents society with reflections on life.
Current propaganda campaigns using art include the war on drugs, the fight against Cancer and educating young women about sexual assault. Posters advertising the effects of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases permeate buses, subways and city sidewalks. Several art agencies sponsor exhibitions of art concerning Cancer and AIDS and often composed by actual patients and survivors. Beginning in 1988, the ArtAIDS project, Visual AIDS organization and the MoMA sponsored the Day Without Art --a worldwide observance of the impact of AIDS on the arts community. White cloths and AIDS awareness posters cover and replace familiar works of art to demonstrate a world without the arts. Originally started as a memorial for artists who died from AIDS related diseases, a Day Without Art now also celebrates achievements of artists who are living with the disease and continue to produce works.
One of the most well known and widely exhibited propaganda art is the AIDS Quilt, coordinated by the San Francisco based NAMES Project. The quilt consists of "panels created by the friends, lovers, or family of someone who has died from and AIDS related illness, and decorated with names, messages, pictures, mementos, clothing or a gift." Serving both as a memorial to those who died from AIDS and an educator to people who fail to realize the severity of the disease, the quilt travels the country. A cross-section of people of varying age, race, gender, and sexual orientation compose the panels of the quilt, eloquently illustrating to the audience that AIDS shows no favorites.
New technology allows a greater number and greater variety of individuals to experience art in every form, aiding in the spread of artistic messages. The Internet provides artists with a wonderful venue to express thought-provoking messages both visually and verbally. Websites filled with graphics, fonts and animation, not only provide information but can be viewed as works of art themselves. Two award winning Websites connecting art and terminal diseases, Illuminating AIDS Through Art and Confronting Cancer Through Art, display works of art by individuals dealing with the diseases. Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Cancer Center and the Arther Rose Gallery, Confronting Cancer includes nearly two hundred works and statements by 112 artists. The Illuminating AIDS Website launched "The Subject is AIDS" project co-sponsored by the Family Planning Council of Western Massachusetts and the AIDS Partnership of Western Massachusetts. Incorporating thirty-three Western Massachusetts artists, the project includes a traveling exhibit and a lecture series discussing AIDS issues.
Health communication wonderfully utilizes
propaganda art to educate the public about maintaining their health and
preventing the spread of disease. Health propaganda posters displayed in
schools, offices and outside billboards help reach a large audience, while
the devestatingly realistic photographs and images reinforce the seriousness
of disease. Who could ever forget the image of a healthy lung compared
to a smoker's lung, side by side?