After Donald Trump was elected as the forty-fifth President of the United States of America, several cultural commentators and contemporary artists mentioned the importance of art as a form of resistance. In fact, art has always had the means to provide a powerful rebuttal to the corruption of culture, and Political art has continuously existed within the aesthetic discourse of art. For example, we can observe artists similarly protesting issues like police brutality in Thomas Nast’s 1874 wood-engraving Jewels Among Swine, which depicts the police as swine with batons, engaging affably with gangsters, while arresting female activists protesting against the lack of enforcement against crime; Spain Rodriguez’s 1969 comic strip Manning, a film noir inspired narrative of a crooked detective who takes little issue with using his authority to lie, cheat, steal, and brutalize innocent civilians; and more recently, Dread Scott’s installation A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday (2015), a stark re-appropriation of the NAACP’s banner (which read A Man Was Lynched Yesterday) that was hung from their New York City office during the 1920s. Dread Scott, a self proclaimed revolutionary artist, made the piece in response to the epidemic of black men across the nation being killed in cold blood by police officers.
As a young man venturing out into the (real) world during the George W. Bush years, art, music, and politics became the backbone of my grappling with the human condition in the midst of what I interpreted to be a grave point in the history of Western Civilization. Punk rock music and the revolutionary, anti-establishment charged imagery of underground comix, would have a lasting impression on myself and a generation of contemporary artists, writers, and musicians. It was during this time that I first came across the work of Raymond Pettibon, a major forerunner of today’s counter-cultural scene. He began his career drawing album art and posters for California’s Hardcore Punk rock scene in the 1980s. His most iconic work during this period is the art and the logo for the highly influential band Black Flag (Pettibon’s older brother Greg Ginn was a founding member). Pettibon’s current exhibition, “A Pen of All Work”, at the New Museum on New York City’s Lower East Side is a breath of fresh air in the midst of today’s foul political and social climate.