Featured Image

A Very Brief History of Protest Art in America

Haley Arnold, Publications Director

September 15, 2020

Protest has also been a prevalent theme in art throughout the years. This timeline explores art that addresses injustice and inequality in the past 100 years.


1931 - Diego Rivera, Detail of “The Uprising”

Mexican Muralists, such as Diego Rivera, created fresco style murals in North America to revolt against tyrannical industrialization, and give a voice to the silenced Mexican-Americans.


1942 - Gordon Parks, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.

Parks was a photojournalist who documented the lives of Black Americans to highlight civil rights, racial inequality, and poverty. He aimed to highlight communities and social issues in order to effect change.


1944 - Tokyo Miyatake, Untitled (Opening Image from Valediction)

Miyatake and his family were relocated to a Japanese internment camp in California in 1942 under the Roosevelt administration. Though photography was outlawed, Miyatake built a makeshift camera with a smuggled lens and box to shoot daily life at the camp.


1974 - Ana Mendieta, Untitled

A Cuban migrant, Mendieta combined her body and land in her performances and installations to highlight the nature of gender and the environment. Her works demonstrate the relationship between feminism and the Earth.


1985 - Guerilla Girls are Founded.

The Guerilla Girls are a group of anonymous art activists whose mission is to highlight women artists and artists of color while exposing the white male dominance in the art world. They research statistics and facts behind some of the biggest art establishments and use irony and humor in their propaganda to expose these truths.


1987 - Donald Moffett, He Kills Me

Moffett made this poster to highlight the failure of Reagan’s administration to respond to the AIDS epidemic. The president remained silent regarding the epidemic for a long time, ultimately causing the death of many Americans especially among the LGBTQ+ community.


1989 - Keith Haring, Ignorance= Fear / Silence = Death

A street artist from New York, Haring used his work to advocate for the AIDS crisis and give a voice to the LGBTQ+ community who were silenced at the time.


2012 - Theaster Gates, Minority Majority

Gates uses fire hoses in his work to speak on the history of race in the United States and violence against black Americans. By using fire hoses, his art alludes to the violent use of such tools towards the peaceful civil rights protesters. Though the same materials may no longer be used, this violence is still prominent today.


2014 - Kara Walker, A Subtlety…

Walker’s sculpture features a larger than life sphinx figure made entirely of sugar, portraying a racist stereotype of black women. The use of sugar and installing the sculpture in a form or sugar factory alludes to the history of slavery in the industry in the United States, and the objectification and fetishization of black women.


2019 - Nan Goldin & P.A.I.N, Die In at the V&A

Goldin founded P.A.I.N (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), and began “die-in” demonstrations in front of art establishments around the world to call attention to the opioid epidemic in the United States, and the involvement of the Slacker family who profited highly off of OxyContin and were major benefactors of some of the largest art institutions.





Comment Form is loading comments...