An open letter to critics writing about political art’


Shepard Fairey

The understanding of political art is controversial. The way that critics analyse and decrypt the meaning is un-lawful due to the fact that we don’t have a developed vocabulary with which to understand and criteria which to evaluate, political art and activist artists. I agree with this as there are so many connotations to understand political/activist art, which delve in the way we interpret it. There are seven questions that a critic should consider when analysing and understanding political art and activist artists. These are; Does it work? Who is the audience? What is the relevant tradition? What medium and why? What kind of mastery does it require? What am I missing? What’s my role as a critic? I feel that these seven questions that are asked can really help in the understanding and interpreting of the artwork and gives a bench-mark to inform, but I don’t think it really confirms the ‘what is’ and ‘what isn’t’. There are many key points in article which I feel are good and bad points to art, but I want to look into specific parts of the text which I feel are important.

One of the main parts to political art it states that it ‘is not to represent the world but to act within it’. I think that this is a key point that is being made and I do agree with it to an extent. I feel that the reason behind political art is to raise awareness, publish and inform others about a certain subject matter. Thus making people want to act upon what they have seen, but it could be seen to represent a specific ideology and what does the artist what to see happen from publicising their artwork. It seems that it would be down to the individual activist to what they want to see happen. It does act within the world, but it also represents the world around us. It’s about what the artist wants their work to do.

Another key point to the article is ‘Who is the Audience?’ It looks at the perspective of the critic. All political and activist art bases a lot of thought onto the person viewing it, and their thoughts on it. It writes that ‘the audience for political art is quite different; it constitutes a large demographic’ whilst ‘for most art it draws  from a very narrow population’. Thus people who aren’t too interested in art wouldn’t be drawn to a general piece of art work in an exhibition, but because political art bases a lot on the society and culture, people are drawn to that as it can be a strong representative of thoughts and beliefs. In comparison to the general consensus of artwork tends to display emotion, ideas or perspectives an artist has on their own.


Fig. 2 Arab Woman (2012)


Figure 2. Fairey, S. (2011)[Poster] (Accessed 5.12.2016)

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