It seems that one of the artworks that caught my attention at the Tate, has a political thrust. I guess that it is not new, when it comes to expression through art. Music lyrics have rampantly expressed political views, whether at a national level or institutional level. Dance is rife with national, militant and political choreography.
Really, if we go back to Medieval and Renaissance art, they all carried political (and moral) messages, albeit covertly presented in religious works.
Every age has fought for their form of the truth, to set the masses free. From Plato to Twenty-First Century politics, there is nothing new under the sun, just new names, labels and toils. And under every ‘rallying cry’ much blood has been spilt in the quest for that Utopia.
My art appreciation harks back. So, with a love for woodblock prints of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries and lino print in the early Twentieth Century art. American born Andrea Bowers, The Worker’s Maypole caught my eye…
An Offering for May Day 1894
(illustration by Walter crane) 2015
Ink on cardboard
The source for Bowers’ drawing is an illustration by the British artist Walter Crane (1845-1915). Bowers recreated the image on sections of cardboard boxes, using a permanent marker pen.
What!? A copy of another artist’s work in marker pen and cardboard!?
Exhibited in the Tate!?
So, when I got home, I asked Auntie Google to explain; and was that a can of worms…
Well, I’m not political and if I had to nail my philosophical flag to the mast, I might just find I’m batting for the opposing team. Yet, I find nothing in this piece of art that offends even though the artist and I, more than likely, assess life through different worldviews.
I love her up-cycling of this genre and medium and I would easily have some of her works on my wall. Well, if I had a wall large enough.
This is what Auntie said “
The May Day riots of 1894 were a series of violent demonstrations that occurred throughout Cleveland, Ohio on May 1, 1894 (May Day). Cleveland’s unemployment rate increased dramatically during the Panic of 1893.
The Panic of 1893 was a serious economic depression in the U.S.A. that began in 1893 and ended in 1897. It deeply affected every sector of the economy, and produced political upheaval that led to the 1896 realigning election and the presidency of William McKinley.
Crane was a British artist and book illustrator, part of the Arts and Craft movement and friends with William Morris, who we all know as one of the founders of the Arts and Craft movement in England; both very political figures.
Bowers Crane Morris
Andrea Bowers The Worker’s Maypole, An Offering for May Day 1894 (Illustration by Walter Crane) 2015 is part of a larger body of work that she started in 2012 using the same materials, which she chose to reflect those she saw being used that year in the Occupy encampments in New York, across the United States and elsewhere around the world, in protests against social and economic inequality. The images for Bowers’ drawings were taken from political pamphlets and graphic campaigns from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which she enlarged and adapted. For several of the source images, Bowers turned to the work of the British socialist artist and illustrator Walter Crane
The 1894 cartoon depicts laborers frolicking, bare-footed, in an idyllic countryside, dressed in classicized tunics and shifts and apparently ready for work that is challenging and rewarding without being demoralizing or exhausting. They hold the ends of ribbons that flutter down from a personified May-Pole, a tall and wispy woman.
In Crane’s drawing, various banners are held above the dancers and ribbons are twirled around the maypole. The texts on these banners and ribbons are the typical demands and slogans of late-nineteenth-century socialism: ‘Neither Riches Nor Poverty’, ‘Abolition of Privilege’, ‘The Land for the People’, ‘Adult Suffrage’, ‘Eight Hours’, ‘Leisure for all’, ‘Employers’ Liability’, ‘No Starving Children In the Board’s Schools’ and ‘A Life Worth Living’.
In enlarging and transferring Crane’s drawing, Bowers has changed some of these texts to reflect contemporary political campaigns. For instance, ‘Adult Suffrage’ becomes ‘Equal Pay’ and ‘Neither Riches Nor Poverty’ becomes ‘Healthcare is a Human Right’. In the centre of the composition, the ribbon that in Crane’s image reads ‘Eight Hours’ has become ‘Which Side Are You On?’.
Calls, I think we would all agree with.
Good one Tate!
I’ll end on this, from The Worker Maypole… Your life is…