The Albuquerque Museum currently has an exhibition that focuses on politics through the lens of art.
“Art of Politics” is an exhibition put together by Benjamin Masemen in collaboration with Albuquerque Museum Assistant Curator of Art Titus O’Brien. The exhibit displays various forms of art including photographs, drawings and protest signs.
The exhibit contains a variety political views and sentiments, said O’Brien. The art depicts anti-militarism politics, contemporary politics and identity politics. It also includes civil rights politics, international politics and Chicano politics.
“Art has the potential to break down political boundaries. It doesn’t always, but it certainly can break down boundaries or redefine them,” O’Brien said.
Two of the pieces featured in this collection were painted by Raychel Stine, a fine arts professor at The University of New Mexico. These paintings are on pieces of cardboard from the 2017 Albuquerque Women’s Rally.
The first sign depicts Lady Liberty’s torch and reads, “Truth.” The second piece reads, “No Ban. No Fear. No Wall. Love All.” These protest signs were made from acrylic paint, glitter and ink marker.
UNM alum Charles Hyder took a photograph in 1986 as a part of a anti-nuclear weapons protest. That piece can also be found in the gallery.
Engaging in political art allows people to think about politics and social issues in a new and different way, Maseman said.
His vision for this collection was inspired by recent political events, which helped him start to think about the way art can be used to express opinion and allow people to thoughtfully approach uncomfortable topics, he said.
“I’m hoping anyone to who takes the time to engage which this selection of images will be able to leave with some new perspectives on race, violence, protest and the role art can play in political discourse,” Masemen said.
“Art of Politics” included three pieces of art, from two different artists that are propagandistic as well.
O’Brien and Masemen included these pieces because they see propaganda as a type of art. As an art curator, O’Brien sees how politics impacts art, but also sees how art impacts politics, he said.
“There is an art to politics. Often you have propagandistic images with clear standpoints and with a clear position of critique. A lot of political art is more ambiguous. But some signs are more propagandistic, and propaganda is often defined as art with a message. This is a kind of art,” O’Brien said.
“Art of Politics” includes everything from politically neutral or ambiguous art to overtly political pieces that come from clear viewpoints.
Masemen went through a careful selection process for each of the pieces included in exhibit, he said. He conducted research about each of the pieces, the artists and the story behind all of the artwork.
This was important, because as he was able to select a variety of pieces that expressed political, social and personal views, Masemen said.
“Of course people are bombarded with mediated messages, and all media is art,” O’Brien said. “We don’t have any political ideas or views that aren’t impacted by the media and art we are consuming. I think art is continually and perpetually impacting politics. Art can be a cultural symbol and a transformative thing. Art can give something for people to rally around.”
“This installation addresses a lot more than just art and artists. All the work on display is exciting aesthetically, but it also introduces some important questions about identity, war and American history,” Masemen said.
Megan Holmen is a freelance reporter for news and culture at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.