Give Me the Message! Blends Art and Activism

New Cooley Gallery exhibit features political posters from Cuba, France, and the United States

A new exhibit titled Give Me the Message!, has opened in the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery. The Cooley, which is located on the first floor of the library, presents three to four exhibits during the academic year to bring exciting work to the larger Reed community. Curated by Director of the gallery Stephanie Snyder, Give Me the Message! features political posters from Cuba, France, and the United States from 1960 – 1975. When viewed together, the posters allow visitors to consider aesthetic similarities and conceptual methodologies across cultures.

It includes a large collection of work by American artist and social justice advocate Corita Kent (1918 – 1986). Kent, a Roman Catholic nun, used her art to promote message of love and nonviolence. Inspired by Andy Warhol and the pop art movement, Kent’s work includes bright colors and images from contemporary culture and advertisements. With bold lettering and strong composition, the pieces convey political messages denouncing racism and injustice as well as the Vietnam War. 

Photo by Katherine Draves

Photo by Katherine Draves

The exhibit also includes examples of political posters from the French protests of May 1968. A collective of art students, the Atelier Populaire, screen printed thousands of posters a day to create a visual representation of the protestors’ fight. Designs were submitted anonymously and reviewed in meetings. Completed posters were signed by a simple stamp marking the posters as having been made by the Atelier Populaire. The posters, while visually simpler than others in the exhibit, still express the passion of the people. 

Lastly, there are many posters from Communist Cuba. They were created by artists employed by the government arts agency, the Organización de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de Asia, África y América Latina or OSPAAAL. OSPAAAL helped educate and employ some of the best artists in the country to create posters inspired by Russian and Soviet propaganda, Latin American modern art, and pop art from the United States. Because of OSPAAAL’s mission to advance global solidarity, many of the posters feature international Communist leaders and venerate revolutionary struggles. 

With hand lettering done by Reed alum Lee Pete Tim ‘19, the exhibit provides an interesting look into the intersection of art and activism. Make sure to stop by before the exhibit closes on December 15.

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