Out of the Vox: Art’s Activist Potential

ART WITH A POLITICAL FACE TYPICALLY gains visibility during periods of social upheaval. “Marxism and art” of the ’70s and “political art” of the ’80s are among only the most recent examples. A good proportion of artists typically aim their work into the thick of things, but institutional gatekeepers try to manage the political dimension of art, blunting artists’ partisanship into a universalized discourse of humanistic ideals and individualized expression. Virtually all avant-gardes and art-world insurgencies, from Constructivism to Dada to Abstract Expressionism and beyond, have suffered this reinterpretation.

But the game changed when curators with a bent toward geopolitics organized successive recent Documentas, confirming an international trend that legitimated some political expression in art, mostly work fitting the rubric of postcolonialism, but also collaborative and extra-institutional

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