Throughout the twentieth century, there have been many major events and changes in our global society. In addition to many wars (i.e., World War I & II, Vietnam War, Korean War, etc.), there have been genocides in countries such as Rwanda and Somalia, and Civil wars throughout the world. During this century, human beings have also been faced with incurable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and have assassinated presidents and raised coups. There have also been many miraculous occurrences and developments such as the invention of the internet and cell phones, the use of automobiles for casual use, the ability to travel through the air, traveling to the moon, and establishing thriving economies worldwide. While individuals voice their perspectives in various manners such as protests, etc., artists respond in their own way by creating an artistic expression to oppose social injustices and make independent statements.
Art has been a popular method of social expression throughout the history of mankind. From the art on cave walls thousands of years ago to the graffiti that can be readily observed daily throughout the city. Artists have also participated in rallies, protests, and boycotts as a means of supporting those who have experienced social injustices. Art plays a valuable role in contemporary life and society by providing relief to the masses, as well as informing the masses of the atrocities of the time. Art also stimulates one’s thought, subsequently evoking more critical analysis as well as increased awareness.
The first piece to be discussed is the And Babies piece by Hendricks and Petlin. This portrait depicted the casualties of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War in which children, women, and the elderly were amongst those killed. This piece is significant for several reasons. First, it provided most Americans with their first view of the severity of war. Also, this was one of the first wars broadcast nationally, providing a shocking reality to the public. Finally, this piece showcased a high level of brutality by placing faces to the people whom we were fighting and killing.
The next piece is the Yayoi Kusama, Peep Show/Endless Love Show, from 1966. This artwork depicts a young woman on what appears to be the dance floor of a nightclub. She has a welcoming expression as well as an open posture. She also is alone signifying independence and exhibiting strength. This coincides with the continuation of the women’s liberation that began about 50 years prior to this piece. She has on a red bodysuit and is facing a mirror in which there are multiple reflections of herself. This signifies the many roles of femininity. Throughout the picture, there are hundreds of lights stemming from a strobe light. During this era of free love and free thinkers, people began questioning religion even more, as well as our capabilities as human beings. During this time many countries were engaging in space travel and continuing global exploration, as well as the rise of psychedelic drugs and other stimulants. This piece showcases the times, as well as bringing consciousness to women independence.
The final piece is Barbara Kruger’s untitled “Your Manias Become Science,” from 1981, in which there is a depiction of fog everywhere. This artwork expresses awareness and brings consciousness to the increasing environmental concerns due to humanities over usage of our resources. Research shows that we are damaging the Earth frequently justifying it through science and this piece expresses grave concern by using strong language, “Mania.”