Friday, September 30, 2016

The Troost Avenue Murals of Alexander Austin

Alexander Austin mural, The King, 3217 Troost Ave., Kansas City, MO
Immediately after your mural viewing trip along Avienda Cesar E. Chavez you should head directly to Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri to see the work of Alexander Austin.  A couple of things set Austin's work apart. His murals are rendered in black and white. And they feature large scale iconic portraiture.
In The King, images of Dr. ML King, Jr in both oratory and reflection flank both the left and right sides of the murals.  Also featured on the mural is a young Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. The muralist Austin can be seen kneeling in deference the King's legacy.
Alexander Austin mural, Manheim Grandmothers, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, 3922 Troost Ave., KCMO

A few blocks south, at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, lies a mural like none other in the region. It's depicts four grandmothers: Lucille Leaphart, Orisa Kelly-Hogan, Avern Hughes, and Dorothy Hawkins (left to right) of the Manheim Neighborhood.  In the center lies an image of St. Vincent de Paul. By placing these women, stalwarts of the neighborhood on each side of de Paul, Austin elevates them to saintly status and gives them their due respect.
Alexander Austin mural, 31st & Troost, Pergola Park/Osage Trail Station. Color mural on right added later by different muralist.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Avienda Cesar E. Chavez

If you want to see murals in Kansas City perhaps the first place to visit is Avienda Cesar E. Chavez. Across the street from the Guadelupe Center, a mural dedicated to the avenues namesake, wraps around a staircase. Brightly colored and finely detailed, it beckons one to ascend the steps into Gage Park which lies beyond and find a new world.

But go west, young man. Go West. At the western-most end of the avenue lies a block of murals  dedicated to Meso-American cultures. Created in 1985, the murals—despite some fading and chipping—are still rich reminders of these cultures as well as the culture of great community art and mural making that still thrives in Kansas City, Kansas.  The murals were created by a group of artists led by Lee Ann Perez, Javier Perez, and Clemente Raya Sr.
Mayan Warrior, Bonampak, 800 AD

The Life of the Mixtec King Eight Deer Tiger Claw

Aztec Glory

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Obama Gets a New Style

Folks had a great time during the opening session of Cut Your Hair in the Socialist Style creating a new look for the President for the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress. Can you tell which of these is a Disconnected Undercut?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nonsense, Campaign Posters, and Propaganda

If your interested in the art of the political poster, then Presidential campaigns are good places to look since at least 80 percent of their effort is pure propaganda. Ten percent is utter nonsense. The rest, perhaps a smattering of truth.

People tend to forget that Eldridge Cleaver, the Minister of Information for the Black Panthers, also ran for President. On the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He didn't fare that well; he wasn't even 35 at the time of the election. The constitution is rather vague on when you need to come of age in order to be President. While campaigning? before the swearing-in ceremony?; at any point during the 4 year term? Only the all-seeing Founding Fathers knew.

You can see a poster from the Cleaver run, along with a number of other posters from US Presidential campaigns at the Kansas City, Missouri Central Library through October 2nd. Some of my favorites are a Ben Shahn silkscreen with a less-than flattering Barry Goldwater caricature, a 1972 Nixon (re-election) where he co-opted (read stole) some of R. Crumb's characters (a portend of things to come?). And a Wendell Willkie 3-color silkscreen from his unsuccessful 1940 bid for the Oval Office.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Labor Day Flag and Barber Pole raising

On Labor Day we raised the flag and a barberpole on Cut Your Hair in the Socialist Style. The first program, The Disconnected Undercut, is, Thursday, Sept. 15th and features Dylan Mortimer and Misha Kligman.

Friday, September 2, 2016

1968: a summer of screenprints

Recently I've been looking at a lot of propagandga posters. It seems that 1968 was an especially fruitful year for them. Likely because of all the turmoil that happened in '68: assassignations of ML King Jr, Robert Kennedy, the capture of the USS Pueblo by the North Koreans, the Tet Offensive, violence during the Democratic Convention in Chicago.  But the student riots in Paris in May of that year produced some the best silkscreen poster art seen in some time. Many of these images became iconic symbols to be wrapped into other forms of protest. Late in the summer of '68, two American sprinters, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, would spin the heads of conservatives into the ground as they attempted to raise consciousness about human rights by raising their gloved hands during an Olympic medal ceremony.

A lot of the protest works that really stand out from 1968 have very simple, but very compelling imagery and messages. Black and white white screen prints by largely unknown artists on topics such as uncensored information, protesting warmongers, and basic human rights.This approach was in great contrast to earlier WPA propaganda posters where professional artists relied heavily on complex imagery and layering to create distinct visual identity. Some of this style difference is surely attributable to the self-funded nature of the student protests versus government funded professionally trained artists of the WPA.
French Prime Minister, Charles De Gaule, was a favorite target of satirists.
Around the same time, in Washington Reverend Ralph Abernathy was leading the Poor People's Campaign and march. The image below, produced by the Southern Christian Leadership Committee, displays a similar design approach to those seen in France about the same time: clear, sparse, and effective.