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Political Art: Less Beauty, More Meaning

Even though art is meant primarily as a form of entertainment, this is not always its primary purpose in the eyes of its creators, especially when it comes to political art. In fact, instead of diverting people’s minds from the real world and depicting serene, divine beauty, political art is often designed to do the exact opposite, keeping us firmly on the ground to witness the ugliness of our reality, in all its revolting majesty.  Perhaps it’s not the type of art most people would hang on their walls, or play back over and over, but it’s the type of art that serves as a wake-up call and gets the message across, with any means necessary.

It’s the type of art that spurs actual change rather than blissful daydreams.

The Evolution of South Park

South Park, no matter how funny, has always been about stories first and jokes second. Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s approach satire like master storytellers, pinpointing a very specific, sobering message about our society and incorporating it into a narrative, replete with humor, opposed to coming up with a bunch of clever, but superficial jokes and gags, connected into some far-fetched, idle storyline.

“We can’t just make jokes, we gotta make stories,” Parker says on The Charlie Rose Show.

The pronounced comedy duo has placed an even stronger focus on this philosophy over the recent years by turning the latest seasons into continuous storylines. Instead of an episode, the stories now take an entire season to unfold, adding even more depth and nuance to their themes and messages than before.

…the stories now take an entire season to unfold, adding even more depth and nuance to their themes and messages than before.

Even if this depth might sometimes come at the expense of humor as it’s generally harder to piece a longer, more intricate story together while still filling it with jokes throughout, the price is arguably worth it. South Park has hit the bullseye of very delicate, complex, and universally relevant topics like PC culture, Internet privacy and trolls, and the global selfishness behind the global environmental issues we’re currently facing, without deviating too much from its original style.

Now, besides an epitome of hilarious, pinpoint, imaginative satire, South Park serves as a perfect example of something else as well – that along their long professional paths, artists can evolve without losing their way.

Faena Art Festival

The first, annual, multidisciplinary Faena Art Festival, called This is not America, will take place during Miami Art Week this year, December 3-9, and recreate the famous A Logo for America on a larger, multi-dimensional scale.

A Logo for America, was relevant in 1987 when it first appeared on the giant electronic billboard at the heart of New York’s Times Square, and it’s twice as relevant now…

Alfredo Jaar’s groundbreaking piece of political art, A Logo for America, was relevant in 1987 when it first appeared on the giant electronic billboard at the heart of New York’s Times Square, and it’s twice as relevant now, being that “the U.S. government recently announced that it will limit the number of refugees that can be resettled in the United States next year at 30,000,” as Jaar himself put it in a recent statement. “This is the lowest ceiling this country has placed on the refugee program since its creation in 1980. The U.S. seems to be at war against refugees and immigrants when they have always been part of the origin and fabric of this country.”

Political Art: Less Beauty, More Meaning | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Jaar’s electronic graphics aimed to boldly defy the concept of America as a mere piece of land, bounded by nothing but geographical borders rather than the ideology and the actual people and cultures that fill those borders with substance.


Jaar’s electronic graphics aimed to boldly defy the concept of America as a mere piece of land…


Now, in light of looming regulations, the Faena Art Festival will give Jaar’s message a new voice which will reverberate further and louder than before. By employing Miami as a central element of elaborate installations and performances that won’t be confined within the cosmopolitan city’s land and sea, the festival will recreate the idea of breaking down geographical barriers.

“Miami as the iconic city of the Americas—its gateway, its sanctuary, and its playground—is the ideal place from which to speak to new ways of defining ourselves, our communities, and our global identity,” says Ms. Zoe Lukov, curator for Faena Art. “By occupying the interstitial zone between land and sea many of these site-specific installations seek to reimagine porous and transitional spaces as places of refuge and safe harbor that are representative of what our ‘America’ is and can become,” explains Ms. Lukov.

British Graffiti Artist Banksy

You simply can’t talk about political art without mention Banksy, because this is where meaning and tragic beauty collide and give birth to unadulterated genius. He has made his presence and stances known in a spectacular fashion. Not many artists, especially in the political art niche, can dig to the very heart of everything ugly, tragic, and wrong in today’s world and still manage to imbue it with otherworldly poignancy and subtle nuances of hope.

Banksy’s enigmatic persona only adds another layer of depth to his work, which is already charged with meaning and emotion to the very last stroke. Looking at it, you feel that there’s not even a single, random detail, no unnecessary embellishment – just pinpoint, ingenious metaphors, and striking, undisguised messages and imagery which instantly hit home. His art also has a very distinctive, noir vibe that emanates from contrasts and shades which color the underlying, eerie beauty and gloominess which just wash over you.

3D Zebra Crossing Art

Different towns have undertaken the thoughtful initiative of making zebras (crosswalks) more conspicuous for self-explanatory reasons. Even though it may seem childish at first glance, this kind of projects are an eloquent example of art’s power to produce real-life results. It might not always be the most visually impressive or aesthetic, but what’s more impressive than saving lives? Not to mention some of the 3D works are, in fact, pretty impressive even from an artistic standpoint.

Political Art: Less Beauty, More Meaning | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Others

One of the better things that have been popping up in our social media feeds are satirical paintings and illustrations by various artists which expose many of today’s most ridiculous and ugly trends with sniper accuracy and creativity.

While these illustrations are more simplistic from an aesthetic standpoint, they are striking with their piercing takeaways…

Among the most central themes are the zombie-like addiction to social media and technology, the blatant corruption and greed of the ‘big man’, the modern-day slavery to big corporations, the senselessness of wars, and the ego-centric hypocrisy which often finds the perfect vehicle in the usual suspects, social networks. While these illustrations are more simplistic from an aesthetic standpoint, they are striking with their piercing takeaways, delivered in incredibly divergent, creative, sometimes even abstract ways which are always just spot-on. Those illustrations are sometimes even reminiscent of South Park, something like the show’s screenshot version – unadorned, yet charged with metaphorical messages that hit home more than any shade and color.

Thankfully, there are many more out there.

Whether you create art or admire it, this kind of political art isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it can feel like the art world’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it, for the sake of all of us, and especially those who are most affected by the villains and antagonists which such art exposes.

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