Feb 11

Graphic Influences II

Left image from No One Is Illegal – Toronto, center by the wonderful Favianna Rodriguez, right image (original) of Chicanas at a protest rally in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, taken by Raul Ruiz for La Raza magazine, found in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, edited by Alma M. García (1997)

Left and center image from Favianna Rodriguez, right image The Tobacco Harvest Awaits Your Youthful Hand (1983) by Juan A. Gomez in Revolucion! Cuban Poster Art (2003) by Lincoln Cushing

Left image by Blackness Yes!, right image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at 1968 Summer Olympics

Wasun’s album cover for What Must Be Done (2005) and poster by Lazaro Abreu (1968) with original illustration by Emory Douglas, captured by Lincoln Cushing

This second edition of graphic influences (my first post on this blog) touches on two themes.

The first is the migration and evolution of images over time: from Cuba to Oakland; and from 1970s Los Angeles to present-day Toronto by way of Oakland.

The second theme is African Liberation Month, as celebrated by our embattled community radio station CKLN. The last two sets show how the imagery of black power movements continue to inform and inspire organizing today within hip hop and queer communities.

Sep 10

Land & Bodies Under Occupation

In 1965  artists got their first major call to service when Cesar Chavez’s Farm Workers Association joined the Delano grape strike initiated by Filipino workers and became the United Farm Workers (UFW). An unprecedented number of urban Mexican Americans supported the strike, thus accelerating the transition of a labor movement into what became the Chicano civil rights movement. “It had a startling effect on the Mexican Americans in the cities; they began to rethink their self-definition as second-class citizens and to redefine themselves as Chicanos.”

- Tere Romo “Points of Convergences: The Iconography of the Chicano Poster”  in Just Another Poster? Chicano Graphic Arts in California (2001) edited by Chon A. Noriega

Sun Mad (1982), Ester Hernandez

Within a Chicano context, the issue of belonging and ownership in relation to land is evoked through the idea “Aztlán”. Aztlán names the mythic homeland of the Aztecs before their migration to the high vallery of central Mexico. It was introduced to Chicano thought with “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán”, drafted in March 1969 for the Chicano Youth Conference held in Denver, Colorado.

As a mythic homeland, Aztlán grants a prior claim to the land Chicanos occupy. This leads to the popular saying, “We didn’t the border. The border crossed us”.

- “Remapping Chicano Expressive Culture” by Rafael Pérez-Torres in Just Another Poster? Chicano Graphic Arts in California (2001) edited by Chon A. Noriega

La Ofrenda (1988), Ester Hernandez

“… the idea of Aztlán allows one to form solidarity with a number of national and international social struggles for justice. Aztlán comes to represent on a symbolic level another type of reclamation, one underscored by the “queering” of iconic figures by de Batuc and Hernández. Morago writes, ‘For immigration and native alike, land is … the factories where we work, the water our children drink, and the housing project where we live. For women, lesbians, and gay men, land is that physical mass called our bodies. Throughout las Americas, all these ‘lands’ remain under occupation by an Anglo-centric, patriarchal, imperialist United States’.

Chicano expressive culture often relies on evoking the many meanings of land in order to grasp the numerous ways sociopolitical power and personal identity intersect. Chicano consciousness has emerged from the recognition that the circulation of power manifests itself in the circulation of the body through social institutions like school, prison, and the workplace.”

- “Remapping Chicano Expressive Culture” by Rafael Pérez-Torres in Just Another Poster?

Vietnam Atzlán (1973), Malaquias Montoya

Sep 10

ASL & No One Is Illegal

A., who always comes to No One Is Illegal demos, invented an ASL sign for No One Is Illegal. Cuteness alert!

Argentina … One Year of Military Dictatorship (1977) by Malaquías Montoya in

Just Another Poster? Chicano Graphic Arts in California (2001) edited by Chon A. Noriega

Aug 10


(Left) The people send me to the university, I go to university for the people. Artwork by Yu Dawu; published by People’s Fine Art Publishing House, 1976. 106 x 77 cm.

(Right) Work half-time, study half-time. Artwork by Zhao Zheng, Jin Kequan, published by People’s Fine Art Publishing House, 1965. 54 x 77 cm.

From Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
by Lincoln Cushing and Ann Tompkins, Chronicle Books, 2007.

Ever since reading Lincoln Cushing’s Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters I have been trying to get my hands on all the other books on political posters that he has helped to produce.

His book with Ann Tompkins on Chinese posters is quite good, and I much prefer it to the Prestel edition on Chinese posters, but the state-produced subject matter and style of socialist realism didn’t really connect with me on a political level.

An exception to the rule, the two posters above did resonate with me, perhaps infiltrating through my deep level of disaffection with the education system. The poster entitled The people send me to the university, I go to university for the people touches on my feelings about accountability of the university and its students to the wider community, while the poster Work half-time, study half-time reminds me of the importance of balance and the way that university can be so totalizing, disallowing or disavowing community engagement, and often so inaccessible for working people.

I have encountered similar principles of mutual accountability in articulations of Chicanismo – where Chicanas and Chicanos have committed to holding institutions accountable to the community while also committing to hold themselves accountable by giving back to the community and, in the case of academics, producing work that is actually useful for the community.

After reading this book, I began reading some Mao and came across this passage on “book worship”. Although the intent of the piece is to denounce dogmatism – following orders from above or what is written in a book without question or consideration for context – it is also a critique of a lack of community-engaged practice, or in this case “social investigation”.

“Oppose Book Worship” by Mao Zedong (1930)

To carry out a directive of a higher organ blindly [sic], and seemingly without any disagreement, is not really to carry it out but is the most artful way of opposing or sabotaging it.

The method of studying the social sciences exclusively from the book is likewise extremely dangerous and may even lead one onto the road of counter-revolution. Clear proof of this is provided by the fact that whole batches of Chinese Communists who confined themselves to books in their study of the social sciences have turned into counter-revolutionaries. When we say Marxism is correct, it is certainly not because Marx was a “prophet” but because his theory has been proved correct in our practice and in our struggle. We need Marxism in our struggle. In our acceptance of his theory no such formalisation of mystical notion as that of “prophecy” ever enters our minds. Many who have read Marxist books have become renegades from the revolution, whereas illiterate workers often grasp Marxism very well. Of course we should study Marxist books, but this study must be integrated with our country’s actual conditions. We need books, but we must overcome book worship, which is divorced from the actual situation.

How can we overcome book worship? The only way is to investigate the actual situation.

(Bottom) Modern revolutionary dance play: White Haired Woman. Artist unknown; published by Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1972. 53 x 77cm.