Artists’ fundraiser Prints for Protest at Second State Press helps many of today’s protest groups
Sam Brown sees a provocative show at Second State Press of printed posters made by the group "Prints for Protest," that are available for $25 in a fundraiser for community activists the group supports. Sam appreciates how many different ways artists in the show connect with today's many protest issues.

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Like many other Philadelphians, I’ve attended quite a few protests in response to the 2016 presidential election, and I’m always fascinated by the signs people are waving above their heads. The quick slogans and incisive images act as touchstones for the wide array of injustices occurring in our country. They give protesters something to rally around. Here is where Prints for Protest comes into play. Started in 2016 as a reaction to the presidential election of Donald Trump, Prints for Protest consists of a diverse group of artists and activists—many of who reside in Philadelphia—who are eager to confront the current state of American politics through the medium of printmaking. The handmade prints the group produces all focus on different elements of social activism within our current political climate, and are sold on their website, for $25 each. Since their inception Prints for Protest has raised over $14,000 for causes such as Black Lives Matter, Everytown for Gun Safety, RAICES, Planned Parenthood, and more. I had the chance to see some of these prints from the latest collection in person hanging in the hallway outside of Second State Press inside of the Crane Arts building. They will be on display until March 3rd, and all of the prints are available to view on Prints for Protest’s website.

Henry Ferreira, “Demagogue Defined”. From “Prints for Protest” at Second State Press. Photo courtesy Prints for Protest.
Henry Ferreira, “Demagogue Defined”. From “Prints for Protest” at Second State Press. Photo courtesy Prints for Protest.

Looming over the exhibition is the spectre of Donald Trump whose face many associate with a deep sense of animosity. Henry Ferreira taps into this feeling of antagonism in his print titled “Demagogue Defined.” The red background that matches Trump’s face and tie elicits the kind of response in the viewer that a bull might have when it sees red; and the arrogant smile plastered across Trump’s face only seems to heighten this sense of volatility. He looks like someone who just got away with a crime. The blunt label which reads “DEMAGOGUE” that hovers over his chest connotes Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984; the label is also reminiscent of Shepard Fairey’s OBEY posters. In Ferreira’s print, the enemy is made clear.

Unlike “Demagogue Defined,” Padma Rajendran’s “Share This Bounty,” takes a more humanistic approach to protest art. The pastel colors and whimsical elements of design are less of an affront, yet they convey an equally important message which is to respect our fellow human beings (namely refugees). One of the cornerstones of Trump’s political agenda is to dehumanize people seeking refuge from other countries. In her print, Rajendran encourages us to welcome refugees with arms wide open. At a time of such violent animosity, it is refreshing to see protest art that remains sensitive in the face of demagogic tyranny.

Padma Rajendran, “Share This Bounty”. From “Prints for Protest” at Second State Press. Photo courtesy Prints for Protest.
Padma Rajendran, “Share This Bounty”. From “Prints for Protest” at Second State Press. Photo courtesy Prints for Protest.

Nick Costantino’s “Border Wall” stands out because it has no text. However, Trump’s border wall has become such a ubiquitous symbol throughout his presidency, that the image of the concrete wall speaks for itself. The gray, sullen tones of the print evoke an America deprived of cultural diversity and one that is is a police state. It’s laws are governed by a fierce sense of isolationism and it’s future looks bleak.

It’s easy to write off protest art as one-dimensional and slogany, but Prints for Protest’s collection shows that there are many different angles artists can take when engaging with activist actions against a prevailing unfair system. As a whole, the prints represent the dissatisfaction with the Trump administration in Philadelphia’s arts community. Printmaking has a very long history and is entwined with protest movements that go way back, and these artists are continuing that tradition. The issues we face today in 2019 are daunting to say the least, yet I find it empowering to see these printmakers employ their skills in the name of social justice.

“Prints for Protest” at Second State Press, February 14th – March 3rd, 2019, Crane Arts, 1400 N American St.

Tags

activist, border, community, demagogue, dump trump, fundraiser, henry ferreira, nick constantino, padma rajendran, political art, politics, printmaking, prints, protest, resistance, second state press, wall

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