In times of cultural upheaval or change, art can reflect the society in which it was made. Artists around the world have used their work to raise issues about racism, sexism, consumerism, injustice, and war. To address issues of injustice, some produce works that criticize oppressive governments or political leaders. Some feminists and artists of color critique white-male domination of the art world and society. Artists who break with artistic traditions often do so to criticize the art world and sometimes extend that criticism to other institutions in society as well. In these cases, the purpose of art may become political or be used as a form of protest.
Note to teacher: It is recommended that you preview these images because some may contain content that might be disturbing to your students.
the following images and read the background information about the artists:
1. Willie Cole Stowage
2. Jacques Lipchitz Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II
3. Adrian Piper The Mythic Being; I/You(Her)
4. Jana Sterbak Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic
5. Paul Thek Hippopotamus from Technological Reliquaries
6. Kara Walker Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress
7. Andy Warhol 16 Jackies
Do any of these artworks make you uncomfortable? Why do you think the artists chose to create such work?
Do you agree that art can change society? Why or why not?
Select one of the artists presented here and research his/her life and work. Write a one-page personal response to the artwork presented in this section based on your research.
For further study:
Identify an issue or event that is being addressed by the selected artist, then find a book, article, or song about the same topic. Compare the written material or song to what they see in the artist’s work.
Key Questions:1. What is art?