A Different Approach to Art and War

While displaying the horrors of war seems like the best way to spur activism and prevent future conflict. In the 1970s there was a far different approach to using art to end war. In the 1970s in Berkley, CA students made posters in response to the Kent State massacre where four unarmed students were murdered by the Ohio National Guard on May 4th, 1970. These posters were also a response to the military draft that was imposed by President Nixon during the Vietnam War. Instead of creating posters with the same images of violence and destruction that were flooding the news. These students created posters that were vibrantly colorful and eye catching with phrases like “Peace is Patriotic” and “Amerika is Devouring its Children”. DSC_8207-1.jpg

These posters were featured in the show America in Revolt: The Art of Protest at the Shapero Modern in London last year. The exhibition’s curator Barry Miles described the show by saying that ‘These posters were not designed as art, but for a specific political purpose, and yet they inevitably fit into the history of graphic art, borrowing heavily from the Atelier Populaire posters of the student uprising in Paris of May 1968 and the counter-cultural posters of the period. They are a frozen snapshot of American graphic design at the end of the sixties, as well as a unique sociological record of a society in crisis.’


Art in response to war is often used to disturb and persuade the public to seek peace instead of conflict. However this approach to art in response to war aims to create a reaction that urges the public to protest and join the fight to end war. Which during the Vietnam War there was a saturation of images of brutality, and using bright colors and interesting fonts were eye catching and caught the public’s attention again.



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