By Oscar Rieveling
Art Young was a recognized artist best known for his political cartoons which could be found in many early 20th century socialist publications. However, he did not always identify with left-wing ideals, originally considering himself a Republican with little political involvement. Through his association with individuals such as Piet Vlag and John Sloan, he would begin to embrace the radical ideas burgeoning in Greenwich Village during this time and advocate for issues such as labor issues, women’s rights, and sexual equality.
Born in Stephenson County on January 14, 1886, Art Young was a recognized artist best known for his political cartoons which could be found in many early 20th century socialist publications.Young continued to work until his death in the year 1943 at the Hotel Irving in New York City. His artistic training was extensive, attending the Chicago Academy of Design, Art Students League of New York, and the Académie Julian in Paris before participating in the creation of the socialist magazine The Masses. It was in this publication that the first version of Reward, Jesus Christ appeared as the cover for a special holiday edition. Still, the work that will be on display at the Johnson Museum will be a later example that appears to have been made by the artist independently from the magazine, indicated by the alternate color and text utilized.
Young offers a startling representation of Jesus Christ’s historical personage in the sense that it is not an idealized or devotional image. Instead, the poster emphasizes Christ’s revolutionary and agitative role that openly challenged the government of his time. The work also expands upon the fraught relationship between religion and politics, while underscoring the human nature of this iconic figure.
By Virginia Girard
El sueño de la razon produce monstruos (The sleep of reason produces monsters),
Plate 43 of “Los Caprichos”
Francisco José de Goya
ca. 1797; 18th century
Francisco José de Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is one print in a series that embodies several interpretations of the exhibition theme, offering the viewer psychological, political, and grotesque forms of revolt. “Los Caprichos” is a set of 80 prints created in 1797 ad 1798 as both an experiment and a rebellious act against Spanish society. The unusually large number of prints in the series can be attributed to Goya’s vast criticisms of Spain, which ranged from condemning the ignorance of the ruling class to decrying the predominance of superstition in popular culture. Goya included brief explanations of each image in a manuscript to shed light on his somewhat cryptic intentions.
This unique combination of text and illustration is a form of artistic revolt, in which the artist has found both literature and art too weak to communicate singularly. Goya’s fantastical illustrations depart from reality, making use of supernatural creatures to suggest the world he depicts is surreal, defying the laws of order in their perversity. This departure from the laws of nature is, in effect, the “Sleep of reason” Goya refers to in this print. In accordance with the ambiguous caption “The Sleep of reason produces monsters” the sleeping figure embodies Goya’s opinion of the state of humanity itself. Spain, he asserts, has lost its sense of self-awareness, having degenerated into a numbness that is blind to all faults in society. The creatures that rise behind the sleeping figure symbolize the mind’s revolt, in which the immoralities of man have overtaken the virtues and won control. The bats and birds loom over the figure, emerging from unseen depths to emphasize the mysterious nature of human evil.
Goya’s series introduces the disturbing idea that perhaps the most revolting qualities of humanity are the unseen, intangible beliefs and thoughts that reside in our subconscious. His print warns viewers that the mind has a monumental capacity for imagination; when reason is abandoned, this imagination can revolt against its beholder, and effectively become an internal form of imprisonment.
As we explore the boundaries and meanings of what we would like our exhibition to demonstrate and what we are trying to present to our visitors of the exhibition, we took the word revolt, and considered it in many different aspects. Each member of HAMS came up with what “revolt” represented within the world of art, but also within the historic representations of revolt and what it meant within the world of Cornell. Here are some excerpts from a few members’ definitions:
‘Weaving together the stories of past decades’ movements against war, climate change or capitalism, the outrageous, fierce, or humorous messages delivered by art in this exhibition keep pushing the boundaries of the culturally and socially acceptable’
‘The exhibition aims to provide a history of revolt at Cornell and beyond while highlighting revolt in the artistic process’
‘Revolt can describe the rejection of conformity, as seen in the way many contemporary artists operate, or can be told, as a story, through the content of a work of art’
‘Revolt can occur in many different forms: it can present itself as an alienation or disengagement from society, a violent rebellion, or an internal conflict. What remains constant, however, is the tension between the present condition and the yearn for change’
‘To be revolting is to be repugnant or to disgust. There is a certain fascination, however, in such disgust, and this exhibition seeks to define the aesthetic appeal of a word that, on the surface, is rarely associated with art’
When organizing an exhibit on revolt, it’s important to recognize the fact that a large portion of political protesting or uprising is enacted by college students, like ourselves. This trend makes complete sense because university campuses are where young, bright minds congregate for four years of higher education. On campus, we are exposed to peers from different walks of life, coursework that opens our minds and fills them with knowledge of the past, and different modes of thinking that can change our perception of the world.
Revolt on campus exists not only today, but can also be traced far back into history. The U. S.’s involvement in the Vietnam War was one political issue that caused much uproar from students across the country. From Claes Oldenburg’s 1969 installation of Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks at Yale University, to the organization of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), campuses have seen a variety of different demonstrations protesting this involvement.
One image that shows our own campus’s involvement in this moment in American history is a photograph entitled “Anti-war protest in Barton Hall” taken on April 10th, 1970. Just one year after Oldenburg’s demonstration at Yale, Cornell saw it’s own anti-Vietnam war protest. This work is a black and white negative print showing thousands of students organized in Barton Hall, listening to a speech by Cornell’s own Father Daniel Berrigan who, at the time, was convicted of destroying draft cards using napalm—a flammable, jelly-like substance that U. S. troops adhered to flamethrowers while attacking villages in Vietnam—while in government office. While Father Berrigan was able to appear at Cornell’s two-day long, anti-Vietnam rally called “America is Hard to Find,” he was found by the FBI two months later and subsequently incarcerated for two years. This photograph not only documents an important moment of revolt in out nation’s political history, but also speaks to Cornell’s student body today—so often there are opportunities for activism on campus that we (myself included) take for granted.
It is important to note that the “American is Hard to Find” rally is just one of many student-run protests in Cornell’s history. Stay tuned for more representations of revolt on Cornell’s campus.