The 25 Most Influential Works of American Protest Art Since World War II

Three artists, a curator and a writer came together to discuss the pieces that have not only best reflected the era, but have made an impact.

Excerpt from the New York Times

By Thessaly La Force, Zoë Lescaze, Nancy Hass and M.H. Miller
Oct. 15, 2020

"The famously polarizing 1993 edition of the Whitney Biennial was packed with political art and provocations, but in the critical firestorm that erupted after the opening, one piece emerged as perhaps the single most incendiary source of debate: “Museum Tags: Second Movement (Overture)” by Daniel Joseph Martinez. The Los Angeles artist had created a series of entry buttons for visitors to wear inside the museum, modeled on the usual colorful metal tags viewers received as proof of admission. The new badges read, partly or in full, I can’t imagine ever wanting to be white. “People went hyperbolic on it,” David Ross, the director of the Whitney at the time, later said. “I remember even former Mayor Koch, who had a radio show, accused the museum of fascism because he said we forced people to wear badges that declared that being white was no good. People just had completely bizarre readings of that piece. That piece became a real lightning rod.” Looking back, Martinez’s work seems to presage the present moment, when the traditionally overwhelming whiteness of art museums — in terms of the artists exhibited, curatorial staff, trustees, and attendance — has become the subject of heightened scrutiny. — Z.L."

Image: Daniel Joseph Martinez, Photo credit: Katherine McMahon