CalArtians Included in the NYT’s ’25 Most Influential Works of American Protest Art’

In October, The New York Times published The 25 Most Influential Works of American Protest Art Since World War II. The list was determined by artists Dread Scott, CalArts alum Catherine Opie (Art MFA 88), and Shirin Neshat, as well as writer Nikil Saval, and Whitney Museum of American Art assistant curator Rujeko Hockley. 

Each of them were asked to nominate five to seven works of visual art pieces. Together, they assembled a list of the top 25, all the while ruminating over what makes up protest art. They questioned, “Is it a slogan? A poster? Does it matter if it was in a museum, in a newspaper or out on the street? Does impact matter? Did it change what you think or believe? Must it endure? What does that mean? And what is the difference, anyway, between protest art and art that is merely political?” 

Among the 25 selected works, two are by CalArtians: Untitled (1991) by former CalArts faculty Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Museum Tags: Second Movement (Overture) (1993) by CalArts alum Daniel Joseph Martinez (Art BFA 79).

Untitled (1991) by Gonzales-Torres was a series of 24 billboards in New York City that displayed a large black-and-white photograph of an empty bed marked by indentations of two people that had once slept there. A portrait of loss created in response to the death of Gonzalez-Torres’ partner, Untitled “brought the domestic devastation of AIDS into the public realm, where, at the time, such realities were largely met with silence and denial.”

Included in the 1993 edition of the Whitney Biennial, Museum Tags: Second Movement (Overture) by Martinez was a series of buttons that were given out to visitors to wear as they entered the museum. Martinez wrote on the badges partly or in full, “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be white.” A criticism of the lack of diversity among the most influential institutions in the art world, Martinez’s piece attracted an enormous amount of controversy. 

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