Texas Art Spaces Like Protest Banners

by Brandon Zech January 8, 2019

Members of Decolonize This Place and its supporters rallied in the lobby of the Whitney Museum on December 9. Photo courtesy Decolonize This Place.

Protest posters and banners have often been of interest in the contemporary art world. In times of political strife, artists like Jenny Holzer, the Guerrilla Girls, and the collective Act Up have capitalized on the protest poster aesthetic to make their points and  bring a larger audience to issues they deem urgent. More recently, artists like Dread Scott and Tania Bruguera have used protest signs to raise issues of racial injustice, police violence, and immigration.

Museums have started to take an interest in collecting and/or displaying real-life protest signs: institutions like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the New-York Historical Society began collecting select protest signs used in the 2017 Women’s Marches in the U.S., and followed up a year later by collecting more signs from the 2018 marches. In January of 2018, Lisa Kathleen Graddy, a curator at the National Museum of American History, commented on why the institution felt a need to collect signs from our times, saying: “The museum has a long history, stretching back to the [1963] March on Washington, of collecting materials from protests, and rallies, and marches, and those occasions when citizens get together to make their voices heard, and exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Aram Han Sifuentes’ Protest Banner Lending Library

Aram Han Sifuentes’ Protest Banner Lending Library at the Chicago Cultural Center

If you’re in Texas, you have some opportunities coming up to engage with America’s rich history of protest-signs-as-art. First, on January 16, 2019, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is hosting a protest banner workshop. The workshop, which runs from 5:30-8:30 PM, will be led by Verónica Hernandez and is part of Aram Han Sifuentes’ Protest Banner Lending Library project. Ms. Sifuentes began her project following the 2016 election, as a way “to resist what is happening in the United States and in the world.”

Word on the Street House of Trees banner art exhibition

Word on the Street exhibition at The Watermill Center

The second event, which runs from January 10 to April 12, 2019 at Artpace in San Antonio, is the exhibition Word on the Street. Comprised of banners created by female artists and writers, the show is the brainchild of House of Trees, an arts collective founded by Jennifer Khoshbin and Amy Khoshbin. Works in the show have previously been presented at Times Square and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The exhibition includes pieces by Carrie Mae Weems, Tania Bruguera, Anne Carson, Amy Khoshbin, Laurie Anderson, A.M. Homes, Wangechi Mutu, Jenny Holzer, House of Trees, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Lara Schnitger. The works were “created in collaboration with seamstresses with The Center for Refugee Services in San Antonio.”

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