With this post, we’re going to go a little back in time. Silkscreened posters have played a hugely significant role in social and political movements, from the Federal Art Project of the New Deal, which supported screenprinting artists under the Works Progress Administration program implemented by the US Government during the Depression, to Atelier Populaire (the Popular Studio), the renegade printshop set up by students at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts during the Paris protests of 1968.
Prints & Inks Assistant Show Coordinator, Rhiannon Vogl, provided us with some research on the Atelier Populaire:
The members of Atelier Populaire worked 24 hours a day producing a mass of posters and wall newspapers that were then pasted up in the streets in the support of the revolt. As art erupted in the in the public sphere, the students cried out for “all power to the imagination.” Graffiti and posters covered the city of Paris.
By all accounts, it was a very organized operation. Atelier members met each day in a general assembly for the discussion and democratic choice of poster designs and slogans, while also debating current political developments. Every attempt was made to reject traditional power hierarchies by marking authority as provisional, and subject to change as necessary, or as willed by participants within the group. The posters were produced in several of the workshops by silkscreen, lithography or stenciling, and distributed all over Paris by student and worker representatives. Activist comment – often witty, invariably bitter – was on the streets almost hour by hour. Each poster was created in the most simplistic means possible – the images were often nothing more than hand-drawn lettering and brushed silhouettes. However, by exploiting the minimalism of these graphic designs, the students were able to question the complex apparatus of printed image-making in the consumer society whose values they opposed.
To read more on the context surrounding Atelier Populaire, check out this essay on The Posters of l’Atelier Populaire. Thanks Rhiannon!