“Agit” for agitation, and “prop” for propaganda. Art to inspire action and spread widely. Agitprop as an art genre first coalesced in the early twentieth century, all over the world essentially at once. Rather than being made to endure, it was and is made to spread. The term “viral” is only recently applied to the like, but that sense has always been important to political art.
Agitprop! the show recently opened in Brooklyn is currently small, too small for the space it occupies at the Brooklyn Museum. But it is in its first stage. Three stages are planned. In February, the current two dozen featured artists will select another two dozen, and in April those will select a further two dozen. The curators, Saisha Grayson, Catherine J. Morris, Stephanie Weissberg, hope that it will continue in that manner even longer.
With a common theme of “politics,” the word that the New York Times uses to describe it is perfect: bristling. Sharp ethical talking points are facing every direction. Racial justice, ecological responsibility, gender justice, activism. Interspersed with historic political art (the bold colors of Soviet propaganda posters stand out vividly, as do the videos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono), the current twenty-four artists on feature have produced films, murals, paintings, sculptures, and arrangements. Artists are encouraged to be present as much as possible, to discuss their works with viewers.
Currently, all that is scheduled to show in this exhibit is what is and will be on the walls, but some of the collectives scheduled to join the show are action-takers. Not an Alternative and Occupy Museums are the largest. They may change the show just by their presence. And while Black Lives Matter is not involved, some of their art is featured, which may be taken as invitation. There is no telling what this show could become in its 9-month life.
Agitprop! runs through August 7, 2016 at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy. Additions will be up February 17 and April 6.