Curatorial Projects > Battle Emblems (2006)

Favianna Rodriguez
Reproduce and Revolt!, 2006
Acrylic paint on panel, xeroxes, silkscreen on paper

"There has never been a movement for social change without the arts being central to that movement. As a native of Oakland, the home of the Black Panther Party, my work is focused in the issues that face my community. I believe that as artists of the people, we have a responsibility to expose the truth about the issues that our communities face, so that we don’t become maintainers of this corrupt system. The western model of how a viewer should interact with art —elite viewers in elite institutions— is irrelevant to a grassroots community that is oppressed by these very same elite forces. The history of political graphics has shown us that images art can in fact be transformative, that they can represent an alternative possibility, and that they can strengthen social movements. 

In thinking about the content of this piece, it was important to me that the work have a longevity and impact beyond being a painting on a wall. The posters that surround the piece were not first seen in a gallery, but rather on the streets, in schools, and in protests. They were pieces that were owned by the people and that carried very practical uses. With this in mind, I decided to use my piece as an extension of a book project I am co-editing, Reproduce and Revolt!: Radical Graphics for the 21st Century. Reproduce and Revolt! is a graphic toolbox to be launched into the hands of political activists all over the world. The book will contain over 300 new and exciting high-quality black & white illustrations and graphics about social justice for activists to use on flyers, posters, t-shirts, brochures, stencils or any other graphic aspects of political campaigns. All the graphics will be bold and easy to reproduce, in addition to being royalty-free/open source/anti-copyright/creative commons. I view the book as being a continuum of the political posters in this show, a tool to be used by the people. It is my intent that viewers take the pieces with them, reproduce and disseminate them.

Additionally, my participation in this exhibit comes at a crucial point in my development as an artist. For over 6 years, I have studied and continued the tradition of political posters. Artists like Emory Douglas, Rini Templeton, Malaquias Montoya, and Carlos Cortez informed my style and provided a model of how art can become a tool of liberation. Like these artists, I believe that it is necessary to build art and cultural institutions for us to create, present, and distribute our work to the people. I am a core member of the EastSide Arts Alliance, a third world artist collective that recently purchased a building to house a much needed cultural center. The EastSide is a continuum of the Black Arts and Chicano Arts cultural movements. I am also co-founder of Tumis, a design firm dedicated to global social justice. In 2006, Tumis will be housed in new EastSide Cultural Center. I share this because it illustrates our role as revolutionary artists, which is not only to create art, but to support in the building of institutions that can articulate the needs of third world communities. The readings in this piece, which are provided for you to take, contextualize our role as artists of the people. Political education must be constant and connected to cultural work in order for the art to be relevant. As Amilcar Cabral writes, “Culture is the seed of opposition, becoming the flower of liberation.” - Favianna Rodriguez

Battle Emblems

February 1 - March 25, 2006
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Photo credit: Scott Chernis