Political Art/ Politics Within Art (take one)



The following statement was written a few years ago as a statement for State of the Union, an exhibit at the Gallery Project in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It is one of many I’ve written on these topics.  I present it here as a recent example and (as such) fairly concise. :

Only a small portion of my visual art responds directly to current events.  Most of it that does is more subtly political.

To me, making “political art” is like making collages or wire sculptures.  It’s fine when I’m inspired.  I don’t want to force myself to do so or to have any “quotas.”

The works that I entered into this exhibit are most of my more successful political art work.  Ranging from 1991 to 2007, I spoke through various means of “flat art.”

Just because it’s on paper or canvas doesn’t mean that it can’t touch people, move them or even help wake them up.  Art can be a powerful thing.  Authentic art can “political” without trying to be.

Through Surrealism, I learned the difference between “mere artistic propaganda” and authentic works of art informed by politics.

Artistic propaganda has a hard time matching (or keeping up with) the real propaganda which all of us face every day.

To be informed by politics is to seek out, to become aware of and maybe somehow to know the hard truths of this country, of this world.  To be aware is to beware.

It’s a struggle these days, to seek out truth and to see the lies and disguises for what they are.  Art Galleries, theatres, coffee houses, museums and other venues can play an important part in this.

In 2004, I helped organize a huge “political art exhibit” at the Zeitgeist in Detroit.  Working with Eric Mesko, Jim Puntigam and others, a sprawling collection was installed.  Part One (“Reviving the Tree of Liberty”) was before the presidential election.  Part Two (“Restoring the Tree of Liberty”) took place after the election and tried to respond to its outcome.

There was a huge bunker.  There were “mock voting booths” (a cynical voting booth, a Surrealist voting booth etc.).  There were works by many artists as well as collaborations.

To me, it was in part a sort of “laboratory” wherein some of us experimented to get a more complex sense of the relation of politics to art and between the artist and their “duty to reality.”

This exhibit gave me a sense of a part that art should be playing in this world yet, largely, is not.  I’ve long had a strong sense that (both here in the U.S. and totally worldwide) that art and artists are not being allowed to play the part they should be playing.  In fact, one of the many reasons why things are so bad, why trouble is epidemic, is precisely that.

If there was a massive and sustained Renaissance of true art everywhere it would be a strong force for positive change.  The deep artists, the true artists have long been ignored, silenced and marginalized.

There’s even evidence that the devoted artist is one of the last “minority groups” which has scarcely begun to fight for their rights, to make their voices heard.

The reasons for this are many.  We’re spread over so many mediums: visual arts, cinema, music, poetry, theatre, dance, writing and more.  We’re often put upon or exploited by those who should be our friends and allies.  Some art forms are more expensive to make and some less so but they’re all difficult to display, in ways.  Sometimes people can’t tell what’s good and what’s bad, what works and what doesn’t.  True art and “entertainment” are often involved in an unhealthy relationship.  When art speaks deeper truths about what it means to be alive, to be human in this world today, this can inspire fear or disdain.  Power protects its lies.      This list is only the “tip of the iceberg.” 

I believe that this artist’s Renaissance could easily start here, in the Detroit area.  If we can get things going here, it could take off and spread to other places.  Ironically, it was Detroit calling itself the “Renaissance Center” and playing up the city’s coming Renaissance, which got me to believe this.

They’re having a “Renaissance” yet the artists are often treated badly.  Yet Detroit (and neighboring cities) have vast stores of talent, energy and heart.  It’s often tempting to give up but many of us plunge ahead.  Let’s get something going.  Much is possible if we only try. 

An Artist’s Statement from Maurice Greenia, Jr.     (June 16, 2007)

This gallery includes several of my works including “WW3?” a violent, panoramic drawing done in the early 1990’s (for “Gulf war One”) and “Anti-Human Rays From Outer Space..” a fairly large oil painting:


a review:


3 Responses to “Political Art/ Politics Within Art (take one)”

  1. Ralph Urquides Says:

    good topic. thanks for sharing article

  2. From 2007, Artist’s Statements and Exhibits | for art and artists Says:

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  3. Tips on making Political Art: 2017-2020 | for art and artists Says:

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