Since its inception in September 2011, the Occupy movement has resonated with artists and photojournalists worldwide, resulting in a distinct visual aesthetic of imagery designed to inspire and mobilize support. Occupy Bay Area at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (from July 7 through October 14, 2012) is an exhibition that brings together Bay Area artists to illustrate the power of art to cut across language and social barriers.
Spark focuses on three of the poster artists who are featured in the exhibit. Though he’s most famous for his artwork for The New Yorker magazine, Eric Drooker has been designing political street art since he was a teenager. His iconic image of a woman stepping over the Brooklyn Bridge became one of the first rallying images adopted by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. The Berkeley-based artist’s design is a call to action for the “Occupy Caravan” currently en route to a national gathering in Philadelphia.
Young Oakland-based artists Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes screen-print their bold, high-contrast posters in the 30-year tradition of Chicano graphic art activism. Thousands of their posters helped rally the Latino community for May Day marches throughout the Bay Area. Barraza and Cervantes encourage free downloading of their designs; as a result other social justice movements around the globe often use their imagery.
Long before the first tents were pitched at Occupy Oakland and San Francisco, the Bay Area was home to other landmark political struggles. From the Free Speech and Civil Rights Movements of the 1960’s to the Occupation of Alcatraz in 1969-71 and the AIDS Vigils from 1985 – 1995, using historic videos, photos, and other artifacts, the exhibition provides historical context for the theme of art as a vehicle for social change.