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¡Presente!

Thursday
Dec 14th
¡Presente! Home arrow Ricardo Levins-Morales
Ricardo Levins-Morales PDF Print E-mail
The artistic media I work with are primarily a clay and board material called scratch -board from which ink is scraped with a sharp blade. I often then paint over the board with watercolor. Some of my work I turn into silk-screen prints. My work ranges from simple messages on buttons or bumper stickers, through educational posters for school-room use, to complex artwork and illustrations of literary and political quotations. It encompasses T-shirts, cartoons, wedding invitations, and album covers. In my view there is no hierarchy of importance among these forms. Whichever tool is appropriate for the job at hand is the right one to use.
Dare to Be Powerful poster
The political medium I work in is community. I use a method I call “medicinal art,” a phrase adapted from my sister, Aurora. I start my work with any community or group by asking what it is that keeps people from exercising power in their lives, workplace or community. The shape of the work which follows, flows from the resulting “diagnosis.” In the workplace, fear is usually the greatest obstacle, so my union work often relies on humor. In the broader society hopelessness underlies much of the cultural landscape. Re-enforcing hope is a major theme in my work.

Art and organizing are two of the most effective tools for helping shift power into the hands of those who have too little. That is why they are suppressed by dictatorships. My art has always been tied closely to organizing and to the education which helps pave the way for it. The posters I make tell stories that shed light on how change really happens. Stories of collective action; of struggles that are won or lost; of the embers of hope that glow in even the most difficult times. Stories that seek to keep alive the memories that can help to guide our steps.

My art has found its home in union halls and schools, homes and crisis centers, workplaces and newsletters, T-shirts and leaflets. Art not only can tell stories but also can help to shape them. Posters that go up on the shop floor poking fun at the boss help to change the story that workers see themselves as being a part of. They can illustrate that whatever it is that put the bosses in charge, it is probably not their deep compassion or greater intelligence.

It is tremendously satisfying to create art as an active participant in the movements of my time. I am nourished by constant interaction with the brave people on the front lines of worker’s struggles across industries, regions, and borders. For over twenty-five years I have worked as a member of the Northland Poster Collective, an organization dedicated to placing art and humor at the center of organizing strategy.
 
See more of Ricardo's work on the web site of the Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio
 
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