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Art Through Time: A Global View

Conflict and Resistance Compare: How Can Artists Use Images to Serve or Resist Institutions of Power?


Artist / Origin: Aleksandr (Alexander) Mikhailovich Rodchenko, (Russian, 1891–1956)
Region: Russia, Central and North Asia
Date: 1924
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Color poster
Medium: Prints, Drawings, and Photography
Location: Rodchenko Archive, Moscow, Russia
Credit: © Estate of Alexander Rodchenko/RAO, Moscow/VAGA, New York. Courtesy of SCALA/Art Resource, NY

Fish and Rocks

Fish and Rocks
Artist / Origin: Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) (Chinese, 1626–1705)
Region: East Asia
Date: Qing Dynasty, 1699
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 53 in. (134.6 cm.), W: 23 7/8 in. (60.6 cm.)
Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bequest of John M. Crawford, Jr./Art Resource, NY

How can artists use images to serve or resist institutions of power?

Art has long been an instrument of propaganda. It has also been a potent means of protest and resistance. Artists are often enmeshed in politics. Some artists have chosen to abide by, promote, or associate with those in power. Others have distanced themselves from, and at times used their art to explicitly undermine, political leaders and government policies with which they disagree. Rodchenko and Bada Shanren offer insight into both positions.

Questions to Consider

  • Each of the artworks above was created under very specific and highly-charged political circumstances. How did each artist’s relationship to or feelings about the reigning government at the time impact his career?
  • How does the style of each piece speak to the position and intentions of the artist? How does each piece relate stylistically to other works being produced in the same period?
  • Rodchenko’s print was mass-produced. Bada Shanren’s ink painting was one-of-a-kind. What does each artist’s choice of medium suggest about his position and intentions?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2