Freedom of expression is fundamental to our democratic society. When uncensored, artists can illuminate existing societal inequities and drive dialogue that allows us to imagine a world that embraces freedom and liberty for all.
Earlier this year, the National Liberty Museum invited artists to submit artwork created without the constraints of censorship. These uncensored views on today’s world are the focus of the NLM’s new major exhibition, Graphic Content, opening on June 18, 2021. It features over 60 works from 36 artists from around the world, including 27 artists from Philadelphia.
Taking inspiration from the rich tradition of provocative and often subversive counterculture art, the artists in Graphic Content hold a mirror up to our society, daring us to take a long, hard, and unflinching look at dark truths that exist beneath the surface.
Delving deeply into such topics as systemic racism, mental health, homophobia, rape culture, and the environment, the works in Graphic Content present the artists’ uncensored view of our times. While much of the art draws on references from the past, the exhibition is very much about the present. Visceral, poignant, shocking, and at times often darkly humorous, these works celebrate the power of art and the artist to speak truth to power, particularly in a time of turmoil.
Like the struggle for liberty, the work in Graphic Content is sometimes painful, messy, and not always easy or straightforward, but this exhibition shows us that we can no longer ignore what is right in front of us. We must learn from our past to ensure a more equitable future.
As a companion piece to Graphic Content, the NLM is bringing back 20 select pieces from Caretoons, a popular annual exhibition/competition that ran from 2005-2010. In creating Caretoons, the NLM wanted to design an exhibition that used the powerful artform of cartooning to celebrate diversity, inclusion, liberty, and freedom. Through drawings submitted by children, as well as amateur and professional artists from around the world, the images in Caretoons grapple with contemporary issues through the approachable lens of cartoons and graphic art.
While Graphic Content was an idea born more than a decade and a half after the original Caretoons exhibition premiered, both exhibitions provide a clear demonstration of the power of art to continue to challenge norms, push boundaries, and advance necessary dialogue.