Under capitalism art is a commodity. While it might be temporarily estranged from that position by non-profits and universities, these institutions rely largely on financing from the capitalist state, wealthy individuals and/or corporations. As such they tend to reproduce the logic of neoliberal capitalism.
Throughout the 20th century it was often the dream of radical artists—artists who also combined their avant-gardism with Marxist and anarchist ideals—to “break down the barrier between art and life,” to escape the commodification of art, or to play a role in the pedagogy of the revolutionary proletariat. Such impulses can be found in Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism, the Mexican muralists, Brechtian theater, Fluxus, Situationism, street art and culture jamming, etc.
While the “barriers between art and life” have broken down conceptually and formally, the art world remains a rarefied place, and the art object remains a commodity. The “art world” is largely defined by two overlapping centers of validation: the art market and the academic avant-garde. It is increasingly difficult for artists from working-class and poor backgrounds to “succeed” within these arenas. Moreover, the patrons of the art world tend to be limited to a self-selected middle and upper-class layer.
While our ultimate goal should be to abolish the commodification of art, that goal is not achievable in the here and now (especially for poor and working-class artists). The majority of artists do not have access to top tier art schools, connections to top tier galleries, let alone connections to art critics who might influence museum directors. This majority, arising from the proletarian mass (and many from the middle-class as well), does not have the familial underwriting to produce work “outside” capitalist social and economic relationships. For us, our labor determines whether or not we eat, go to the doctor, clothe our children, and whether or not we continue to make art. We cannot merely produce detached work for the detached assessment of intellectual experts.
A related problem with the art world is the problem of audience. We have no quarrel with collectors, critics, curators and academics. However, we must admit that they are a small minority of the population. Anti-capitalist artists must make work, at least in part, for other workers and anti-capitalists. This means making art that is, as a commodity, available to such collectors.
We do not believe that art must be dumbed down for the proletarian viewer. But it should address matters of concern to the proletarian majority (the majority of the human race). This does not mean that art should deal solely with economic injustice or simplistic portrayals of social contradictions. It means that we must reject post-modern and neoliberal disbelief and cynicism. Most of all, an aspect of anti-capitalist studio art should be to help restore the revolutionary imagination; the ability of the left and the working-class to imagine alternatives.
This is why we are forming November: an association of anti-capitalist studio artists in the United States. We will foster the exchange of anti-capitalist artistic strategies and promote the sale of our work (at rates that compensate our members but are affordable to working-class patrons). If you are interested in being considered for membership please send 12-20 images of your work (no larger than 1mb each), along with an image identification sheet and a one to three page artist statement to email@example.com
Craig Ross, Anna Maria Tucker, Adam Turl
While work can and should deal with complex social phenomenon in contradictory and controversial ways, artists who are ideologically sexist, racist, anti-LGBTQ, imperialist, Islamaphobic, etc. will not be considered.
Craig E. Ross, an editor at Red Wedge, is a printmaker and cartoonist currently living in Southern Illinois who works mainly in woodblock prints. They received a BFA in Printmaking from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Craig has self-published various comics and zines such as MEDITATIONS: A Vision In Woodcuts and the acclaimed STEAL AWAY: The Visions of Nat Turner. Craig also runs the "Red Wedge Comix" blog at Red Wedge.
Anna Maria Tucker an artist whose work includes painting, instillation and performance; confronting stereotypes and trauma. She received her BFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale Illinois and is an MFA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Art and Design at Washington University in St Louis.
Adam Turl is an artist, writer and socialist currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. He is an editor at Red Wedge and is presently pre-occupied with exploring past and present Marxist strategies in studio art. Turl is an MFA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Art and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. He writes the "Evicted Art Blog" at Red Wedge.