HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE GALLERY
Art as Witness was first organized and exhibited in 2018 at the School of Visual Arts in New York City as a response to the changing political landscape in the United States. Graphic arts, political satire, cartoons, and illustration are the tools that make up the vocabulary of these creative professionals. Artistic license is the credential that society bestows on their voices — often ignored, but sometimes celebrated on a scale of great impact and cultural influence. In fact, some of the works in this exhibition have touched an enormous audience and have even graced the covers of magazines seen by millions of people.
These artworks are an outcry to question, protect and demonstrate our civil rights, and ultimately our universal human rights. We can subjectively respond, and may objectively take action. The issues are as relevant as ever. It is our intent that Kean University students will not be passive observers, but instead take on the overwhelming challenge in their own lives, to find their way, to make a positive contribution to their own government and society at large.
This is an exhibition of collaborating efforts. Each artist made their statement with conviction. Others published and shared these images, creating an expanding and meaningful context. Collectively the impact of the artwork has again multiplied in this edited version of the exhibition Art as Witness. We very much appreciate the generosity of the artists who have willingly agreed to share their work with us.
We would like to especially thank Steve Brodner and Francis Di Tommaso, the co-curators and organizers of this show. The School of Visual Arts with their 70-year history of nurturing the talents of designers, illustrators, and graphic artists, has a commitment to outreach with such exhibitions. We thank President Dr. Dawood Farahi and the individuals that support the Human Rights Institute at Kean University.
Director of Kean University Galleries
Below is an abridged version of the SVA Art as Witness Exhibition at Kean University:
Two years ago, we set about collecting graphic work that bore witness to the political and social upheaval besetting our nation. The resulting exhibition, which you see here, provides a vivid, multifaceted “first rough draft of history” (as the news was characterized at The Washington Post over half-century ago). Its illustrations, cartoons and animations remain as topical today as they were in 2018—if not more.
The original venue for this show, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City—founded in 1947 as the Cartoonists & Illustrators School—was particularly well suited, and not just for obvious reasons; also because SVA from its inception has been dedicated to training proficient, but also socially aware artists.
It is truly fortunate, then, that Art As Witness has been offered a second, equally fitting location in the Human Rights Institute Gallery at Kean University. We hope that the 200- plus eclectic, provocative, and often humorous images in this exhibition will not only appeal to eyes of its new viewers, but also stimulate contemplation of their role in our troubled, divided but still preciously valuable society.
Francis Di Tommaso (Director of SVA Galleries)
Steve Brodner (faculty)