MoMA’s current exhibition, Print/Out, explores the dynamic nature of prints and the role they have played in contemporary artistic culture. Particularly apt is the notion that prints can function as didactic tools, possessing the ability to catalyze social change and incite activism. Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (1991), for instance, was created at the height of the AIDS crisis in America. At a time when the disease was virtually ignored on a federal level, artists like Gonzalez-Torres produced insightful, emotional images, sharing his personal experiences with AIDS in an effort to break the silence and raise awareness. Two decades later, Print/Out took Gonzalez-Torres’ message to new heights (literally) by featuring the Untitled (1991) image on six large-scale printed billboards around the city.
This type of accessibility (and visibility) is one of the facets of the medium that makes it so appealing to contemporary artists. Prints are affordable to make and easy to distribute, allowing for a larger audience and greater exposure. Subscribing to a Benjamin-esque school of thought, one can assert that prints can be an extremely influential device because they have the power to educate and raise social and political awareness.
Print/Out is on view at MoMA through May 14, 2012
Image provided courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York