Art and the Political: The 1960s and 1970s

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of social and political transitions and transformations, marked by a series of historical events that would have profound effects on the future, our present. Central and Eastern Europe and the so-called Western world, and their geopolitical allies, were systemically transformed by the rivalry of the Cold War. In addition to the Vietnam War, the Asian political landscape was formed by the Cultural Revolution and hostile Sino-Soviet relations. Concurrently, most of Sub-Saharan Africa gained independence from colonial rule, marking the end of European empires. In Latin America, leftwing upheavals, U.S. intervention, and oppressive dictatorships were dominant in these decades. Moreover, the civil rights movement in the United States, along with the student and worker uprisings of May ‘68 in France, reverberated and sparked international solidarities across the world. This Theme explores the mobilization of artists and collectives—and the avant-garde responses, often international in scope, that these engendered—during two pivotal decades of global history.

The Future of Control: Luis Fernando Benedit’s Labyrinths Series

In 1972, Argentine artist Luis Fernando Benedit installed a hydroponic greenhouse environment, containing seventy tomato plants and fifty-six lettuce plants artificially supplied with light and a chemical growth formula, as well as an environment for white mice, “consisting of a maze, food source, material for burrowing, and an enclosed area for sleeping,” at MoMA.

Rachel Price on Waldemar Cordeiro’s Computer Art

Waldemar Cordeiro’s work shifts from his involvement with Concrete Art in São Paulo (of which he was one of the central artists, critics, and curators), to landscape design, a unique take on Pop Art through his “Popcretos,” and his final 1970s experiments with computer art. Cordeiro’s 1970s works were produced while Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship that was skilled and innovative in its manipulation of mass media to control society and manage dissent.

“We Painted the Crystal, We Thought About the Crystal”—The Crystalist Manifesto (Khartoum, 1976) in Context

Thoroughly committed to novelty, invention, and atomic and space-age practices, the Crystalist group proposed completely new directions for art in Sudan in the 1970s. Their manifesto published in a Khartoum newspaper within the artistic context of the time introduces the Crystalist themes of transparency and dualism.