California Studies Association

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Recent California books on community graphic art

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These three titles each provide ample evidence that graphic artists of the American West, and especially the San Francisco Bay Area, have been passionate social antennae adept at revealing early on social issues that presage national and even international ones. [LMC]

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Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present, by Art Hazelwood. Freedom Voices Press, 2011.

Curated and edited by Art Hazelwood, this book also serves as an illustrated catalog for a travelling exhibition. It examines social stereotypes about our populations that have fallen through the “safety net” from the Great Depression to our current Wall Street-fueled miasma. Social justice artists from the 1930s are mashed up with those of today, including Doug Minkler, Jos Sances, David Bacon, and Eric Drooker.  More than just an aesthetic examination, it explores the analyses and community-based institutions that challenge this tragic byproduct of capitalism.

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Notes from a Revolution: Com/Co, The Diggers, & the Haight, by Kristine McKenna and David Hollander. Foggy Notion Books, 2012.

The Diggers were one of the legendary Bay Area countercultural institutions of the late 1960s.  They used street theater, modern communications systems (e.g., the Gestetner duplicator), humor, poetry, and a passion for liberation to challenge the dark side of private property and corporate greed. They were outrageous, wild, and very subversive. The text includes interviews coupled with reproductions of their colorful and evocative flyers. Not indexed, but includes a helpful timeline.

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Art of the Dead: A Celebration of the Artists Behind the American Rock Poster Movement, edited by Phil Cushway, 2012 (self-published)

Rather than just another rock poster book, this one explores how the dynamic evolution of a unique band – The Grateful Dead – spurred artists to push technological limits and breed a distinct graphic style. Cushway has done his homework and knows what he’s talking about, but he lets others tell the story. Interviews and annotations help the viewer to examine cryptic typography, layered imagery, and the magic of offset printing. Richly illustrated with beautiful reproductions of work ranging from the famous (Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin…) to the unknown. Indexed.

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