Scientists, architects, educators, psychologists, artists—seemingly disparate, these people gathered in May 1970 in the studio of the artist Robert Irwin to learn together: what does it take to build habitable environments in space. This was the First National Symposium on Habitability of Environments, designed by artist Robert Irwin and the space program psychologist Ed Wortz. They believed that art, as a discipline dedicated to subjective experiences, is in the unique position to offer insights on the perspective of the…
WAM recently accepted a set of posters made by The Poster Factory artists in the 1970s. A selection of these works comprises the exhibition I Want to Make This Perfectly Clear. The posters in this exhibition address anti-war, environmental, and other political and community issues of the time.
The Poster Factory was an ad hoc poster making program founded by UMN Art Department faculty member Mario Volpe and retired local artist George Beyer in the late 1960s. The program began after students approached Volpe about establishing an anti-war poster making workshop. The idea took hold, and the program was somewhat surreptitiously established.
The Poster Factory artists who worked with Beyer in the 1970s focused on current issues to make the public aware, in hope of spurring people to action in response. Many artists who are still known today participated in The Poster Factory, including Beyer, John Roth, Mark Soroko, and Joan Steiner, whose signed work is included in this exhibition. Many of the posters are unsigned, however, because, as Steiner recently explained, students were concerned about the wide-spread civilian surveillance program initiated and supported by the Nixon administration that targeted social activists. The subjects addressed by the posters include war, race, political transparency, social justice, and the environment.
These posters show key concerns of young adults in the turbulent years around 1970. As a group, The Poster Factory works highlight not only apprehensions that overlap with those of today’s youth but also some of the threads and events that actually connect these hopes and worries across the decades.
Image: The Poster Factory, Untitled, 1970, screen print. Gift of University of Minnesota, Student Unions and Activities.