To coincide with WAM’s ongoing exhibition, I Want to Make This Perfectly Clear, the WAM Collective recently hosted local artist and activist Leon Wang to lead a protest poster-making workshop. A special art form with the potential to be an extremely powerful method of protest, posters have a long history within political and performative activism.
The most impactful political posters are clear, concise, and passionate. It became clear that Wang’s creative process carefully incorporates these qualities as he shared his methods throughout the course of the workshop. In the pursuit of bold simplicity, Wang led a timed activity and discussed the importance of time limits during the preliminary stages of poster creation.
Wang gave the group a few moments to trace over a protest poster which lacked concise aesthetics and messaging. With only two minutes, a pair of scissors, a few sheets of paper, and a marker, Wang asked each participant to create a poster. These posters were admittedly not protest-ready, but they were undeniably powerful.
Wang creates many poster designs in preparation for a final version that will play a role in political engagement. Conducive to the creation of powerful works, a timed process creates a sense of urgency to include the most important and concise images and messaging.
I have always been enthralled by surrealism. In learning of Wang’s artistic process, I recalled one of my favorite surrealist exercises — automatism drawing. A kind of drawing that requires the artist to let go of any sense of conscious control, automatism drawing allows images to be produced by the unconscious mind. Wang’s creative process echoed automatism to me as the time constraint acted as a force that subsided conscious control.
I was denied the comfort of working slowly, deliberately, and intentionally in this exercise. Though it was difficult at first, by tapping into some latent artistic part of myself I am satisfied with the posters I created. There is something almost spiritual in Wang’s artistic process. In articulating difficult subject matter that may often go unheard, his work speaks to something within each of us. Perhaps this is what makes his work so powerful.