Library of Congress Exhibition Pairs Herblock With Other Socially Engaged Art | Modern Society of USA

Library of Congress Exhibition Pairs Herblock With Other Socially Engaged Art

Library of Congress Exhibition Pairs Herblock With Other Socially Engaged Art

Before his death in 2001, Herbert Lawrence Block, the political cartoonist better known as Herblock, spent his decades-long career calling out corruption and hypocrisy at the hands of world leaders in his witty work for The Washington Post, winning three Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the process. Now his rich body of work, which also touched on civil rights, the environment and war, is getting new life alongside work from other politically minded artists at a new exhibition at the Library of Congress.

“Art in Action: Herblock and Fellow Artists Respond to Their Times” opens on Jan. 31 and pairs 15 Herblock editorial cartoons with 24 works from others whose art responded to major political and humanitarian issues from the 17th century to the modern day, all pulled from the library’s collection.

“It’s really striking when you look at Herblock’s major themes that these are human conditions, kinds of concerns that reach back centuries and are so much still on our minds today,” said Katherine Blood, the curator of fine prints at the Library of Congress. “We were really looking for kindred spirits, artists who were looking at his themes as an organizing principle.”

“It’s a mixture of artists who are very celebrated and well-known, like Kerry James Marshall, and lesser-known artists,” she said.

Through Aug. 17, gallery visitors will be able to see works from American artists such as Mr. Marshall, the Chicago-based painter; the contemporary graphic artist and activist Shepard Fairey; and the sculptor Alexander Calder. The show also looks at the global tradition of political art and will feature work from artists including the Spanish painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, who chronicled the atrocities of war; the Mexican-born printmaker Enrique Chagoya; and Helen Zughaib, a Lebanese mixed-media artist who explores the relationship between American and Arab cultures.

“One of the aims in including some of these great artists from the past is also to prompt thinking and appreciation for Herblock being in this grand tradition of socially engaged art,” Martha Kennedy, the library’s curator of popular and applied graphic art, said.

“We thought it did something really valuable and fresh and exciting and a little quirky,” Ms. Blood added. “What happens is when you mix Herblock’s editorial cartoon drawings with these different artworks across time it really sort of gets you to look at everything in a fresh way and question what you know.”

The exhibition is part of a yearlong initiative at the library aimed at celebrating America’s “change makers.” A show about the women’s suffrage movement called “Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote” will open in June, and the library will debut its collection of Rosa Parks material in an exhibition on her life and activism in December. Like the Herblock showcase, both displays will draw on the library’s archives of personal correspondence and records from prominent Americans, in this case Parks and other pioneering women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The Library of Congress has secured its funding for the fiscal year, allowing it to remain open despite the government shutdown. .

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