Exhibition Dates: February 3 – March 3, 2018
Reception: February 3, 7-9pm
Location: Arts + Literature Laboratory, 2021 Winnebago St, Madison, Wisconsin


Arts + Literature Laboratory presents Shhh… from February 3 – March 3, 2018. The exhibition presents a collection of WWII propaganda posters as its point of departure and features the work of 24 artists who use “propaganda” or information/disinformation in some way to address and reframe issues present in our current cultural-political climate.

Propaganda posters from the WWII era were produced in prolific numbers and widely distributed throughout the US. They dramatized the circumstances the nation found itself in and persuaded the populous to support its cause lest we fall into the hands of fascist dictators. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election and subsequent inauguration of Donald Trump we find ourselves with an administration that employs deceptive communication if not outright prevarication as a means to expanding the power of a few at the expense of the many. In response Arts + Literature Laboratory began developing an exhibition examining how artists such as Alex Melamid, Allison Yasukawa, Ebon Fisher, Jody Zellen, and others are using notions of propaganda, information and disinformation in their practice. To give voice to a larger community, Arts + Literature Laboratory sought proposals from artists across the country. The exhibition will feature artists from New York to Los Angeles and places between.

The exhibition title, Shhh… is derived from a theme found in the posters that implore citizens to not discuss or share personal knowledge of troop movements, military production, etc. As the title suggests, Shhh… focuses on works that demand an attentive viewer and includes painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, as well as video, photography, performance, objects, zines, and text. Some artists filter and juxtapose public information with personal observations that range from sarcasm to outrage, while others use historical or contemporaneous narratives to exploit and inspire emotional responses. Still others engage us on a cerebral level to consider a thoughtful yet urgent call to action.

Central to the exhibition are the WWII posters; a poignant backdrop that recalls a time when many people believed that modern art could pave a pathway to democracy. Artists of that era assisted the government in its war effort. The posters testify to that but also to a lingering nostalgia that threatens to overlay the truth of what America stands for with a backwash of sentimentality concealing a devious and blatant assault on our institutions. They illustrate an eloquent national spine highly resistant to those wishing to exploit its freedoms.

Jody Zellen and Daniel Rothman’s Spin, 2016, is an interactive video/sound installation that allows viewers to arrange live media headlines into personal compositions while the sounds of media talking heads circulate subtly in the background. With a measured use of materials that reinforce and bring forward the all-to-obvious consequences of biased policy, Holly Ballard Martz’s work By Executive Order, 2017 reminds us that the threshold we cross outside our doors is no different that the one we construct at our borders. Bernhard Geyer’s History of the Art of War, 2017 are humble reflections on the endless cycle of conflicts around the globe. Executed in gouache on cardboard they are like prayers falling on deaf ears, the defeat of materials standing in for the certain nearsightedness of those who see war as inevitable.


Michael Amato, Cromwell CT, Holly Ballard Martz, Seattle WA, Daniel Bernard Gray, Arlington TX, Derrick Burbul, Kearney NE, Caitlin Cass, Buffalo NY, Scott Endsley, Brooklyn NY, Ebon Fisher, Brooklyn NY, Bernhard Geyer, Madison WI, Neil Horsky, Boston MA, Jason Kartez, Madison WI, Chris Kursel, New York NY, Peter Kursel, Madison WI, Darryl Lauster, Arlington TX, Billi London-Gray, Arlington TX, Whitney Lynn, San Francisco CA, Alex Melamid, New York NY, Chitra Neogy, Brooklyn NY, Daniel Rothman, Venice CA, Christian Schmit, Lakeside Park KY, Ed Smith, Valatie NY, Lizz Stringfield, Brooklyn NY, Rob Thurlow, Lowell MA, Allison Yasukawa, Los Angeles CA, Jody Zellen, Santa Monica CA.