The Art (Against) Reagan

Ronald Reagan is revered by his conservative followers as a great president. But “the art of the Reagan era – not just art about Reagan, but art made during his presidency – reflects a more complex memory of the man. The most potent artistic forces unleashed in the Reagan years were overtly political, and little of this overtly political art was or is kind to the old man. The plague of AIDS, and protests of AIDS activists, would create a new and volatile visual language that refreshed the graphic arts; punk rock emerged, in this country, as an angry and anarchic force, often explicitly in opposition to what musicians saw as a geriatric retrenchment into imperial self-satisfaction; and performance art came into its own, defining a new, anti-commercial, wildly independent form of drama. One summary of the Reagan years is that they were immensely productive, artistically, even if much of the art was vehemently opposed to the man.”