Between 1961 and 1968, photographer Jim Marshall followed the spread of the peace sign. Designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, its subsequent adoption by the American Student Peace Union helped make the peace sign a symbol of 1960s Vietnam protests. Holtom was inspired by the “N” and “D” semaphore flag signals — standing for “nuclear disarmament” — and also by his own anguish at the world. As he described in a letter to activist and Peace News editor Hugh Brock, he was in “despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad.”
Marshall photographed the sign’s evolving symbolism of peace and love, tagged on New York City subway advertisements, chalked on sidewalks, spray painted on walls, stuck on car windows, worn on buttons at rallies, scrawled on guitar cases, and suspended on necklaces. However, Marshall, best known as a prolific photographer of musicians like the Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Ray Charles, left the images in his archives during his lifetime. Now, several years after his death in 2010, Reel Art Press has published the photographs for the first time in Jim Marshall: Peace. The publication was edited by Amelia Davis, who manages Marshall’s estate, and Tony Nourmand of Reel Art Press.
“He recognized its cultural significance, and was intrigued by the symbol’s ability to morph between causes, and evade strict definition,” writes music journalist Peter Doggett in one of the book’s essays. “Regardless of the ostensible subject of his photographic assignments, he documented the symbol’s appearance on subway walls and street posters, on political banners and in hippie collages. At one moment, it might be the central motif of a protest march or campus demonstration; at another, it acted almost as a secret code for those with the same political leanings.”
And the symbol endures in the protests and demonstrations of 2017. (One photograph of a sign that reads “No on the travel ban,” referencing the 1960s restrictions on Cuba and Vietnam, is especially timely.) Looking at Peace, there’s a chronicle of the symbol’s early life, with some accompanied by “Ban the Bomb” and others inverted. Slowly, its message and shape standardized, and each use expressed, wordlessly, a connection to a cause. As street artist Shepard Fairey states in the afterword, “Small rebellious acts like a piece of graffiti pushing back against injustice encourage me to take action and remind me that regardless of how alone I may feel, there are kindred spirits out there.”
Jim Marshall: Peace is out now from Reel Art Press.
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.
Ten Painful Stories of the Dutch Colonial Slave Trade
The Rijksmuseum’s traveling show strives to remind us that we are all, in some way, a part of this chapter of human history, whose legacy continues today.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Textured Histories at Shiprock Santa Fe
The Santa Fe gallery features Indigenous textiles and jewelry from the early 19th century to today.
Renaissance Portrait of “Ugly Duchess” Likely Depicts a Man
A curator at London’s National Gallery believes the subject of painter Quinten Massys’s painting “is most likely a he.”
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Hokusai’s “Great Wave” Makes a Splash at Auction
An edition of the iconic woodblock print broke records when it sold for $2.8M this week.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?