I was the sole juror for the 2014 Fletcher Exhibition at East Tennessee University. I found the task exceedingly difficult. The work submitted was excellent.
Instrumentalist art must, by definition, engage its audience with difficult questions. We need look no further than the work of the proto-designer, photographer and artist John Heartfield. In Heartfield’s work we find a powerful example of art that is deeply social, courageous and an important agent of change. Heartfield’s photomontage during the 1930’s confronted German militarism and the Nazi party. His work was produced at great personal risk. As with the work of John Heartfield, the category of Instrumentalism, disambiguates artistic practice. Socially engaged art seeks to play a vital role in the lives of it’s viewers. In some very real sense socially and politically motivated art is an antidote to an art world run amok with hedge-fund managers, art fair dollars and the celebrity gallery system. In the work collected here we find an urgency and a commitment to the idea that the artist speaks truth to power. ! The 2014 Fletcher Exhibit highlights contemporary socially and politically-engaged art. The issues at play in this work reflect the manifold threats to our collective liberty, to our cultural health and to human peaceful planetary coexistence. The artists and designers represented in this exhibition are a living testament to the legacy of Fletcher Hancock Dyer. In the work collected here we find Art and Design framed as a critical social agent, openly and honestly attempting to contend with the issues of our age.
I believe Fletcher would be proud.
– Elliott Earls