A solo exhibition featuring selected works of New York City art collective Illegal Art will be on view from Aug 11 - Oct 13, 2023. They will be Cultivate's ArtPrize artist this year.
Illegal Art is a collective of artists that aims to create participatory-based public art to inspire self-reflection, thought, and human connection. This type of art involves the active involvement of the audience, often leading to a greater sense of community and social interaction. This paper will examine the role of Illegal Art in the creation of participatory-based public art, and will explore the nature of participatory art as discussed by Claire Bishop and Sharon Louden.
Participatory art can be defined as an art form that emphasizes the active involvement of the audience in the creation or experience of art. It is a collaborative process between the artist and the audience, where the audience is encouraged to take an active role in shaping the artwork. This type of art has gained significant popularity in recent years, with many artists and art collectives exploring this form of art as a means of engaging with their audience and creating social change.
Claire Bishop, a prominent art critic and scholar, has written extensively on the topic of participatory art. In her book, "Participation," Bishop examines the history of participatory art and argues that this type of art often reinforces existing power structures. She suggests that participatory art is often used as a tool to control the audience, as they are encouraged to participate in a way that is predetermined by the artist or institution. Bishop suggests that true participation in art should involve the audience in the decision-making process, allowing them to shape the artwork in a meaningful way.
Sharon Louden, a visual artist, educator, and author, has also written extensively on the topic of participatory art. In her book, "The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life," Louden explores the role of the artist in society and argues that participatory art can be a powerful tool for social change. She suggests that artists should work collaboratively with their audience to create art that reflects the needs and values of the community. Louden argues that by involving the audience in the creative process, artists can create art that is more relevant, meaningful, and impactful.
Illegal Art's work is a prime example of participatory-based public art. The collective's goal is to create art that inspires self-reflection, thought, and human connection, and each piece is presented or distributed in a method that encourages participation. One of their most notable projects, the Suggestion Box, was installed in public spaces and collected suggestions from tens of thousands of people, in numerous languages. This project encouraged the audience to participate in shaping the artwork, as they were given the freedom to suggest whatever they wanted. This type of open-ended participation allows the audience to shape the artwork in a way that is meaningful to them, creating a sense of ownership and community engagement.
The work exhibited at Cultivate gallery, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will share the works TO DO, Wash Away Your Fear, and What Color Are You?
TO DO was featured on The New York Times OP-ED page over the 2007 Labor Day weekend to illustrate those things left undone at summer's end. Illegal Art has presented this project and other works at the College Art Association's annual conference and numerous campuses throughout the United States.
It is described by the group as the following: "From the refrigerator to the computer screen, the purse to the bathroom mirror: to-dos, commands, reminders, mantras and more have graced these ubiquitous three inch squares around the world. Illegal Art took them to the street to create three installations that were assembled with up to 6,500 individual Post-its for the passerby to jot, scribble and draw their pressing, and not so pressing tasks and pearls of wisdom."
Wash Away Your Fears prompts the public to grasp the figurative phrase of washing away their fears, and makes it a literal, cathartic action by simply writing them down with chalk on the sidewalk, and then washing them away with a purging bucket of water and a broom.
Wash Away Your Fears was first debuted in Provincetown, MA on August 6, 2020 and has since been installed at the Tenement Museum, New York, NY on October 31, 2020, City of Providence, RI on October 4, 2020, City of Ithaca, NY on August 19, 2021, Englewood, FL on May 20-23, 2022.
What Color Are You? provides individuals the opportunity to share the color that they feel represents essentially who they are. No matter where they are from or where they are going, participants will define who they are and how they want to be seen with a simple square of color of their creation. Participants are provided a 4″ x 4″ square canvas on which they can paint one color that they feel represents who they are and pin it to a pre-existing grid for both participants and passersby alike to admire the diversity of personal expression.
What Color Are You? was part of Passport, an New Yorker Promotions event sponsored by Delta Airlines, in Lower Manhattan at the Manny Cantor Center on Saturday, November 8th, 2014, The San Diego Art Fair in August, 2017 and was installed as a part of the Back to the Ballot event at Art Share LA, organized by the magazine By Way of Us in October, 2018.
Illegal Art's approach to participatory-based public art is in line with the ideas presented by Louden. By involving the audience in the creative process, the collective creates art that is more relevant, meaningful, and impactful. Their work encourages community engagement and social interaction, creating a sense of ownership and belonging among the audience.
Participatory art is an important form of art that emphasizes the active involvement of the audience in the creation or experience of art. Claire Bishop and Sharon Louden have provided valuable insights into the nature of participatory art, with Bishop arguing for true participation that involves the audience in the decision-making process, and Louden arguing for collaborative processes that reflect the needs and values of the community. Illegal Art's work is a prime example of participatory-based public art, which encourages community engagement and social interaction, and creates a sense of ownership and belonging among the audience.
Bishop, Claire. Participation. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2006.
Louden, Sharon. The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life