Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Others Create Blistering Protest Art in Response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade Decision
The landmark ruling to eliminate abortion rights in the U.S. was followed by an outpouring of opposition from artists and galleries.
In a landmark decision on June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it would be overturning Roe v. Wade, declaring that the constitutional right to an abortion, upheld for nearly a half century, no longer applies. The decision leaves the legality of abortions to state governments, some of which have already announced plans to ban the medical procedure immediately. With the issue proving to be one of the most polarizing in the U.S. in decades, the magnitude of the decision is having a ripple effect across the entire cultural spectrum.
The artist Jenny Holzer released an NFT via the Foundation plaform, with proceeds donated to pro-choice organizations. The digital art work is based on a tweet by ACLU communications staffer, Gillian Bransetter, that includes an image of the popular Fox News broadcaster Tucker Carlson, with a news chyron that reads: “MAKING AN INFORMED CHOICE REGARDING YOUR OWN BODY SHOULDN’T BE CONTROVERSIAL.”
Bransetter coyly observed the similarity in tone and language to artist Jenny Holzer’s infamous Truisms (1978–87) series, which declare maxims such as: “ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE” and “CATEGORIZING FEAR IS CALMING.”
“These statements speak to the anxiety, humor, banality, tragedy, and urgency of modern life,” Holzer told Hyperallergic. “Gillian Branstetter was kind to encapsulate the similarities between Carlson’s chyron and mine.”
The tweet was minted by Jenny Holzer’s studio and offered on the Foundation platform over the weekend. It sold for 12.10 ETH (about $14,922 USD at the time of writing), and the proceeds are being donated to Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Population Action International (PAI).
“We must protect the rights of the individual that protect the health of society,” Holzer added.
Other artists have also taken to social media to voice their anger over the Supreme Court’s decision, including Barbara Kruger, who created a text-based poster that adorned the Instagram feed of New York gallery David Zwirner. “IF THE END OF ROE IS A SHOCK THEN YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION,” the work proclaims.
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“The end of Roe is the result of the Republicans’ relentless campaign to restrict reproductive rights and control women’s bodies,” Kruger said in the accompanying caption. “Many of the Democrats have been incapable of responding forcefully, and only recently has the left begun to understand that the contestations around gender, race, and class have to be engaged simultaneously and not siloed into rigid hierarchies of concern. This lack of compelling rhetoric and the inability to vote and think strategically has tragically informed the make-up of the current Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, New York’s Sargent’s Daughters Gallery held an auction last month that raised $15,000 for organizations supporting abortion, including Keep Our Clinics and Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project.
And A.I.R. Gallery, a prominent feminist art gallery that presented the timely installation Trigger Planting at the Frieze New York art fair this year, mapping out the states where abortion was at risk, sent out a newsletter late last week advocating for safe and open access to such necessary medical care. They also provided resources for reproductive justice, finding abortion care providers, and securing financial and logistical support for abortions. “We encourage you to share this page as needed and donate to these organizations as able,” the gallery wrote.
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