Art Museum Visit – Juan Nolazco

Photo taken by Juan Nolazco, November 2018

The artwork I am discussing is called “And Babies” by the Art Workers Coalition from 1969. This piece caught my attention because of the powerful message and weight it carries. The work combines an image of the corpses of women and children and text reading “And babies? And babies.” The image itself is a photograph by U.S. combat officer Ronald L. Haeberle and does not show any visible alterations that change the tone of the image. I think it is important that this image wasn’t altered because any changes would have taken away from the reality of the situation. The only addition to the artwork is the type laid over the image. The type is red and slightly opaque in the form of a serif font. The type itself resembles an older typeface that you would typically see used in formal print work, which immediately gives off a serious tone. It becomes apparent quickly that the type was meant to resemble blood, moreover the blood of the dead women and children in the image. However, this resemblance is abstract in itself because the artist could have chosen a type that literally resembled blood, with long drips that distort the letters to a more literal iteration. I appreciate that the artist chose not to use a type like that because it would have taken away from the seriousness of the message. In the class reading on illustration, metaphors in type and imagery is addressed. I think the type in this piece works as a metaphor because it symbolically resembles bloodshed in this context. The artist is trying to communicate the harsh reality behind some of the horrific atrocities that American soldiers committed during the Vietnam War. This piece exposes the military and stands opposed to this massacre.

This piece has shown me how impactful color is to a type. I would not have normally thought of combining this type with this image, however, changing the color and opacity alone gave the type a drastically different purpose and it meshed well with the photograph, thus delivering an impactful message. This also helped me understand how important it is to choose images carefully, and to be intentional with how I pair images and text. I’ve learned that I can also afford to be more abstract than I initially thought. It is okay to make viewers have to work for the message, and that cryptic messages are just as impactful as obvious ones in art.

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