designing, innovating, praising

Speaking a thousand words: the legacy of Emory Douglas’ guerilla images

an image from the Emory Douglas exhibition at Manchester's Urbis Gallery

Mediation was in Manchester this weekend and found time to catch the Emory Douglas exhibition at the splendid Urbis centre in the city.  it charts the origins of the Black Panther movement and more specifically the work of Emory Douglas – the first and only Minister of Culture for the party – who illustrated the philosophical and ideological views of the party and its supporters.

the bold combinations of graphic design, drawing and slogans still resonate strongly today, but Douglas went beyond the creation and publication of his illustrations, he used media to great effect too.  the exhibition leaflet observes that Douglas "turned the city into a gallery, papering the streets with posters".  it was arguably this very public display of his revolutionary imagery that gave them such power.

Douglas' media legacy has some diverse beneficiaries.  the National Gallery's Grand Tour is turning the walls of buildings inside out – publicly displaying and in doing so democratising access to stunning works of art.  artist Banksy too owes much to Douglas' trailblazing – it is the public nature of the graffiti artist's work that generates most conversation and debate around his anti-state messages.

if a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Douglas spoke volumes.  when browsing the commercial posters on display on the average UK highstreet, how many brands can say the same?


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