May Stevens. Big Daddy (Beach Scene). 1970. Gouache, felt-tip pen, and pencil on paper, 22 × 30" (55.9 × 76.2 cm). Modern Women's Fund Committee
  • MoMA, Floor 4, 420 The David Geffen Galleries

“I am talking about the inherent human need to survive, ethnically, culturally, morally. This is what I need to put on canvas,” explained Benny Andrews, one of many artists who chose to confront hardship, both personal and global, in their work in the 1970s. The war in Vietnam, political violence in Chile and the Sudan, and other world events and conflicts provided subject matter for many. The internal struggles necessary to cope with such a world led others to focus on more intimate topics.

In some of these works, thickly applied or oozing materials suggest violence, while elsewhere dark undercurrents emerge through the transformation of familiar symbols and forms like flags, crosses, and flowers. All of these artists shared the view that art was critical to survival, both for themselves and for their audiences.

18 works online
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