Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Tale of the Blue Fist

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No fist is big enough to hide the sky.” – African proverb

Cindy Kilkenny has found more on the origins of the blue fist from Lincoln Cushing.

Fist images, in some form, were used in numerous political graphic genres, including the French and Soviet revolutions, the United States Communist Party, and the Black Panther Party for Self-defense. However, these all followed an iconographic convention. The fist was always part of something – holding a tool or other symbol, part of an arm or human figure, or shown in action (smashing, etc.). But graphic artists from the New Left changed that in 1968, with an entirely new treatment. This “new” fist stood out with its stark simplicity, coupled with a popularly understood meaning of rebellion and militance. It was easy to reproduce at any scale and modify (long lines of fists, sun rays of fists, etc.) Michael Rossman and I have concluded that, to the best of our knowledge, the moment this first occurred was a poster [3] by San Francisco Bay Area graphic artist Frank’s Cieciorka for Stop The Draft Week, for actions January 14, 1968 protesting the arrest of the “Oakland Seven” This poster was adapted from one he had done earlier [4] for Stop The Draft Week (10/17/1967) that used a large, blocky figure wielding a fist. The second poster took the fist and used on its own.

For more specifically about Wisconsin’s blue fist, I’ve mentioned before the artist was Carrie Worthen, a UW-Milwaukee contemporary of mine. No word if she is still drinking vodka sours.

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