Nicolas Lampert, A People's Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements (New York, The New Press, 2013)

hardcover / e-book
published: November 5, 2013

Trim: 7 1/2 x 9 1/4, 366 pages, 200-plus black-and-white images, $35

ISBN: 978-1-59558-324-6 (hardback) 978-1-59558-931-6 (e-book)

(paperback version, published: October 6, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-62097-133-8   List price: $21.95)

Order via The New Press or Justseeds.org

Most people outside of the art world view art as something that is foreign to their experiences and everyday lives. In a new edition to The New Press People’s History series, A People’s Art History of the United States places art history squarely in the rough-and-tumble of politics, social struggles, and the fight for justice from the colonial era through the present day. In doing so, it presents a provocative and fascinating alternative art history that shows us how activist art often emerges from the streets and social movements – and communities that produced these movements – and exists far beyond the confines of traditional art institutions.

Combining historical sweep with detailed examinations of individual artists and their work, author and artist Nicolas Lampert offers a groundbreaking history of radical art. With over two hundred images, A People’s Art History of the United States offers a politically charged narrative that spans the conquest of the Americas, the American Revolution, slavery and abolition, feminism, the civil rights movements, and the contemporary antiwar movement, among others.

Through dramatic retellings of important historical events, readers will be introduced to key works of American radical art, including the graphic agitation of the abolitionist movement, photographs of the Lower East Side housing conditions, the Haymarket monument controversy, the WPA-Federal Art Project, Gran Fury and ACT UP NYC, the Yes Men, and more. A People’s Art History of the United States is nothing less than a vital alternative education for anyone interested in the powerful role that visual culture plays in our society – and in the ongoing culture of resistance.

"This is an important first volley in what I hope is an ongoing fusillade of people’s art histories. There are many more stories to retell, here and abroad. Those relayed by Nicolas Lampert offer models for an art that actively engages in and helps change the course of history.” —Lucy R. Lippard

“Historical amnesia is rampant in U.S. politics today, no less so in the visual arts, where the current wave of social practice art often suffers from a lack of awareness of what came before. This is an original piece of research, pointing us toward a vast territory of reconnection.”—Suzanne Lacy, artist and writer, Otis College of Art and Design

“Inspired by the revisionist social histories of Howard Zinn, Nicolas Lampert’s A People’s Art History of the United States is an inspiration in itself. Looking beyond an art world framed by museums and markets, Lampert surveys American activist cultures from the colonial era to the present. His passion for social change and his optimism about creative and constructive resistance come on strong in this well-written and wonderfully illustrated book. Highly recommended.” —Erika Doss, Professor of American Studies, University of Notre Dame

“As much as it is easy to say that there are many histories of art that aren’t those of the commercial system,the backing up of that statement with counter-histories is no small task. Here we have a tremendous contribution to a history of art that demonstrates how critical culture is to the production of people’s movements.” – Nato Thompson, Chief Curator, Creative Time

“Written in accessible prose, Lampert’s wonderful book is suitable for the university classroom or the union hall; the anarchist bookstore or bedtime reading for teenagers.  When teaching on art and social justice at the university level, A People’s History of Art in the United States has become the go-to book on the subject.”  – Dylan Miner, Associate Professor, Michigan State University and author of Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island

“This book is an excellent jumping-off point for anyone unfamiliar with the powerful social justice roots of American culture, offering wonderful examples illustrating historical points along the timeline of agitational American art. Lampert’s credentials as an activist artist give him an insider’s view of this important yet marginalized subject. It’s an antidote to the conventional ‘Art’ model where form dominates content and artistic creativity is reduced to marketable commodities.” - Lincoln Cushing, author of All of Us or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area

“By introducing the significant role that artists have played throughout the history of the United States, Nicolas Lampert offers readers the delight of returning to a familiar narrative and discovering a fascinating reinterpretation. This well-wrought interdisciplinary text demonstrates that artists do not merely respond to and record the events transpiring in their lifetimes; they also shape these events by applying the tools of their profession to accomplish clearly articulated political agendas.” — Linda Weintraub, author of Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art's Meaning in Contemporary Society

“A much welcome, fresh view of American political art.” —Paul Buhle, editor of A People's History of American Empire

“In an image-based culture such as late-stage America capitalism, political art is frequently deployed as a stand in for political engagement itself, with little explanation of the social context that drove the work into being. Nicolas Lampert gives us the stories behind the potent images that have changed the way we think about ourselves, which is the point in studying them in the first place.” – Avram Finkelstein, ACT UP, NYC


Other published writing:

“Recent Struggles at Haymarket: An Embattled History of Static Monuments and Public Interventions"  in Art Against the Law, edited by Rebecca Zorach, (Chicago: University of  Chicago Press, 2015)

Dan S. Wang and Nicolas Lampert, “Wisconsin’s Lost Strike Moment” in We Are Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Uprising in the Words of Activists, Writers, and Everyday Wisconsonites Who Made it Happen, edited by Erica Sangrans, (Minneapolis: Tasora Books, 2011)

"The Problem with Taking ‘Art in the Streets’ Into the Museum,” Art Info Op-Ed, www.artinfo.com, January 11, 2011

“Rafael Trelles: Cleaning Up the Stain of Militarism” in Art and Social Justice Education: Culture as Commons, edited by Therese M. Quinn, John Ploof, Lisa J. Hochtritt, (London: Routledge, 2011)

“Operation First Casualty: G.I. Creative Resistance: Nicolas Lampert interviews IVAW member Aaron Hughes,” Issue #7, Proximity, 2010

“Organize! What the Artists’ Union of the 1930s Can Teach Us Today” in Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Economics. published by the Temporary
Services art collective, Half Letter Press, 2010

“Permission to Disrupt: REPOhistory and the Tactics of Visualizing Radical Social Movements in Public Space” in Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Learning  Beyond Schooling, edited by Jennifer A. Sandlin, Brian D. Schultz, and Jake Burdick, (New York: Routledge, 2010)

“United We Consume? Artists Trash Consumer Culture and Corporate Greenwashing” in Critical Pedagogies of Consumption: Living and Learning in the Shadow of the “Shopocalypse”, edited by Jennifer A. Sandlin, Peter McLaren, (New York: Routledge, 2009) 
“Victories To Celebrate: The 28-Year Campaign that Defeated the Proposed Crandon Mine”, Fall 2009, AREA Chicago

“Mud Activism: Exposing the Dirt on the TAMMS Supermax Prison”, Issue #5, Proximity, 2009

“Signs as Direct Action: The Howling Mob Society and the Art of Visualizing Radical Labor History”, issue #3, Proximity, 2008
Radical Walls: Classrooms that Celebrate Activism and Social Justice: An Interview with Josh MacPhee” in Handbook of Social Justice in Education, edited by William Ayers, Therese Quinn, David Stovall, (New York: Routledge, 2008)
“Making Art Out of Doors: A Conversation with Gregory Sholette, by Nicolas Lampert”, Prompt, 2008

“The Pocho Research Society and the Art of Monument Alteration”, issue #2, Proximity, 2008

"Recent Struggles at Haymarket: An Embattled History of Static Monuments and Public Interventions" in Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority, edited by Erik Reuland and  
Josh MacPhee, (Oakland: AK Press, 2007)

"Public Memories of Haymarket in Chicago: Michael Piazza Interviewed by Nicolas Lampert”, Issue #2, AREA Chicago, 2006

James Mann, Peace Signs: the Anti-War Movement Illustrated, (Edition Olms, 2004) (served as co-editor, wrote the Introduction, contributed to the chapter text)

"rad.art: Creating and Nurturing a Culture of Resistance" Jan./Feb. 2004, Clamor: New Perspectives on Politics, Culture, Media and Life

James Mann, Carteles Contra Una Guerra: Signos por la Paz, (Gustavo Gili, 2003) (served as co-editor, wrote the Introduction, contributed to the chapter text)

"Art Activism", July/August 2003, Clamor: New Perspectives on Politics, Culture, Media and Life

“Our Streets, Our Galleries: Interview with Josh MacPhee”,March/April, 2003, Clamor: New Perspectives on Politics, Culture, Media and Life