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Illustrating Injustice: The Power of Print

This exhibition highlights the power of printed material to communicate social and systemic injustices, and features work by French lithographer Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) and American photographer Danny Lyon (born 1942) from the Henry collection, as well as a selection of late twentieth-century prison newsletters.
Daumier and Lyon may have worked in different centuries and on different continents, but each was troubled by the injustices prevalent in his society. Daumier’s prints, which frequently lambasted any and all who were part of the judicial system, were published in weekly periodicals and hung in windows. Included as part of this exhibition is a series Daumier produced in the 1840s entitled ‘Les Gens de Justice’, in which he focused his merciless wit and sharp eye on the profession even more intently.

Paired with Daumier’s prints are photographs Lyon made in the late 1960s while visiting six penitentiaries in Texas where he immersed himself in his subject, becoming familiar with those he photographed, and the details of their lives and routines. The book that resulted, Conversations with the Dead, was published in 1971, and invited the viewer in to these closed worlds to experience for themselves, in some small way, the horror and despair that Lyon had seen. In their own way, each artist created powerful visuals in formats that would reach a broad audience, intending to galvanize dialogue, public consciousness, and solidarity against inequity.

In dialogue alongside these works by Daumier and Lyon are prison newsletters from the Washington Prison History Project that function similarly, as tools of communication to bring awareness to the dire circumstances faced by individuals incarcerated in institutions across the state, as well as their friends and families, and to provide a way for them to share information, create community, and gather support.

This exhibition is organized in complement to the exhibition Bambitchell: Bugs and Beasts Before the Law, which runs concurrently in an adjacent gallery.

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