Erik Brede’s artwork Bullet Lips (2016) presents a surrealist photograph of red lips holding a bullet. Brede’s simplicity in the surrealism allows the viewers to question the meaning of the artwork. Whilst the image can initially be viewed as contrasting ideas of beauty and weaponry, the symbolism of red lipstick can refer to power and danger, thus asking the viewer to think whether the photograph explores both physical and conceptual ideas about human capability for danger and destruction.
Protest, satire, propaganda, and social-political expression can be considered the four main categories of political art.
Protest art is viewed as reactive artwork created to directly critique and challenge the current political environment. This artwork can come in many forms such as paintings, posters, photography, sculptures and installations. In recent years the medium of sculptures and installations has been a prominent choice for artists protesting against climate change and challenging conventional historical narratives. Kara Walker frequently reveals tones of protest in her work such as Fons Americanus (2019) which challenges how public monuments are remembered in British history by presenting the narrative of the origins of African diaspora caused by slavery.
Satire refers to humorous and mocking illustrations of public figures and current affairs. This form of political art became prominent during the interwar period in Western Europe and the United States when political tensions leading up to Second World War became key discussion points for artists and the general public.
Propaganda art is work that is usually created by state authorities in an attempt to generate support for political agendas. Russian propaganda posters during the 1920s and 1930s are seen as some of the most distinct styles of propaganda artwork. The posters present reoccurring motifs of workers, collective farms and transformed cities to represent the Soviet ideals of building a new communist society.
Social-political expression refers to artists creating artwork as a reaction to contemporary political climates. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937) is an notable political artwork that portrays the suffering of people and animals. Picasso wanted to use his UN commission to respond to the bombing of Guernica in 1937 and the painting is credited as a one of the most powerful pieces of anti-war art in history.