Book Review: Reproduce and Revolt

Josh MacPhee and Favianna Rodriguez, eds., Reproduce & Revolt/Reproduce Y Rebelate. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 192pp, oversized, $19.95.

Reproduce & Revolt is a totally unique work of radical images, designed for hands-on use by artists who can adapt them for current work. As the authors say, "Don’t just flip through these pages; throw them on the photocopier or scanner, crack the spine. If there’s one book in your collection where the pages should be falling out, this is it!" And they mean it. That the text is simultaneously English and Spanish, side by side, goes to the point of the emerging society around us. That the images date from the 1960s (a handful from earlier dates) to the present, remind us of the continuity of struggle but also of the artistic breakthroughs forty years ago that remain alive today.

MacPhee is himself a phenomenon, seemingly always on the road, organizing poster projects and a political arts collective (see his website, all in the spirit of public arts and mass participation. His collaborator, Rodriguez, is a Bay Area arts activist and radio personality, one of those bilingual visionaries whose work is now needed more than ever. Together, they seem to have trolled every radical arts-image book that I know, including the leading underground newspapers now long gone, and the wall designs from the Lower East Side to Oakland, where stencilers are most active. Many readers will recognize some of their favorites. Mine include Icky A, the Beehive Collective Design people, Eric Drooker, Cliff Harper, Ricardo Levins Morales, Dylan Miner, Nicole Schulman and Seth Tobocman.

I confess that I would like to have seen more humor, although stencil art lends itself to single, unambiguous messages. But there are hundreds here to choose from, and I especially appreciate the images of nature and hope amid our reality of eco-horror and endless war. MacPhee and Rodriguez have done every young artist a favor; it’s up to the artists to return the gesture with interest, in every sense.

Paul Buhle, a Senior Lecturer at Brown University, was editor of the SDS magazine RADICAL AMERICA, and is author or editor of many books on the Left and popular culture.