About the Exhibit
The Group Research, Inc. Records, housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University, comprise a rich resource documenting the organizations, people, and campaigns of conservative activists in the United States from the early-1960s to the mid-1990s. Drawn from that collection, the items in this exhibit highlight the important role that illustrators, cartoonists and designers played in the dissemination of conservative points of view during this formative period for modern US conservative ideology.
Whether concerned with the strength of the federal government, the power of communists, the public and personal roles of religion, the freedom of private enterprise, the validity of taxation or the social effects of civil rights legislation, each artist whose work is displayed here illustrated his or her particular issue of concern in a way that both advocated a political position on the subject and implied that any alternative stance was un-American. Though not every issue displayed here was shared by every artist or organization represented, all of the items demonstrate such a propensity to divide the righteous from the pernicious. Collectively, these works demonstrate the central role that the ideology of being “with us or against us” played in US conservative activism long before George W. Bush used the concept as a defining feature of his “War on Terror.”
The form of the exhibit highlights this theme of division. Two brief essays in the Introduction section describe the ideological motivations of both conservative artists and the organization, Group Research, Inc. that collected their work. Picturing Partners showcases images of sympathetic people that conservative artists felt were either in need of protection by or further support from conservative campaigns and activists. Envisioning Enemies reveals the darker half of America that these activists feared: the individuals, groups and organizations that threaten true patriots. The final section, Portraying Patriotism, demonstrates how conservative activists manipulated politically neutral images such as the US flag or the Statue of Liberty to make partisan arguments about US values and the future of the country.