Semblance of Authority: Hand-held Rubber Stamps as a Tool of Protest and Activism

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May 22nd, 2024 6:00 PM

  • Presenter: Jennie Hinchcliff
  • Event Type: General event
  • Start: May 22nd, 2024 6:00 PM
  • End: May 22nd, 2024 8:00 PM
  • Sessions: 1
  • In-person or Online?: In-person

The handheld rubber stamp has historically been regarded as a utilitarian tool used by businesses and bureaucrats to regulate, validate, and officiate. In the hands of artists and activists, however, it has also become a tool of protest and a call to action. While considered a strictly functional item by most users, the handheld stamp has been an expressive contributor to contemporary art and protest works due to its portable size and ability to fly beneath the radar.

Handheld rubber stamps have a nearly universal appeal and can be found in settings ranging from government offices to art galleries – contributing to their appeal as a subversive. Populist and ubiquitous, rubber stamps are the unsung tools of artists, activists, and the general public, having been consistently used in experimental, sociopolitical ways from their humble beginnings.

In this presentation, SFCB’s Director of Exhibitions Jennie Hinchcliff addresses the history of handheld rubber stamps in political activism and their use by contemporary printmakers, artists, and printers. From the early use of British ‘John Bull’ printing sets to today’s created-on-demand rubber stamps, a direct line can be drawn between early and current usage for social and political awareness. Contemporary artists have all utilized the rubber stamp in performative print works, visual art, and artist book projects, bringing awareness of political or activism-based subjects to a larger public.

NOTE: “Semblance of Authority” appears in the recently published Artist’s Book Yearbook 2024-2025. Copies of the Yearbook will be available for sale during the event.

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San Francisco, CA 94103-5133
United States
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