Activities
Challenging Media Stereotypes

In Hollywood Africans (1983), Jean-Michel Basquiat uses symbols and words to draw attention to stereotypes of African Americans in the Hollywood film and entertainment industry. In Untitled (We Don’t Need Another Hero) (1987), Barbara Kruger borrows an images from the mass media and combines them with a phrase that exposes the inequities of gender.

a. With your students, discuss how these artists combine words and images to challenge cultural stereotypes that are reinforced by the media.

b. Ask your students to use found text from newspapers, magazines, or bring in text from digital sources such as their facebook feed, Twitter, and blogs. Pair words, phrases, or sentences with found imagery from ephemera such as newspapers and magazines or Instagram to challenge the expectations of the image, to make a political statement, or to give new meaning to the image through the juxtaposition of words. Look again at Basquiat and Kruger. Ask students to consider color, composition, scale of words and images, layering.

Display and discuss students’ work. Ask them to reflect on the message or statement that they made by combining text and images. Is their work provocative? Activist? Reflective? Introspective? Poetic? Controversial? In what ways?

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), _Hollywood Africans_, 1983. Acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 84 1/16 x 84 in. (213.5 x 213.4 cm). Gift of Douglas S. Cramer 84.23. © 2015 The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ ADAGP, Paris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Girl and boy in drawing.

Barbara Kruger (1945-), Untitled (We Don’t Need Another Hero), 1987. Photoscreenprint on vinyl. Overall: 108 7/8 × 209 3/16 × 2 1/2 in. (276.5 × 531.3 × 6.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift from the Emily Fisher Landau Collection 2012.180 © Barbara Kruger. Courtesty Mary Boone Gallery, New York