Seventh graders looked at the collage "Uptown Looking Downtown" by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). Bearden was an African-American artist who created paintings and collages. One of the subjects he addressed was African-American daily life in Harlem. He was a founding member of an artists' group called The Spiral, which addressed the role of the African-American artist in the Civil Rights movement.
One of my favorite things about teaching art is discussing artwork with students. As we observed this collage, one student commented that it looked like it had been done by a five year-old. I think he was surprised when I (after a deep breath) told him that I actually agreed. I asked him to explain why he felt this way, and he described how it looked like a mess. Then, I turned this question to the class: Bearden was a skilled artist, so why would he make something look like a mess? Another student had an insightful answer: By creating a messy, layered, chaotic look, Bearden captured the chaos and noise and movement of the city. A great observation, and a great visual analysis!
Students chose a social justice issue for their topic, and used only magazines to create their work. They also included a call to action which expresses their stand on the issue.
Uptown Looking Downtown, 1965