Doug Minkler: A Passion for Prints

His silkscreen prints can not be found in museum collections and his name does not appear in the art press. He is not a household name and his artworks are not sold for exorbitant princes at auction houses - but Doug Minkler is famous nonetheless. You could say Minkler is one of the most famous unknown artists in the San Francisco Bay area of California, where he lives and works. He is famous with his friends and associates, and those with a keen eye for socially conscious art. In a recent article about him that appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, he was referred to as “an artist who, print by print, has painstakingly documented every political battle that matters for decades.”

Art by Doug Minkler

[ Chico Mendes - Doug Minkler. Silkscreen. The following caption was written by Minkler. "Chico Mendes (1944-1988) pioneered the creation of rainforest preserves. These preserves are for collecting sustainable forest products such as rubber and Brazil nuts. A father of three, a union organizer, and founder of the Alliance of People of the Forest, he was eventually murdered by the cattle barons and plantation owners who opposed his efforts to hold the land in common." ]


The unique visual language Minkler makes use of in his silkscreen prints is entirely of his own creation - though one might compare his style to that of the Fauvists, Primitivists, and Expressionists. However, what has most influenced Minkler is the tradition of social activism found in printmaking, and his own words make clear his motivations: “Corporations want artists to glorify their wars, their products & their philosophies. I make posters for my own preservation, that is, planetary preservation. My prints are inspired not by rugged individualism, but by the collective humor, defiance, & lust for life exhibited by those on the margins.”

Art by Doug Minkler

[ The Beast - Doug Minkler. Silkscreen (detail). The following caption was written by Minkler. "This poster was designed to begin the dialogue with children about man's destructive tendencies." ]


I first met Minkler at his Berkeley, California, studio in the early 1980s - though his reputation certainly preceded him. Prior to our introduction I was already familiar with Minkler’s darkly humorous and pointedly political posters since his works had some limited circulation in Los Angeles during the Reagan years. Vaguely suggestive of angry punk aesthetics with all of those quirky jagged lines and explosive colors, I was immediately interested in Minkler’s art, and since making his acquaintance all those years ago - we still remain good friends.

Art by Doug Minkler

[ The Victors - Doug Minkler. Silkscreen. The following caption was written by Minkler. "To the victors go the spoils; to the U.S. goes the oil." ]


While in San Francisco to attend the opening of the War & Empire exhibit at the Meridian Gallery, a show that also includes a print by Minkler, I had the opportunity to reunite with my steadfast printmaking friend. Every Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm, he sells his silkscreen prints on Berkeley’s famous Telegraph Avenue, right in front of the now out of business Cody’s Book Store. As I watched Minkler sell his prints on the avenue for $10 and $20 a piece, I contemplated the irony of today’s so-called “street artists” selling their artworks for unheard of prices to celebrity obsessed collectors. Better to commission a poster from Doug Minkler than contribute to that decadence.

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