William Kunstler has always interested me as an historical figure, and as a hero. He could have used his training and expertise to make a lot of money and to make himself famous, but his interest was in helping to protect people from the powerful institutions that tried to exploit and silence them. He spent his life serving people.
Kunstler was already prolific in defending civil rights cases in 1970, when this artwork began as a silkscreen edition of 11, titled KUNSTLER. I was experimenting with variations on a single image, an idea that many artists were using in Pop Art and photo silk screening. The screen print is based on a single portrait of William Kunstler, drawn four times on a sheet of mylar using various Zip-A-Tone patterns.
Earlier in 2017, I was reminded of his importance as a defense lawyer when I saw a large exhibition of Corita Kent. There, I saw her photo silkscreen Phil and Dan (1969) She had used a quote from William Kunstler in combination with a scene of Phil and his brother, Dan, Berrigan burning draft cards during the Vietnam War. William Kunstler defended Phil and Dan Berrigan, along with the other seven of the Catonsville Nine in 1968.
I used Kunstler's text from Corita's print, which was the basis for the Catonsville Nine defense:
I hand-drew this quote in italic script beneath the four images of Kunstler's face. I worked on it throughout the early part of June through September 25, 2017. The thought came to me that there was ample space on the paper to give more biographical information about Kunstler, I wrote about his civil rights history with different color inks, then printed various hand-carved stamps that I made in Corita's class (1967-68), and then glued postage stamps along with small photos of his trials and public speeches. I worked to expand the story of Kunstler's life, to add the context of the civil rights movements of the time, and to create a kind of graphic biography. All this in an effort to try to create the history of those times, which were an important part of my life, so many could learn more about who William Kunstler was, and that he was a courageous civil rights lawyer.
It is a very dense image with a lot of biographical imagery, words, and quotes. This new artwork is a textual photo montage, similar to many of my earliest works done between 1971-1974. I called this series "Exploding Newspaper." These are three examples: