When Michael Patterson-Carver was approached by the contemporary artist Harrell Fletcher in 2006 outside a grocery store in Portland (Oregon), little did the 1958 Chicago-born self-taught artist know that only two years later his colorful, emblematic drawings of anti-war protesters would be hanging in the New Museum in New York. According to Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the New Museum show, Patterson-Carver’s work offers both a celebration of American democracy – his marchers are always smiling – and a portrait of an America where rights are forever being trampled.
As a child in the early 60s, Patterson-Carver grew up amidst an active protest culture which is currently experiencing a renaissance with the Occupy Wall Street movement and which has strongly inspired him throughout. Central motifs of his work are contemporary left-wing causes, historic civil rights struggles, and most recently, a series of drawings shown here that read like allegories of destruction or chronicles of complex conspiracy theories often starring George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Michael Patterson-Carver sees his art as a personal form of political activism, his existence as one of a political refugee.