R.L. Tillman: Life During Wartime


R.L. Tillman: Life During WartimeExhibit Dates

R.L. Tillman: Life During Wartime will be presented at Goucher College’s Rosenberg Gallery from from October 17, 2022, to February 3, 2023. Artist Reception will be held Thursday, November 3, 2022, from 6-8 p.m. in the Rosenberg Gallery. 


About the Exhibit

Goucher is pleased to present R.L. Tillman: Life During Wartime, an exhibition of new, text-based print works that draw a parallel between World War I-era signage and social media engagement. In his minimal, text-based screen-prints, R.L. Tillman explores the prevalence of superficial, commodifying appraisals that are typical of Instagram and Facebook commentary. Presented in grids and clusters similar to wheat-pasted marketing campaigns, the repeated, disembodied proclamations create a jarring experience of omnipresent consumerism and valuation, often supplied by an obscured or anonymous source. Registering participation or presence with one-word comments has become normative, eroding more formal investigations and dialogues around everything from art to relationships. Seen together in their large groupings, Tillman’s works remind viewers that identity, success, and self-worth are caught up in a capitalistic conveyor belt of algorithms and hasty, disposable opinions that pull at the strings of social stability. This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.

Presented alongside We Care: Works by Corita Kent, Tillman’s Life During Wartime reexamines the language of advertising, clocking a sharp crescendo in its prevalence and art’s power to reveal new messages in familiar text.


Artist Statement

"In the antique shop, these shabby but compelling vintage posters were labelled simply “WWI.” There was no provenance to prove it, but little reason to doubt it, and I took them home. Online research turned up another copy of the print, which maintained a printer’s mark and a date of 1917, so the posters do indeed date from the early days of U.S. involvement in the war. The words “GIVE!” and “LEND!” were often used in the various campaigns to fund the war effort: a propaganda appeal to a shared commitment.

The simple one-word exhortations on these prints immediately reminded me of 21st-century social media, although the comparison was not flattering. Scanning an Instagram feed of an artist’s labors, it’s common to see tossed-off comments like “LOVE!” or “FIRE!”, “WANT!” or “NEED!” Especially taken in bulk, such effusive praise strikes me as a distressingly superficial kind of engagement. I suppose shallow art criticism is largely harmless. But this frantic model of connection is not unique to the cultural sphere.

In the realm of electoral politics, social justice, or international warfare, the media we use to connect seem to offer us so much but require so little. My own posters, screen-printed in glittery inks the color of loose change, are scattered in proximity to these hundred-year-old broadsides. In this time, I find myself with more questions than answers, and this project represents a slight departure: less a polemic satire, and more a poetic rumination on discourse, sacrifice, and the binding agents of society."


Artist Bio

R.L. Tillman is a member of the full-time faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art, where he teaches courses in the practice and history of printmaking. 

Tillman has exhibited his art throughout the U.S. at sites including the Baltimore Museum of Art and the St. Louis Center of Contemporary Art. Internationally, he has been an invited participant at the Tallinn Print Triennial and the IMPACT Print Conference. He has been a guest artist at many educational institutions, including the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Pennsylvania. He has served on the board of directors of SGCI International.

He co-founded the award-winning website printeresting.org, where along with his fellow editors, he produced several exhibitions and publications about contemporary print practice. Printeresting’s most recent project, Ghost, can be seen online and ordered in print.

Tillman received an M.F.A. in Printmaking from the University of Iowa.