11. SETH TOBOCMAN
Young People Stand Up to Police, 1985, 14’ x 7’
Seth is a co-founder of the magazine World War 3 Illustrated which, since 1979, has used comics as a medium for serious journalism and social commentary from a radical and independent point of view. WW3 addresses such topics as “housing rights, feminism, the environment, religion, police brutality, globalization, and depictions of conflicts from the Middle East to the Midwest.” Critic and activist Lucy Lippard, an admirer of Seth’s work, introduced him to Eva who invited him to create a mural for La Lucha.
Young People Stand Up to Police, rendered in Seth’s high graphic style, emerged from his involvement in the anti-nuclear movement. “I was involved in No Business As Usual, one of the few anti-nuclear actions that really tried to include young people. I was in my early 20s. We wanted to protest Reagan the way people today want to protest Trump. But the difference between the 1980s and today is that there are thousands of people protesting Trump and it was very hard to find anyone to organize with against Reagan.”
On April 29, 1985, No Business As Usual organized a day of protests in 16 U.S. cities, many involving civil disobedience. Seth attended the action at Riverside Research Center in upper Manhattan where The False Prophets and Holy War played on the street. An “illegal art show” took place during the action. “A high school classmate of mine,” recalls Seth, “did a performance piece. She was dressed in a costume made entirely of meat and held a very large replica of an MX missile over her head.”
Later in the day, there was a protest near City Hall. “I don’t know the details; I arrived when the police were breaking it up.” There he saw a young man of color leaping into the air in front of a horse and taunting the helmeted cop. His “bravery” was the
inspiration for Seth’s mural.
Seth’s preparatory drawings show the evolution of the mural. In the first, there are pointed anti-nuclear references: two missiles and the words “Well Armed.” They are absent in the second drawing. The third drawing incorporates a knife in the horse’s left front leg and gun parts. The angle of its head suggests a gun loaded, aimed, and ready to be fired.
Seth created several pieces about police brutality throughout the 1980s. His La Lucha mural also works as an indictment of police behavior in summer 1988 in Tompkins Square Park, one block west of La Plaza. A July 31st rally protesting a recently imposed 1 AM curfew led to several clashes between protesters and police. During a second rally a week later, the police charged a crowd of protesters and a riot ensued, lasting until 6 AM the following day.
Seth’s images, posters, murals, banners, and tattoos have inspired peoples movements from NYC’s Loisaida squatters to South Africa’s African National Congress. His work has been shown at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, Exit Art,
and ABC No Rio. He is the author of several graphic books, among them Understanding the Crash and War in the Neighborhood (2000), reissued in 2015. ww3.nyc