Lifetime imprisonment is one of the great cruelties of American civilization. So grotesque as to be nearly unimaginable, if it is ever to be rectified it must first be visualized, a task that Joe Dole, cofounder of Parole Illinois and a prisoner for nearly 25 years, is achieving through activist artworks of diverse emotional affect. He can be funny, as in a trio of audacious posters critiquing former Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez, wherein she buries “FOIA,” the Freedom of Information Act, and has a janitorial closet stocked with bottles of “white wash” and a trash bin full of “police accountability.” He can be powerfully lucid, as in a pair of infographics that marshal horrifying data about the increase in prison populations since Illinois abolished parole in 1978. He can be harrowing, as in a hand-drawn animation, from the multi-artist “Freedom/Time” video, depicting a man aging and dying behind bars while, on the outside, his daughter grows up, marries and delivers a baby right back into prison. And, in a recent painting that depicts his cell view—an infinite grid of bars over barbed wire over more bars, with little squares of sky blue visible at top—Dole echoes the jazziness of Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie” with his very own indomitable lyricism.
—Lori Waxman 2022-08-30 2:00 PM