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Peoples Press

Thomas W. Benton: Artist I Activist

Thomas W. Benton: Artist I Activist

Details: Hardcover, 196 pages, 150 plates, 11 x 10.25.

Publisher: People’s Press

ISBN: 978-1-936905-90-4

Author: Daniel Joseph Watkins

Price: $39.95

In Brief:

A collection of 150 images of artwork by silkscreen artist Thomas W. Benton, this book also chronicles Benton’s political activism and collaboration with Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
Foreword by George Stranahan / Introduction by Hal Wert / Poetry by Joe Henry /

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quill Author signed copies available

A chronicle of the life and political activism of artist Thomas W. Benton with 150 images of his artwork. Benton’s silkscreen posters cataloged political movements and elections from 1968 to 2006 and are a powerful visual account of the issues and campaigns that shaped history. In addition to numerous candidates and issues in Aspen, Colorado, Benton created political posters for presidential candidates George McGovern and Gary Hart, and against President Nixon. The book includes never-before-published images of the Aspen Wallposters, a collaboration of Benton’s art and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s writing in that promoted their Freak Power movement. Benton’s later works, including abstract silkscreens, monotypes and paintings, are also explored in relation to the artist’s life and philosophies. The book also includes Benton’s commercial work in Aspen as a signmaker/printmaker, his architectural projects in Colorado and ten poems by close friend and lyricist Joe Henry.

Praise for Thomas W. Benton: artist I activist
Tom Benton’s avant-garde anti-war, cause, and political posters place him in the center of a small number of great propaganada artists of the last century.  Even those quite knowledgable of poster art will be treated to dozens of posters rarely seen, if at all.  This well-designed book is a major contribution to the history of political art. 
- Hal Elliott Wert - Kansas City Art Institute history professor and author of Hope: a Collection of Obama Posters and Prints

Tom Benton integrated strong and powerful graphic symbolism into the political fray of our times. His simple yet monumental approach to what needed to be said gave a voice to those who wished to be seen and heard. He remains a powerful example of commitment in a world gone wrong.
- Ralph Steadman, Gonzo Artist

This is an invaluable compilation of artistic expression that captures the passions and the visions of a dynamic period in our lives.
- George McGovern, 1972 Presidential candidate

“At first I did a lot of posters for people who lost elections. I was kind of the kiss of death.”
                              - Tom Benton

BENTON’S PASSION FOR A BETTER, MORE PEACEFUL WORLD WAS manifested in political activity. In particular, he created campaign posters for candidates he thought had the right values, not necessarily who might get the most votes. He was never really the kiss of death; he simply invested his efforts and art in supporting what were too often, and too sadly, long shots.

A Benton campaign poster gave candidates instant recognition, made a strong political statement, and was powerfully artistic. The artist’s earliest campaign posters promoted candidates running on the local anti-establishment Freak Power platform organized by Hunter Thompson in 1970.

Artist Paul Pascarella spoke of that campaign: “The thing for me that was important about the election was that Hunter and Tom gave us a sense of empowerment. Freak Power. Hunter helped us get fired up and Tom created these very distinctive posters for all the good guys so we knew who to vote for. I don’t think we would have taken action on our own, but together we felt the power and we really made a difference. That commitment has lasted a lifetime.”5

Benton was also actively involved in the political contests. He served as mayoral candidate Joe Edwards’ poll watcher, was Thompson’s spiritual advisor, and was a founding member of the Aspen Liberation Front, a group of local activists who campaigned against the war in Vietnam and rampant development in the valley.

Benton’s hope for a better world included many causes as well as candidates. He produced dozens of activist posters for various causes ranging from peace and equality to voter registration, anti-pollution and keeping the 1976 Winter Olympics out of Aspen. He used quotes to make sure no one missed the message in his work and occasionally added a straight line to his pieces representing the “hand of man.”

Benton’s posters span forty years of Aspen’s and the country’s political history, serving as a powerful visual account of the issues, events and movements that shaped local and national politics.

On January 12, 2014 Renee Bizzak posted

from facebook This is a signed Thomas Benton picture, 35x35, signed by artist in 1974, number 48/48.  Anyone have idea of it’s worth?

On December 11, 2013 Thomas W. Benton posted

For a limited time: copies of the book “Thomas W. Benton - Artist / Activist” are available for $29.95 with free shipping.  http://www.gonzogallery.com/benton/thomas-w-benton-artistactivist

from facebook A chronicle of the life and political activism of artist Thomas W. Benton with 150 images of his artwork. Benton´s silkscreen posters cataloged political movements and elections from 1968 to 2006 and are a powerful visual account of the issues and campaigns that shaped history. In addition to numero…

On December 5, 2013 Thomas W. Benton posted

Check out the sleek new Thomas W. Benton website.  http://www.tomwbenton.com Original prints and paintings by Benton are now available for purchase online.

from facebook

On November 23, 2013 Gary Hashi posted

If anyone has any Aspen Wall Posters for sale please send me a message. Am very keen on getting a #5 but I’m interested in any if the price is right.


On October 19, 2013 Mary Austin posted

from facebook I would like to purchase this poster if anyone knows where to find one? I used to have one but foolishly gave it away.  :(

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Art? Answered chooses Benton for 2011 Gift Guide


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2011 brought with it a wide array of great products that artists and art lovers, alike, will adore. Here is Art Questions Answered’s list of the most excellent finds.
Thomas W. Benton: Artist, Activist by Daniel Joseph Watkins - The ultimate coffee table book, Artist, Activist chronicles decades of inspiring work by Thomas W. Benton in its large, vibrant pages.
Check it out at Art? Answered, by Alina Bradford .

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This stunning coffee-table compilation of Tom Benton’s art is a treasure trove


A review by Rory at Totally Gonzo

Many of you are of course already familiar with Benton through his collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson on the Aspen Wallposters and his striking skull design for the cover of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. Yet to date Benton’s work has remained largely inaccessible, with the Aspen Wallposters proving to be particularly elusive due to their scarcity and the high price that they command on the rare occasion that they become available on the market.

Since I started this website just over three years ago, I have been inundated with enquiries regarding the Aspen Wallposters. I think it is fair to say that Benton has been criminally overlooked, not just in relation to his collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson, but also in terms of his contribution to protest art and political activism both at a local and national level.

In this sense, full credit must go to Daniel J. Watkins for undertaking the mammoth project of cataloguing over 500 pieces of art spanning five decades of Benton’s career, a task that involved traversing the length and breadth of the country in search of these prints, all of which were produced in limited unnumbered runs. No mean feat.

From this wider collection, Watkins has selected 150 prints divided into sections representing the evolution of Benton’s career, from his first posters as advertisements for various businesses and events in Aspen, through his political activism and collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson, to his later foray into abstract monotypes and oil paintings. The final section showcases the four buildings that Benton designed and built in Aspen.

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The Prints of Tom Benton


Thomas W. Benton: artist I activist moves radio show host and Time Out columnist Jonathan Bastian

For me, opening this book is like stepping back into time — back into my childhood in Woody Creek. Many of these prints hung from our walls. They tell stories. For example, every time I see the image of a man in a graveyard, standing next to a tombstone that says “Greed” and “737” followed by “There’s Some Shit We Won’t Eat,” spools of history unfurl before me — airport debates, Woody Creek caucuses, a community coming together to hash things out.

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Aspen author’s book features Tom Benton’s work


“Artist/Activist” — a lavish 188-page book published by the local People’s Press — makes the case that Benton should be remembered even beyond his involvement in Aspen politics and his long-standing anti-war activism. The book includes an introduction by Hal Elliott Wert, a history professor at the Kansas City Art Institute who has written a recent book on Barack Obama’s posters. Wert’s piece connects Benton’s posters to German and Chinese propaganda art, and praises his craftsmanship and the potency of his communication. (“Artist/Activist” also features a foreword by George Stranahan of People’s Press, and poems by Woody Creeker Joe Henry, both of whom were friends of Benton.)

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The People Have Written


Press On: Start-up book publisher defies industry trend

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Summer Reads in Aspen Sojourner


Finding Uri, Thomas W. Benton: artist I activist, Buried by the Roan featured as great summer reads

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The Aspen Wallposters


The first Aspen Wallposter featured the following message from Tom Benton and Hunter S. Thompson.

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