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TO JUNE 7
Lawrence Lessig’s 2001 book The Future of Ideas exposed the ways in which increasingly strict intellectual property laws often clash with artistic license. Starting with 1991’s infamous “U2” single from pioneering IP raiders Negativland, “Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age” documents more than a decade of trademark and copyright subversion in visual art (Heidi Cody’s American Alphabet is pictured), music, and film. Most of the works present corporate symbols in an unflattering (or at least unexpected) light, such as Diana Thorneycroft’s charcoal depictions of Fred Flintstone suffering a head wound and Bill Barminski’s Mickey Mouse-shaped gas masks. But the most potent works are also the most amusing: Chicago artist Michael Hernandez de Luna successfully posted many of his homemade stamps, including an “International Pedophile Week” commemorative featuring Pope John Paul II. (It was attached to a souvenir postcard from a 1985 Boy Scout jamboree.) In 1998, Kembrew McLeod copyrighted the title of his ‘zine, Freedom of Expression, then waged a fake legal battle against a friend to protect it. “I didn’t go to the trouble, the expense, and the time of trademarking Freedom of Expression just to have someone else come along and think they can use it whenever they want,” McLeod told a Massachusetts newspaper. These snickers are enough to assuage the feeling that the show otherwise focuses too much on stifling, and not enough on creativity. The show is on view from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, to Saturday, June 7, at the Resource Center for Activism and Arts, 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW. $5 (suggested donation). (202) 299-0460. (Mike DeBonis)