While the self-proclaimed ” greatest country in the world”
is getting torn apart due to the recent president-elect
I can’t help myself but to think;
” God bless Donald Trump”.
– Written by Ard Doko
In 1964, Francis Bacon met his muse (George Dyer) during a burglary in Bacon’s house. Bacon’s portraits of Dyer (who were psychotic and twisted) are often considered by critics to be the artist’s most inspired works till this day. In order for an artist to keep on creating there needs to be a source of inspiration and while many artists turn to the opposite sex for a creative answer (I’m looking at you Picasso, you cheeky bastard) others choose a whole different subject matter. Throughout the years leaders and notable figures have been portrayed by followers and protesters alike, but the U.S president has always been a controversial topic in the land of the free and brave. With Trump as the new president you can imagine he is going to be a subject in graffiti and street art, but in what ways did other U.S presidents get portrayed by artists?
Even though his short presidency due to his assassination, John F. Kennedy might have been the first celebrity president of the United States. Robert Rausenbergh’s silkscreen painting Retroactive 1 (1964) has symbolic imagery that depicts the optimism and the technological advancement of the future during the Kennedy era. With mixed media snippets of a press conference ,an astronaut and other objects the artwork has not only been functioning as a visual overview but also as a memorial. Willem de Kooning (a Dutch painter that lived most of his life in the U.S) painted the president in a different state with his piece “The reclining man” (1963). The painting depicts a bullet ridden corpse and while the overall painting is leaning to an abstract piece, the details in the face clearly resembles that of Kennedy. An artwork that is still sparking controversy is Ed Paschke’s “Purple ritual” (1967). While many artists try to commemorate J.F.K, Paschke decided to portray the man that allegedly (there is still a big debate going on whether or not he’s guilty) killed Kennedy. With nationalistic banners and a gun in his hand the painting is almost a surreal image of an martyr in western society. Fifty years later the painting is still displayed behind protective glass and for a good reason.
While one of Nixon’s greatest achievements was ending the U.S involvement during the Vietnam war, he is still considered to be one of the most hated U.S presidents in history. In 1972 he wanted to get re-elected for a second term in the White house and was up against Mcgovern. Andy Warhol (who also depicted J.F.K) was in favor of Mcgovern becoming the next president. Instead of displaying Mcgovern he made a silkscreen portrait of his opponent. It is common to portray opponents with exaggerated facial features but Warhol kept it simple. He changed the color of Nixon’s face to green, implying the Nixon is a demon/monster that will ruin the country. With the sale of the print Warhol contributed over $40,000 dollars to the presidential bid of the Democratic party but it wouldn’t help them win the election. 2 years later Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal.
Before Shepard Fairey would even make a name for himself in the art scene there was somebody else who did anti-political posters in the streets. After being fed up with abuse of power by the Reagan administration, Robbie Conal decided to make satirical paintings of politicians. He made posters of his paintings and gradually developed an army of voluntary guerrilla activists that helped him put them up in the major cities of the U.S . In his career he has made over 80 different posters, criticizing leaders with various political believes. In 2004 he teamed up with Shepard Fairey and Mear One to make a series of “anti-war, anti-bush” posters, however one of his most iconic poster is a portrait of Reagan with the text “Contradiction”. The poster refers to illegal funding and arming by the Reagan administration of the right-wing contras that fought the leftist Sandinista regime in at the time in Nicaragua.
Art has always been a great medium to express personal opinions and feelings and while leaders and politicians are often depicted in a negative context there are exceptions. Barack Obama, first African-American president of the U.S, might have been the most portrayed president of this day. We all remember the iconic HOPE poster made by Shepard Fairey that quickly became one of the most powerful symbols for the Obama campaign. Other street artists like Mr.Brainwash painted him as Abraham Lincoln and Superman. This sort of prophetic imagery (contrary to his predecessor Bush who got characterized as a brute) amplified his campaign quote; “Change we can believe in” and the chant “yes we can”. In 2012 Obama got portrayed by 44 African-American artists at the Charles H. Wright museum for African-American history in Detroit. The project consisted of individual takes on the life-size Obama bust they received.Preston Jackson painted two opposites on Obama’s face, a lion and a zebra, two natural enemies that come together as a symbol of unity and diversity.
And know the country has a new leader. Some say he is going to make America great again, others are voicing concern under his reign. The matter of fact is, is that Trump’s statements make him an easy subject for those who are in favor of him as well as against. I hope to see something different instead of the easy imagery like comparing him to Hitler or various adaptations of the (iconic Berlin wall graffiti)” Fraternal Kiss” . I don’t want this to be a political blog so all I personally say about this, is that I’m eager to see in what ways Trump is getting portrayed these years.