It’s a bit odd seeing the would-be avant-garde belaboring an orange piñata without a blindfold. There’s been a strange phenomenon in the art world of an assumption that all artists were, pre-election, unified in a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump position [as opposed to being, say, for Sanders, and then Jill Stein as the next best alternative], and are now virulently anti-Trump [as opposed to being against specific policies]. It all seems rather conformist, conventional, predictable, and not all that politically aware.

Here it is worth mentioning that I was blocked on Instagram by art critic Jerry Salz for commenting on his “Go Hillary” post, “Go Business as Usual” (on reflection a rather astute and pithy jibe). Mind you, this was just before Bernie was cast aside by the establishment as too big a threat to the status quo, and was still in the running. The conventional art world chose Hillary over Sanders, which if one were to look at their political history, is to prefer the much less progressive candidate, while positioning oneself as the cutting edge of human consciousness. Ultimately, critics like Salz are salesman peddling blue chip art to billionaires. He will appear again in this article defending Richard Prince.

[I suppose I need to get a contentious little bit of politics out of the way, though, as you will see, I’m more interested in disengaging from the political sphere, which to use a popular buzz word I don’t like, has become toxic. The art world didn’t vote progressive this election cycle. Where was the art world when the most progressive candidate in memory was running on individual small donations? The art world was standing firm and radical behind Black Lives Matter, who shut down a Bernie Sanders rally and called the assembled supporters, “white supremacists”. Sanders was too white and too male for identity politics, even if he supported gay marriage when Hillary was making eloquent speeches against it; even if he was the stalwart defender of the working class and poor; even if he was the most outspoken, passionate, and brave opponent of the war on Iraq; even if he foresaw the economic collapse due to the big banks and fought against it tooth and nail. But the art world didn’t get behind him. They let the DNC bury him and were happy with Hillary because she was a woman, and a woman is better than a man, or at least a white woman is better than a white man.

It is also worth noting that while white working class males were blamed for the triumph of Trump, in the end, Sanders lost to Hillary because he didn’t get the women’s vote, and he especially didn’t get the black vote. And when Sanders lost to Clinton, THAT was the smashing defeat of progressive politics, and hope for the young when it comes to the climate, education, health insurance, and making a decent living. The status quo art world was silent. The blue chip artists were making a killing off of neoliberalism, and weren’t aware that most Americans didn’t have a spare $1,000 for an emergency, and their health insurance requires they pay the first $5,000 as a deductable before it kicks in. Imagine that people in that situation couldn’t afford to continue in the same direction. They needed an alternative, and once the DNC bounced Sanders, the only alternative left was Trump. Hillary, despite her gender, was the epitome of everything wrong with establishment politics.

And thus I am troubled by the art world’s great upset over Trump, and the idea that this is because they are progressive. So, if Hillary had won, the art world would have been happy with her American exceptionalism, ramping up for a potential war with Russia, comments about annihilating Iran, pay for play political appointments, public verses private policies, FBI criminal investigations for prosecutable outstanding corruption, and so on? That’s not a progressive art world, that’s a fat, contented blob of an art world, which, however, favors ostensibly margianalized identities. One may suspect, however, that the artworld’s commitment to real liberal values is as threadbare, manipulative, and self-serving as Hillary’s. ]

I don’t even agree that all artists should be liberal. Should all bakers and all athletes subscribe to a given political end of the spectrum? This places art in a subservient role to politics, whereas I think art doesn’t belong in the same category as politics. One can be rabidly liberal and an artist, but one doesn’t have to be a rabidly liberal artist. And I don’t especially have a problem with the notion of a Trump-supporting artist. Even if I see it as a bit of a red flag, that might depend on the personal circumstances of the artist in question. I’m more disturbed by the notion that artists must subscribe to certain political and social beliefs, whatever those beliefs are, even if they are my beliefs. An artist who voted for Gary Johnson? Sure. Why not? I’m more interested in what the artist produces, as reflects his or her unique angle on the universe, than I am in seeing another artist producing work that reasserts a perspective I am already over-familiar with. Politically “radical” art, which presently seems to reflect rather popular and mainstream views (mostly because the populace has caught up with or adopted art’s formerly fringe position), is as new and exciting to me as is patriotic art. It is, as many have accused, preaching to the choir, and some in the proverbial choir would rather hear a new sermon that they couldn’t recite themselves from memory.

I was reading a rather good novel about a preacher during the civil war, and his contact and prescient opposition to slavery [“March”, by Geraldine Brooks]. The writing is exquisite, it is extensively researched, and the sentiments are convincing. It would likely be a very good novel to read in a history class. However, I stopped reading it because I lost interest. The reason was, I realized, because I could predict not necessarily the plot line, but the ethics. At every turn the story was politically correct. Since I am already educated in these views, and within the context of the novel share them, I already knew the sermon, as brilliantly as it was being articulated. I don’t especially need the edification. Perhaps the novel was setting me up for some shocker in which I would find myself questioning my contemporary, educated, liberal, moral outlook, but I’d waded through hundreds of pages and just ran out of steam and didn’t think that point would ever come. It may be that I’m more interested in something that cracks the narrative, than that which solidifies it, even if it is intended to smash some other antiquated narrative, such as white supremacy. I doubt the small band of actual, residual, disenfranchised, white supremacists, with their confederate flags, are ever going to read the book.

I apologize for using a math analogy simply because I never got good at math, mostly because I never did my math homework, and would forget how to do the various equations. But here it is anyway. Let’s say a child has mastered arithmetic and subtraction, and hungers for the next level up into the personally unknown vista of mathematical awareness. No matter how charming and efficient a new textbook explaining arithmetic and subtraction might be, she needs one delving into multiplication and division. And this is how I feel about art and politics. Perhaps we have plateaued on politically correct, identity politics driven art and politics. Reality is always the bigger picture, and no philosophy or group of beliefs can harness it. When one hungers for the next vista, reaffirmation of the eternal sanctity of the present plateau doesn’t satisfy, even if it is superficially labelled as a radical breakthrough. Note that the radical breakthroughs of today are the same as those of decades ago, and hence, not especially new or breaking anything. Radical is a conventional style art students have studied in the academy for decades, including me.

One may wonder if the pendulum has swung too far, settled on the mantelpiece, and is collecting dust and webs, even while people are force-fed the inscription: “unalloyed brilliance”.

Four artists hitting softballs out of the infield

#1) Cristo

First up is Christo. This octogenarian – and kudos for keeping on keeping on making art – is not going to cover the Colorado river with a silver canopy because Trump.

Christo is taking on Trump, and his hair. Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images.

Christo has been planning this ambitious project for decades, and allegedly already dumped $15,000,000 of his own money into it. Nevertheless he is going to abandon it, abruptly, because of Trump’s inauguration. This makes perfect sense, as do all the other anti-Trump pieces and gestures, if one subscribes to a certain, moneyed, privileged, but politically correct, identity politics driven, conceptually minded, wholly conventional, contemporary art world mindset. Boo Trump.

Christo claims that in order to get approval for the project, he would need to engage with the government, and thus somehow directly with Trump. I doubt he thought he would have to meet him personally, but one of his lawyers would be required to wrangle with some lower officials on his behalf, certainly. Christo is unwilling to negotiate with a fascist! I think that is the gist we are supposed to get from this.

But there are a couple facts that make this story less easy to digest. The main obstacle to the project being completed has nothing whatsoever to do with Trump as far as I can see. Christo’s real nemesis here are a group of Coloradan environmentalists who believe the project will endanger the local wildlife. Not only would masking a river for two weeks potentially compromise the flora and fauna beneath it, but the traffic on and around Bighorn Sheep Canyon necessary for installing the piece could further damage the natural environment. It would seem that the real enemy is environmentalists, animals, and plants, none of which Donald Trump gives a flying fuck about, though neither does he care the least about art.

Looks cool. Christo’s River (Project) (Drawing 2010). Photo: Christo and Jean-Claude.

In the NYTimes, Christo elaborated:

“I came from a communist country… I use my own money and my own work and my own plans because I like to be totally free. And here now, the federal government is our landlord. They own the land. I can’t do a project that benefits this landlord … The decision speaks for itself. My decision was that, like many others, I never believed that Trump would be elected.”

Does the government not own the land in communist countries? Christo is from Bulgaria. A little research tells me that despite having the worst pollution in Europe, in 2013, Bulgaria has a National Biological Diversity Conservation Strategy to preserve local ecosystems, in which case, the artist might encounter similar hurdles in his own beloved country if he were to try to erect an enormous art piece that would potentially threaten an ecosystem.

Christo would likely face the same governmental hurdles under a Clinton POTUS, even if he were to cover the river with a sky-blue pant suit. So I guess, in the end, he dumped his project because he can’t stand that Trump won. His resentment is understandable, but his argument isn’t so crystalline.

The second issue, which would not occur to the cognoscenti of the art world status quo, is that the dude had $15 million to throw at an art piece, and could afford to throw it out instead, and can afford to not make work (albeit he’s well old enough to be in retirement). What would happen if I refused to make art because Trump? I’d be shooting myself in both feet and the nads. I need to hop up my production at all costs, and with no hope of $15 million in sight, or $15,000, or $1,500, or $150.

Who is Christo punishing, or not benefiting, by abandoning an artwork that would ostensibly bring immediate pleasure to hundreds of thousands of people? Maybe the idea is that the art world should not go on blithely, innocently, and prosperously under the dark mantle of Darth Trump. I will not make sculpture for the Reich! But this isn’t a heroic bust of Trump that is being abandoned. Christo is a crowd pleaser, and every-man (and every-woman, of course) is being deprived of an uplifting art event.

Lastly, I do wonder about art which masks nature. Is the untrammeled beauty of nature something that can be improved upon by the artist’s intervention? Where I currently reside, in Siem Reap, there’s a nice little river running alongside the heart of the downtown (or is it the other way around). Some phone company decided it would be clever to suspend banners between trees so that all the people who go to the river for a break from the dusty city center and its unruly traffic would have their advertisement, instead, emblazoned on their inner minds. I wanted to snip that shit down myself. Of course what Christo planned is vastly different from plastering an advert over nature, but, alas, do we imagine the Grand Canyon, for example, could be improved upon by any sort of inclusion of giant, billowing canvas (or fabric of choice)?

#2) Richard Prince

Is there a fucking statute of limitations on appropriation as radical art? I mean, shit, Duchamp’s urinal is a hundred years old. That’s it. That’s a long ass lifespan for a movement in art to be radical. It isn’t anymore. It’s academic and boring as all hell. Except it still makes Richard Prince millions. Prince, like many an appropriationist, straddles the fine line between the profoundly philosophical, which we may grasp at but not get a firm hold on, and the completely inane. This is a shared feature of so much of the best of contemporary art, but not film, literature, architecture, or music. The gap in most art, both past and present, between utter garbage and priceless masterpieces is much broader. I think even the stalwart defenders of conceptual, appropriation art would admit this, but insist that the art in question does indeed tumble from the razor’s edge into sheer genius.

Prince made himself famous again by printing out other people’s Instagram posts, and selling them for tens of thousands a pop. He, Prince, is the owner of others personal posts. Naturally he was sued by several people whose images he used. This sleight of hand of “recontextualization” that is the philosophical justification for all appropriation is bankrupt in a post Facebook world, in which as a matter of course anyone’s auntie and uncle practice the radical art of recontextualization when they share a cute cat photo from some other venue on their own wall.

There is a point to this, so bear with me. A Prince cheerleader, such as Jerry Salz, might counter that Prince has taken recontextualization a step further, recontextualizing into the fine art context the more plebeian recontextualization that happens as a matter of course billions of times a day on social media. But what if someone, say myself, were to appropriate Prince’s appropriation of an appropriation, thus upping the anti by one, and declaring myself having the most encompassing recontextualization/appropriation? Thus I offer you this Instagram tweet by Prince of his printout of Ivanka Trump’s Instagram post:

Well, Richard, THIS is MY work. I’ve appropriated your appropriation.

And why is it, we may ask, that the most profoundly philosophical artists – indeed the ones which are only fathomable to the cream of the crop – have such shitty grammar? “I denounce. This fake art.” Nevertheless, Jerry Salz will find a way to make this mental spasm into an essential and pivotal act of genius.

What specifically is the seismic thing that Prince did? Well, not only did he declare his 4×6 foot printout of Invanka Trump’s Instagram post (with his brilliant/inane comment on it) “fake art”, he also returned the $36,000 that she or whomever paid for it. The levels of stupidity of this vie for primacy with the ostensible levels of brilliance, which I am about to make you acquainted with. The work is still by him whether he denounces it or not, but now it’s free. Meanwhile, you gotta’ really have a lot of disposable income for it to be easier to arrange to buy a print from a gallery for $36,000 than to just print out your very own Instagram post yourself. If anyone hasn’t figured this out already, anyone can go dig up the same Instagram posts and reprint them out precisely as Prince did. Save the images on a USB drive and have one of your temps take it to a local print shop, or just email it and call it a day.

Jerry Salz could sell the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag, sealed in a zip-lock bag, to a billionaire. He could. So trained is he at hyper-bullshitization. Here he declares this stunt a potential new form of art:

Which brings us to Prince’s brilliant use of the word “fake”—and especially the phrase “fake art.” The phrase sort of made my head spin — is it possible Prince had just invented a whole new conceptual category of art? What could “fake art” mean? It certainly doesn’t mean “forgery,” and it can’t simply mean “bad art.” But it doesn’t seem to me simply to mean “work bought by someone the artist disapproves of” or even “work no longer condoned by the artist.” It seems — to me, anyway — to suggest something much squirrellier than that, some new way of thinking about how to navigate a news theater dominated by “fake news,” the disappearance of cultural, intellectual, and aesthetic authorities, and the rise of a disinformation state.~ Jerry Salz.

Don’t vomit yet, there’s more treacle where that came from.

Prince moved things in the other direction, using that biblical power not to make but to take away — not to bestow but withdraw the art content of the work. This drop-dead simple yet loaded act is actually a quite profound and radical innovation, one that immediately suggests there may be dozens of new conceptual gestures and possibilities in this strange new conceptual universe artists find themselves now living in.

No, Jerry, he hasn’t invented a whole new conceptual category of art. He’s had a hissy fit. And, no, Jerry, his use of the word ‘fake” was not brilliant either. Nor was anything about this a “quite profound and radical innovation”. I dare say it’s all cloyingly insipid. Let me just throw a clue out there. If Ivanka Trump is buying ones art to begin with, chances are it’s not challenging the status quo, and by logical extension, not the vanguard of the shockingly new. It’s a greeting card. But, Jerry Salz can make a greeting card into the Mona Lisa, no, better than the Mona Lisa.

And I have to wonder which “fake news” the staunch Hillary Clinton supporter is referring to. Is it the ostensible fake news churned out by Russian hackers and operatives? Or is it the fake news that Russians stole the election and infiltrated American news sources in order to brainwash the populace? I further wonder if Jerry Salz isn’t part of a new kind of fake art news? Or am I the fake art news? I don’t like the idea that the Russians are infiltrating me without my knowledge, dammit.

Here we have another ultra rich artist throwing out large sums of money as a gesture against Trump, and derailing his own art in the process. Why did he sell it to her in the first place, and would he have returned the money if Hillary Clinton had cinched the election?

#3) Shia LaBeouf

Long ago Andy Warhol declared that making money is the best art, and we know from him and Duchamp that the artist becomes art and becoming a celebrity is art. If it’s art to make money and become a celebrity, we can easily reverse engineer this, so to speak, so that if you are a celebrity and rich, you can transition into being an artist. Enter the likes of Shia LaBeouf (and Kanye West, and James Franco).

This, again, reminds me of this strange phenomenon, perhaps a malady, that visual artists such as myself are beginning to suffer from. As these mega-celebrities call themselves artists, and brand name artists like Koons and Hirst throw millions at an art work and hire a team of assistants to produce it for them, it becomes increasingly difficult to call oneself an artist. Nowadays it would seem more comfortable to humbly pronounce, “Oh, I just draw shit on the computer as a hobby and make fuck all for it.”

So, ths LaBeouf dude has some new, radical performance piece out that takes the unprecedented position of shitting on Trump. The performance consists of the words, “He Will Not Divide Us” painted on a wall in all-cap black letters, a camera doing a live stream under it, and him shouting “He will not divide us” while others present repeat his words. He got arrested for assaulting an alleged white supremacist at the event, but that’s besides my point. My point is how thin the work is conceptually, philosophically, artistically, and politically. It’s no more than a typical chant one might hear at any anti-Trump rally. And there’s something that makes me uncomfortable about it. You can see the whole debacle here:

Assuming there is someone who is in power and is determined to divide the people, opposing that would be good enough. I have to ask myself who is being divided, and on what lines? There is a critical division that I see, but it is not the same one Labeouf sees. I’m pretty sure LaBeouf will see the division between privileged white men (and perhaps women, too) against people of color, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, and the LBGT community. But according to Trump’s own rhetoric in his inaugural speech, he wants to unify all Americans in patriotism. The obvious split, even if one accepts Trump at his own word, is undeniably the split between Americans and everyone else. In each scenario there is an expendable other, and a scapegoat, whether it’s China, immigrants, whites, or Trump himself. Notice the irony that LaBeouf assaulted a man who clearly must have been on the other side of a rhetorical divide. Thus, while Shia is against dividing people on a certain predictable line, he does it himself, with a vengeance, on another, and ignores still other divisions. Not only is the America versus the rest of the world division ignored, so is that between the ultra-wealthy (including LaBeouf himself) and the common lot of people. I would venture that the greater and more dangerous divisions are ignored for the more rhetorical – lost lives ignored for feelings, wars for safe spaces.

LaBeouf’s political message seems to be of the anti-Christ variety, usually afflicting millennials, in which Trump is seen as antithetical to if one, all ones cherished beliefs and causes, and all that is right and good in the universe. The result is that Trump is (and I don’t even need to type this, because everyone knows what comes next) – racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, bigoted, homophobic, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and everything else on the checklist of opposites to what identity politics stands for. Meanwhile, magically, Hillary Clinton, with a lot of public relations marketing, and a societal memory shorter than a hamster’s, stands for all the politically correct virtues, even if she made multiple speeches against gay marriage, for war, for more war, for American Exceptionalism, and against “super predators”, etc. Surely Trump is guilty of some of the charges, but the whole set of encyclopedias is being thrown at him, and all this is happening on an ideological level with a strong “Us versus Them” core belief. In fact, I rather think that if one reads between the lines of “He will not divide us”, one will come up with “Us versus Them”. It is a war of principles, and “his” must be opposite to “hers”. This is less reality than seeing the world through opaquely colored lenses. But it’s nice to know that if it were not for Trump, Americans would be unified in one gloriously diverse rainbow (with the possible exception of working class whites, who are the decoy and scapegoat of the super rich and powerful: if privilege is redefined as merely being white, the 1% are off  the hook and laughing their way to the bank  ).

But mostly I’m uncomfortable with chanting slogans. I don’t like crowds, mobs, or repeating something someone else said like a ninny. It’s seems cultish, brainless, and rather like this:

Again, a rich “artist” celebrity opposing Trump in the name of neoliberalism and identity politics, while not engaging the broader spectrum of politics or economics. Curiously, Trump is not only seen as a threat to immigrants and minorities, he is also known as a threat to the status quo which these artists belong to. If one was prospering enormously under the Obama administration (while the working class was quietly digging its own grave for bare sustenance wages), than a change to the rules of the game is a threat to the prosperity of the rich artists, and more so than to the working class who have nothing much left to lose.

The piece in question strikes me as little more than a shrine to a boogieman to scapegoat, even if he turns out to be the real deal. It’s making a spectacle of leaping in the air to topple overripe, low-hanging fruit. It also occurs to me that it’s as much a pro-LaBeouf publicity stunt as it is really against anything bad in the world.

#4) Anthony Micallef

If you know Micallef’s work you won’t be surprised that I’m a fan. I started to write an article about him, but for one reason or another – I think I moved at about this time – I never finished it. He works strongly in the tradition of painters like Francis Bacon and even more so, Frank Auerbach.

A “Self Portrait” by Micallef.

These are less successful since he’s given them hazy, stock Glenn Brown backgrounds and created a formula, in which case they start to look formulaic. This is the danger all artists face of the curse of a successful signature style. When you occupy a niche, you are trapped in a niche, and ones initial innovation becomes a gimmick. After peddling uphill for a while, we end up spinning our wheels while eating tubs of ice-cream, and the raw flesh of his first mammoth canvases begins to look more like the aftermath of a child’s birthday plate of melted ice-cream, cake frosting, and vomit. He’s got a great eye though, and I really enjoyed my initial exposure to his contemporary expressionist paintings.

He is, of course, anti-Trump.  A thought just fleeted across my mind. I wondered how much effect the cumulative radical political art of the last few decades has had on the real world. When I was in grad school, and we were being indoctrinated into identity politics as art, I wonder if we had received a message from the future that George W. Bush would enjoy two terms, a black president would hold fast the rudder to steer the country in the same course, and then the baton would be handed over to Donald J. Trump, would we have all just thrown up our hands and said, “Fuck it!”? Much like the soldier returned from Vietnam, sitting at the end of the bar in “The Dear Hunter”. Probably my peers wouldn’t have said that. Probably I would have. Fuck it!

And here I have an anecdote I keep reflecting on. Shortly before the vote for our next corporate criminal in chief (shortly after the only person who stood up to big business, the banking industry and military industrial complex was eliminated), my girlfriend spoke to one of her previous managers at a school. Since politics was so thick in the air your couldn’t cut it with a buzz saw, they touched upon it, and he offered that he hadn’t voted since he voted for McGovern. That would be in 1972. That was before she was born. I was collecting chewing gum baseball cards and keeping spiders in jars. What is most interesting was my gut reaction to this. I admired it. It’s not exactly The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, but there was something of that, a rejection of the whole foul miasma that is competitive politics. Just fuck it.

I always get burned by politics. I was vehemently against the coronation of the prince of the family Bush and predicted that if his ass was enthroned, war would follow. And I was against his war, and his second war. I protested in the streets 4 times against Operation Iraqi Freedom (freeing the souls from the bodies of hundreds of thousands of living civilian Iraqis). I made signs with caricatures of Bush in diapers, and started a political cartoon called, “Disarm Dubya”. I signed petitions, donated to causes opposing his war, and turned over his bribe of a three hundred dollar tax return to the World Food Programme. In the end the sonofabitch was re-elected, not long after which I left the country and have not returned. Bush could have been my own McGovern moment of disengagement, but Bernie represented hope, and I dared hope. My hopes were crushed by Hillary and the Machiavellian machinations of the DNC, who preferred Trump win than Bernie, because Bernie was a bigger threat to the establishment order. I got burned to a crisp.

In any case Micallef, despite his style being anything but polemically political, manages to get brownie points for making various gestures for good political causes, showing he’s on the right side of history, in the current year.

Trump Fags, by Anthony Micallef

At first, I didn’t know if these were large paintings of oversized cigarette packages, or small paintings on real ones. Here’s the answer.

A miniature Expressionist painting.

The hardest part about these pseudo-Expressionist paintings was possibly doing them so small. This could be an antidote to Micallef’s larger paintings which, according to him, cost upwards of $500 a pop in oils applied with a spatula. They are the same size as his cigarette pack paintings when they appear on Instagram, where must people will today see his art.

I guess the point is that Trump is bad for you like cigarettes are bad for you, including the consequences of second-hand imbibing. If your neighbor has a Trump sign on his lawn, you’re fucked too. These pieces are as light politically as they are on the scale. Trump = Bad. According to the popular vote, that is probably the most widely held belief in America. I think he’s bad, too.

Micallef is the least offensive of the artists and celebrity artists I’ve included here. He’s just guilty of light fare that plays into boogieman politics. He’s received inordinate attention for these breezy miniatures which probably inadvertently reduces them to pro-Micallef marketing products. Congratulations on slam-dunking in a wastebasket.

I suppose there’s good in the anti-Trump hysteria, much in the way Susan Sarandon predicted: people will vehemently oppose when Trump does the same thing Obama has been doing for two terms, and Hillary would have been excused for. Suddenly the world is paying attention, and the president can’t hide behind his race-card while acting as a mid-level manager between a corporate God and a populace ready to snap.

Way back in 1988, when I was in college, David Hammons did a painting of a white Jessie Jackson with the words written across the bottom, “HOW YA LIKE ME NOW”? With the recent mass adulation of Obama and Michelle as the most exalted potentate of POTUS, I imagined a similar painting of Obama with the same message scrawled over it. What would people make of a white Obama? White Obama would have been the milquetoast democrat, supported by the Big Banks, who let every corporate crook off the hook, couldn’t tell the difference between drone strikes and online gaming, payed lip service to the environment, and was otherwise to politicians what Wonder Bread is to baked goods. He would have been the quintessential white male president, if only he were white.

Cheesy political art of 1988 “HOW YA LIKE ME NOW” by David Hammons.

I would much prefer that the anti-Trump pandemic were more against his policies, and less against a fantastic boogieman. I wouldn’t be annoyed if artists were slamming him for de-funding the National Endowment for Art (though that seems self-serving), or villainously pushing through the Dakota pipeline.

I am even guilty of making Trump related art myself, though there is a bit of a difference (and I also made some anti-Hillary graphics, because, yes, she was corrupt). I made a caricature, because I’m an erstwhile caricaturist and simply couldn’t resist.

The Tumpazoid, by me.

I also made a photo-manipulation, collage, montage, whatever you wanna’ call it with Trump and Warhol.

“Andy foresaw it all”, by me.

This was different, however. I wasn’t saying that Trump is bad from the privileged perspective of being an art world insider. This started as a graphic for an article (haven’t finished it) about the overlap between the rhetorical justification for appropriation art, and Trump’s ascendancy, namely Andy’s position that Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”. Trump quotes this a few times in his books about the triumph of himself. When I say, “Andy foresaw it all”, it also indicates that the cultural soil that nurtured the likes of a celebrity appropriation artist, who may have invented reality TV, also produced the monstrosity that is the Trumpazoid.

And I suppose that’s what I’m getting at. If you are going to make work about Trump, make it a little nuanced, and not just another “literally Hitler” type of visual meme. It is perfectly possible to lambast Trump while being firmly within the status quo, pro extant-establishment, and otherwise a card carrying member of the Church of Corporatocracy. Individuals like Jerry Salz, and other fine art cheerleaders for Clinton fall into this category – mere blue chip artists and art insiders fighting to keep the establishment humming in tune with themselves floating on top of it in a wave of bills.

Alas, in a moment of crisis, I will think of something my favorite guru said, which I’m just going to paraphrase. You can’t change the universe or reality, but you can change yourself, and in so doing the universe changes along with you. That’s a choice bit of wisdom there.

Is there an art that questions oneself, that changes oneself? Maybe. Probably art that creates a boogieman or a scapegoat isn’t it.

~ Ends


3 replies on “Anti-Trump Art A bit too Obvious and Bandwagon

  1. Eric,
    It’s a little scary how much we think alike. I followed Saltz for a very short time and realized he was incapable of looking at the world or art with an open mind so I broke it off pretty quickly. It’s not surprising that artists go after trump, it’s just too easy. It’s like SNL, they just can’t help themselves. Trump does have a point SNL was better back in the Farley days, but as I see it when you attack and yell and tell them how stupid they are the racist, homophobic people are not going to listen. It just makes them dig in more. If you talk to people calmly and rationally they might actually listen.

    Another thing that seems to happen over and over is one party gets in and rams all of their ideas and agendas through without even try to pretend they are listening to the other side. Then they wonder why they lose the next election. Then the new administration repeats the same thing.

    As far as art goes if anyone feels the need to paint a hateful painting of trump to feel better go for it, just don’t kid yourself and think your doing some great thing for humanity. We have over 7 billion people on earth all of them very different so to think someone is bad because they don’t agree with everything you believe (even if they are wrong) is naive. People have always been afraid of things that are different than them so they attack that thing, and unfortunately I think it will be like that for quite some time. You don’t just change human instincts over night. I know that is very uplifting, have a happy day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup. And there are class issues that are getting sweeped over. I have this conspiracy theory, admittedly, that the reason identity politics has been resurrected from precisely what it was when I was in grad school over 20 years ago is that it sidelines class issues and class consciousness, almost denying them in favor of gender, race, and sexual orientation differences. This is the framework in which, for example, my peers were able to tell me, “all white people are better off in America than all black people, because of institutionalized racism”. At the time I asked, “does this mean I am better off than Bill Cosby”. They answer was an unequivocal “yes”. My point here is just that issues of class are erased, and that’s ultra convenient for the proverbial 1%, and the rise of identity politics might be a orchestrated reaction to the “Occupy” movement, which unified people in class awareness, and that 99% of us are in the same boat.

      After watching those Adam Curtis videos, I can’t help but suspect that whatever belief system Americans are subscribing to was spoon fed to us from those who are in power, and want to stay there.

      I thought this article was a little risky. So many people are Hillary die-hards that to NOT be overly critical of Trump as the anti-Christ makes me a pariah in the art world, as does, probably, slamming Salz for being a fraud. I thought of taking it down, and then I remembered how badly Salz savaged Francis Bacon, really cruelly and dismissively, and I thought, “Fuck it”.

      Thanks for keeping up with my blog and commenting. We probably think a lot alike about various issues because we are both traditional visual artists, as in we make visual art. I’m wanting to write a post about how conceptual art is art, but not visual art. Of course I’ve said this before many times and in many different ways, but it becomes more and more clear that this is what the problem is. But that will wait for a more fleshed out post.


  2. Great post, Eric. I thought Jerry Salz was dead. I gave up on the guy by the time I came to the end of the first piece of criticism I read by him. Of course, I wasn’t surprised that such a mediocre intellect would rise to the heights of the NYC art world, as there were plenty of others before him who’d managed it. I caught a bit of his TV stuff which I thought was hilarious. Why he never became a performance artist in his own right is one of the great mysteries of the age to me. He’s a far better performance artist than a lot of the stuff he was endorsing on the TV show. By miles. He could even speak in complete and coherent sentences just for starters. Sure it’s a basic requirement for being an art critic. But as far as I’ve witnessed, not at all a criteria for performance art world stardom. Take Bruce Nauman as just one example.

    I wish I could say that I thought alike with you guys but I don’t even think alike with myself on any given day.



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