The presidency of Donald Trump has motivated artists like never before. Some have responded with nuanced images that probe the divisions of our age, others with more sharply satiric caricature.
That’s especially true for printmakers, whose art is often a tool for political activism.
“The graphic quality of printmaking tends to make a statement more quickly than a lot of other media,” said artist, teacher and self-described "instigator" Art Hazelwood, standing the other day in the tiny Juan R. Fuentes gallery at Acción Latina in San Francisco’s Mission District.
The exhibit Hazelwood co-curated with Fuentes, Creation and Resistance: Printmaking in Dark Times, is on display through April 7. Hazelwood and Fuentes began contacting artists for the exhibit a year ago, although many of them are showing work created just in the past few months, as a response to the election.
Take David Avery’s hand-colored etching, The Year of the Rooster. The World Wants to be Deceived.
It’s an image of a limp penis sporting a fan of peacock feathers. Avery said it’s meant to symbolize the President, and satirize his self-aggrandizing style and history of harassing women.
“This was my reaction, as quick as I could do it,” said Avery, “It’s another way of looking at the emperor with no clothes.”
Avery is one of 11 printmakers in the show, all of whom take a left-leaning perspective on current events.
“I’m 65 and I don’t think, ever in my lifetime, I’ve seen anything as bad as things are with President Trump in office," Avery said. "We have fascism in America. You can’t sit by and just make art, unless it addresses what’s going on.”
Active and even bloody resistance to President Trump is represented by Jos Sances’ screenprint with watercolor, Judith Slaying Holofernes, a take on a baroque masterpiece by the female artist Artemisia Gentileschi.
In Sances’ version, Trump takes the role of an Assyrian general whose head was cut off by the biblical hero Judith, the woman he lusted for. The print bears the tongue-in-cheek caption, “Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely accidental.”
Sances’ politics and those of Malaquias Montoya (his work Mein Trumpf is pictured above) are anything but subtle, but Newsfeed, a relief print by San Francisco Art Institute student Kate Laster, is a study in ambiguity.
“This is the preamble on my mind, a way of untangling emotional baggage,” Laster said of her work, which shows a woman desperately embracing a figure made out of newsprint. “I keep thinking about doublespeak. There are all of these lies from Trump, these horrible things he’s saying that are affecting every part of our lives.”
Other prints in the show were inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and President Trump’s decision to authorize construction by the Army Corps of Engineers. “The Standing Rock Sioux are fighting a government that is still not respecting its treaties,” said Veronica Solis, who made the linocut Winter Count.
Solis, a Mexican immigrant, was deeply offended by Trump’s derogatory comments about people like her. “We have to remember,” she said, perhaps speaking for all the artists in the show, “that reality is not what he says it is. Immigrants are a big part of what makes this country so great. So we need to be loud. And these prints are our way to speak.”
The exhibit Creation and Resistance: Printmaking in Dark Times continues through Friday, April 7, when Acción Latina hosts a closing reception from 6-9pm featuring an artist panel including Chamuco Cortez, Kate Laster, Fernando Marti, Veronica Solis and David Avery.
Funding for KQED Arts is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Support is also provided by Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Diane B. Wilsey, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Helen Sarah Steyer, the William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, and the members of KQED