By Mark Jenkins October 22, 2016
Thomas Nast might weep — or laugh out loud. The great 19th-century political cartoonist could never have imagined a presidential campaign like the one that is, mercifully, about to end. But art must deal with the unimaginable, or at least try, so more than 40 painters, printmakers and graphic designers have addressed contemporary political issues in “Artists United!” The show, on display at the Busboys and Poets at Fifth and K streets NW, was organized by Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art.
The exhibition’s dark star is, unsurprisingly, Donald Trump. He appears in a much higher percentage of the works than he did in Touchstone Gallery’s “Art as Politics” show in August. The latest allegations about Trump’s behavior are too recent to feature here, but Gary Aagaard does depict the candidate as the bone-wielding ape-man from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Nancy Ohanian caricatures him in Mexican poncho and sombrero, and Rosemary Luckett gives him a choice of “4 Con Man Caps,” including a jester hat and a Nazi helmet. Several critiques turn on language: “Mr. Trump tear down this wall,” requests Ronald Reagan in Charles Seaton’s photo-text piece, while Rozanne Hermelyn Di Silvestro piles overlapping remarks atop this Trumpian boast: “I have words. I have the best words.”
Michele Castagnetti contributed three posters that are all text, and that tweak both the Republican and Democratic candidates. The sharpest elbow is directed at the Clintons’ potential return to the White House: “Apply for internships today!” Yet most of the show’s references to Hillary Clinton are approving, and Dare Boles’s collage even makes her the heroine of a suffragette parade.
Krause, who was shot while covering the Jonestown massacre for The Washington Post, has previously organized shows that consider gun violence. That’s a subtheme of this array, which includes several responses to murderous school assaults. Both Catherine Johnson and Margi Weir position children as targets, while Debra Thompson offers a “Newtown 26” American flag. Its stripes are partially melted crayons, and its stars are metal cookie cutters, punctuated by high-caliber bullet shells. Thompson also assembled another flag-collage, a striking memorial to the recent eviction crisis made of construction materials, a foreclosure sign and door keys from repossessed homes.
“Ars longa, vita brevis” is the ironic slogan of one of Weir’s prints: Art is long, life short. The work in “Artists United!” may not be for the ages. But much of it is well made, sharply pointed and almost as clamorous as the Clinton-Trump contest itself.
Source: Washington Post