Creativity

Edel Rodriguez's Trump Art Gets Its Own Show, Courtesy of W&K

'Agent Orange' Exhibition Opens on Jan. 25 in Portland

By Alexandra Jardine; Ann-Christine Diaz. Published on Jan 22, 2018

Editor's Pick

Exciting news for fans of Edel Rodriguez, the Cuban-American illustrator responsible for Donald Trump magazine covers for the likes of Time and Der Spiegel. "Agent Orange," a new exhibition showcasing his political works, opens this week, sponsored by Wieden & Kennedy Portland.

The show opens Thursday, Jan. 25 at the agency and will feature the debut of a new piece (a motion graphic of which is seen here), among other Trump-inspired works including "Meltdown," "Total Meltdown," and "America First," produced in large scale. A limited run of 100 signed fine-art prints will be sold at the gallery for $200 with net proceeds benefiting refugee rescue organization Proactiva Open Arms.

While Trump art serves as a centerpiece of show, in no way does Rodriguez see the POTUS as a muse, he says. "There is nothing inspirational or appealing out of this," he says. "These are images of anger and outrage about what has happened to this country."

And it seems many share that outrage and find catharsis in his images. Every time Rodriguez creates a new cover or image it quickly becomes a part of pop culture--appearing ubiquitously on social media feeds. "I have been surprised by the impact of this work," Rodriguez admits. "I feel that people have these pent-up feelings and when the images arrive in their lives there is a release, like finally someone sees what they see. What Trump does is abusive on a daily basis. He makes people wonder if they heard what he said correctly. I make these images to make people feel that no, they are not crazy, there are others that feel the same way as they do."

Even before Trump, Rodriguez' art appealed for justice. He sees the show as one of "ideas, a show about standingup for what is right," he says. "Trump just happens to be the current vessel for all this. I was doing similar commentary and exhibits about terrorism and extremists two years prior."

The show was born out Rodriguez' idea for a book to showcase his works around Trump. The exhibit goes by the title he imagined for the book, "Agent Orange," inspired by the idea of a toxic orange chemical in the body of a Russian agent.

"I was eager to produce this exhibition with Rodriguez from the moment we began working together," adds Andrea Bakacs, art producer at Wieden & Kennedy, who previously collaborated with Rodriguez on a campaign to raise awareness for blue-collar workers' rights. "The one-year anniversary of his inauguration seemed like the right moment to share these boldly iconic illustrations as a complete body of work."

"Seeing these pieces together in one room tells a narrative story of what will no doubt go down in history as one of the most controversial, scandalous, and outright terrifying political years many will see in their lifetime. Rodriguez has an incredible ability to summarize massively complex social and political issues into a few brushstrokes and a simplified color palette."

While the exhibit will be a formal showing of Rodriguez' work, many are already familiar with it through social media, where many of his images have gone viral. In the real world, his pictures were part of the Women's March--in the inaugural year and this weekend, as Rodriguez made his work free for download in time for the events. He even created a stencil design and provided instructions online for marchers to make their own.

"I thought it would give people that are not visually savvy something to work with," he says. "I thought I would give them these tools to fight with. Decades ago, in Communist countries, artists would send stencils in the mail so that others could make protest posters. The images have been distributed widely in social media, but there is something more powerful about seeing someone standing with that image. While someone could share the image online and remain somewhat anonymous, when you take a picture with a giant poster, you are taking a stand, you become the poster."

The show runs through Feb. 23 and will also feature a selection of pieces from Memphis-based American folk artist Edwin Jeffery Jr.

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