Wednesday February 21, 2018

Edel Rodríguez, “The Preeminent Illustrator of the Trump Era”

A new exhibition surveys the Cuban-born artist’s high-impact graphics

“it’s not a party without a piñata and a baseball bat,” Rodríguez wrote on his Facebook page before the opening in Portland.

Courtesy Edel Rodriguez

In February 2017, the Hollywood Reporter asked: “Is This Donald Trump’s Most Hated Artist?”

If the answer wasn’t already “Yes,” it probably is by now. Over the past year, Cuban-born artist Edel Rodríguez has continued to portray the president of the United States in calamitous terms—most recently as a human matchstick, his hair ablaze, for the cover of Time magazine. The caption: “Year One.”

“It almost feels like a wildfire,” Rodríguez said in an interview on CNN. “Trying to tamp down these flames, tamp down these fires. . . . everyone’s trying to control it.”

The "Year One" cover for Time magazine by Edel Rodríguez.

Courtesy Adweek

“The metaphor for a presidency in crisis couldn’t be more blunt, or visually striking,” wrote Adweek.

Hailed as “the preeminent illustrator of the Trump era” by the magazine Fast Company, Rodríguez has also been called “la piedra en el zapato del primer año de Trump”—the stone in the shoe of Trump’s first year—by the Colombian magazine Semana.  

Last week, Rodríguez opened Agent Orange, a show of his work chronicling Trump’s presidential campaign and first year in office. The show is being presented at the Portland, Oregon, offices of the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy.

“This is the first exhibit that will be showing all of my artwork and magazine covers about the 45th president of The United States,” Rodríguez wrote on his Facebook page.

Rodríguez at his exhibition at Wieden + Kennedy, Portland

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez

The works on view include images that he posted on his Facebook page for use by participants in the marches that took place around the world on January 20, 2018.

At the opening in Portland

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez

With the album on Facebook, Rodríguez wrote: “I've been asked for permission to use my images at marches this weekend. Yes, please do so, or paint your own versions of my images.

One of the works by Edel Rodríguez offered for use in this month's protest marches.

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez

Here is an album of many of my images from the past year. I share them on a Creative Commons license. Personal use for protest, only non-commercial use. Please send me photos of your signs and I will share them along.”

One of the works by Edel Rodríguez offered for use in this month's protest marches.

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez

Rodríguez came to the United States with his family in 1980, in what is known in the US as the Mariel Boatlift. As a newcomer, art was a lifeline. “I didn’t speak English,” he told writer Priscilla Frank in an interview on Huffington Post, “so it was a way of communicating. I was the art kid.”

One of the works by Edel Rodríguez offered for use in this month's protest marches.

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez

In the interview, Rodríguez credited elements of his childhood in Cuba—particularly the posters and other graphics he grew up with—as influences on his artistic style.

Edel Rodríguez with a work from his 2015 exhibition in Havana. "Nature Boy" is the name of the boat that took him and his family to the US in 1980.

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez

In 2015, Rodríguez held his first solo exhibition on the island, Nature Boy: Edel Rodríguez en La Habana, curated by Cristina Vives and presented at the Casa de las Américas. (For Vives's Cuban Art News interview with Rodríguez by, click here.)

For now, though, the idea is to bring Edel Rodríguez: Agent Orange to other venues around the US.

An Edel Rodríguez cover for the German magazine Der Spiegel, done in late 2016

Courtesy Artsy

Edel Rodríguez: Agent Orange runs through February 23 at Wieden + Kennedy, Portland.

“The Piñata Aftermath: Cheese Puffs everywhere,” Rodríguez wrote on his Facebook page. 

Courtesy Edel Rodríguez