With Trump, are artists allowed to be patriotic again?

by Marisa Martin
(United States)

Patriotism has gotten a bad rap lately, and contemporary art clearly reflects this disdain. Most of our cultural leaders fiercely reject even a wisp of nationalism, loudly and not proudly – particularly in the United States. Still, love of country becomes hip for brief bursts of time, and we’ve just passed through one of those cycles.

Converging elections and Veteran’s Day events brought out all matter of star-spangled goods. Even on the left, we saw flag blankets, shirts, tattoos and bunting. (Well, maybe not so much on the left, but it was in evidence.) After voting and Veteran’s Day, evidence of patriotism will be stashed away, until love of country is obligatory again. This is even true for conservatives, except for front-porch flags and occasional poles. With neighborhood associations blocking even this gesture of public spirit, Americans may consider inviting the flag indoors, using art.

Since Jasper Johns first exhibited his American flag paintings in the 1950s, Old Glory has been a popular subject for artists of all political stripes. Some criticize the nation, which appealed to both right and left over recent years. Others are expressions of love and appreciation, or they reference our history. Many are severely neutral, as justice is presented, at its core.

In the same vein as John’s abstract expressionist work, Alvaro Alvillar has been producing his own series of patriotic pieces for several years. Some carry arcane, embedded messages and questions such as: “Is it okay for me to hate if I’ve been a victim?” His 7×14-foot screen print of American flags caused a furor, and was denounced by Atlanta police when he showed it in a municipal building.

Using flat, poster/pop color fields and simple icons, Alvillar creates works on his country, life, faith, love and death – as related to his childhood in Los Angeles. His 2014 “Crossover” features a spectrum of objects: a cross, flags, happy faces, Japanese woodcut wave and the message “Shut-up = OBEY.” – perhaps a reference to Shepard Fairey’s dictum to the masses in 2008. Some of his work is similar to Takashi Murakami, minus the macabre – but keeping the “kawaii” (cuteness factor).

Mike Slobot is an artist who stepped onto a shaky ledge to openly promote Trump during his candidacy. He not only created a rash of Trump-related pop art, but wrote articles raising awareness of his campaign. Slobot has affordable items available in poster form, printed with archival quality inks – mementos of our most bitterly fought election in 156 years – everything from an official-looking “Presidential Seal of Office” to a series on controversial subjects, such as gun control.

Slobot’s “2ATrump” is a lighthearted variation on Andy Warhol’s celebrity series. Inspired by screen prints of Elvis Presley as a gunslinger, this cowboy is Donald Trump. “2A Trump” pays homage to one of Mike’s favorite artists, while it celebrates Donald Trump’s promise to defend the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

Erni Vales is an established street artist, who made a name in many projects and mediums, from interior design to film art. His work was included in Art Basel Miami in 2012. Vales doesn’t describe himself as particularly conservative, but a few years back, he painted a series of beautiful and rare takes on the American flag.

Vales’ stars and stripes elegantly billow and twist, with great drapery techniques and in exaggerated depth (for which he is celebrated). Vales’ work can be interpreted in dozens of ways. The stripes are separated, possibly fragmented, torn, or under duress. At any rate, they remain together, and are visually stunning.

Tom duBois makes paintings and designs of Biblical and historic subjects, with some of his work featured on the Disney Discovery collection. “The American Spirit” of President Washington is heavy on symbolism and done in a heroic 18th-century style. DuBois’ artist’s statement claims his painting defines “… our founding principles of independence and freedom, courage to fight oppression, and the vigilance to remain patriots to defend our nation and its Constitution.”

Both Alvillar and Slobot intended to show at Lucien Wintrich’s “Art for Trump” exhibit last October. Neither could reach the Big Apple in time for the opening, thanks to the secrecy and subterfuge necessary to pull off their coup: a conservative art show in a Manhattan gallery. It may be easier to retake Mosul. As they were boycotted and blacklisted, the time and venue revolved. “Art for Trump” was literally put together in hours, leaving many artists unable to show.

In 2007, Alvillar was forcibly “outed” as a conservative – a fate worse death in the American art scene. Perhaps we should change that. There are good reasons to purchase and display what it tagged “patriotic art,” such as flag paintings. For years, flags, eagles, interest in the Constitution and American history have been a maligned sub-genre, imputed to right-wingers with a “my country, right or wrong” motto.

I am guessing few conservatives entirely feel that way any longer. Americans of all types desperately need to remember what first held us together, our original beliefs and hopes. What is our common ground? The American flag is a token of freedom, as well as the war to keep it. Art is the perfect way to easily introduce these symbols into our home and business, and to keep them in mind.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/11/with-trump-are-artists-allowed-to-be-patriotic-again/#4TY9Ct3JW90Btf7v.99

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