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Visual arts > Hot And Bothered

Moral minority on the road

Poster / Robbie Conal
"The Second Scumming"
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Published 11/28/2001

“I’m an anarchist. It took me 30 years to figure that out, but I feel strongly about it.”

John Clark belongs to the tucked-away collective community Trumbullplex in Detroit, a home to anarchy and activism, as well as the current host to the traveling political art show “Drawing Resistance.” The show began last September in Milwaukee, and will visit cities in this country, Canada and Mexico for the next five years without any funding, depending upon the host communities themselves to transport and hang the art. Clark was approached by show organizers-artists Sue Simensky Bietila and Nicolas Lampert with the prospect of exhibiting this content-fueled two-dimensional show, born of the gap between art and politics in U.S. culture.

“I was really happy to help host this. It’s a really incredible event, and I think it’s actually long overdue,” Clark says.

Gracing Trumbullplex’s art space are infamous names and intense imagery, such as montage artist Winston Smith, whose work has enraged the status quo for years in magazines, art galleries and most notably on album covers. Smith is responsible for the radical cover for In God We Trust. Inc. by the politically aware punk band the Dead Kennedys. In tune with the band’s disruptive objectives, Smith depicted a bowling-trophy Jesus crucified on a cross of U.S. currency; a shocker in 1978, the album was banned in England and outraged the religious right. Smith’s contribution to “Drawing Resistance” is titled Tijuana No, a print of an original collage commissioned by the politically in-your-face band of the same name. It’s a colorful cacophony of confusing and glamorized identities with spaceships, planes, Uncle Sam over a curled snake, Mexican zombie gunmen, a film noir car chase, Jesus in a sombrero, beautiful bombshells amid explosions with a zipper to reality (?).

Some pieces are simple and straightforward graphic messages created in the same style of the propaganda they target, such as artist John Yates’ photo collage. With bold letters on top communicating “Democracy, We Deliver,” a plane drops bombs, and underneath is the added message, “Anytime. Anyplace. Anywhere.” Others utilize a more comic approach, such as Andy Singer’s pen-and-ink work, Invading New Markets, in which black-and-white Goofys and Mickey Mouses take over tropical lands by shooting cans of Coke and dropping television sets onto the hapless occupants. The initial impact may cause a smile, but the message means business.

Also represented is well-known feather-ruffler Robbie Conal, still instigating political thought with his high-contrast, hit-you-over-the-head commentaries. Based in Los Angeles, Conal mass-produces his posters and pastes them up in major cities across the country to increase mainstream awareness of the misuse and abuse of politics and power. The Second Scumming (pictured) reflects Conal’s signature wrinkled, intense and horrific public-figure portraiture, influenced by political artist Leon Golub, visually manifesting the grotesque and offensive political views of his subjects within the very folds of their faces.

Trumbullplex’s cozy community art space — furnished with an array of socially conscious pamphlets, literature and a stage to perform and proclaim views — seems to be a perfect venue. According to Clark, it’s a low-income housing collective dedicated to, although not exclusively for, anarchists, “based on the process of consensus and anarchist principles, such as mutual aid cooperation, anti-authoritarianism and activism within our everyday lives ... So if we’re gonna be allies to each other and work on these issues that we’re concerned about, it’s gonna start at home, with us, every day.”

Activities in conjunction with “Drawing Resistance” include slide presentation-discussions by both coordinators at Trumbullplex: Sue Simensky Bietila was scheduled Nov. 27 and Nicolas Lampert Dec. 26, at the end of the show’s run.

“Drawing Resistance” at Trumbullplex (4208 Trumbull, just north of West Willis, Detroit) is open Mondays 8-11 p.m., during open mic night, and Wednesdays 6-8:30 p.m., before the free video screening. In December, it’ll be open Saturdays 3-6 p.m. For more information, call 313-832-7952 or visit www.drawingresistance.org.

Hot & Bothered was written this week by Anita Schmaltz, and edited by George Tysh. E-mail them at gtysh@metrotimes.com.

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