Drawing in a Time of Fear & LiesWeekend

All Ideas Are Not Equal

What does it mean to depict anything? Is a point of view implied by straightforward depiction? Does it amount to (oh, shit) an endorsement?

Adam Simon, “Untitled” (2017), ink and acrylic on lined paper, 8 x 7.5 inches

When the Trump/Pence campaign logo was released back in July of 2016, it was a source of hilarity among liberals on social media. The fun was all about how the Trump ‘T’ looked like it was fucking the Pence ‘P’. My own interest has nothing to do with that. I’ve been making work focused on corporate logos since 2014. There are things that fascinate me about the images themselves, but I also see this series as an investigation of images that have a lot of associations for a lot of people, including associations with money and power. So, I was researching the Trump brand logo and instead found the Trump/Pence campaign logo. What my drawing depicts is only a section of the full logo. The remainder of the original consists of four red bars against a white ground, representing the American flag.

DeKooning once said, “In art, one idea is as good as another.” This is an interestingly ambiguous statement. I understand it to mean that the real content is in the artist’s approach, the way of working with material, the formal decisions that push the subject one way or another. But all ideas are not equal and different subject matter brings different issues to bear.

I recently met a musician who told me that Donald Trump was the best thing that ever happened to this country. I don’t remember his exact words, but the gist of it was that we live in a deeply racist society and the Obama presidency had lulled us into forgetting or ignoring that fact. With Trump we would be forced to confront the reality that has always been there.

I really don’t know what it means for me to depict the Trump/Pence logo. It seems to come with certain questions attached. What does it mean to depict anything? Is a point of view implied by straightforward depiction? Does it amount to (oh, shit) an endorsement? And after all, what is straightforward about my depiction? It plays havoc with certain aspects of the original, like clean lines and solid colors. It also shows a lot of re-drawn areas only partly obscured by white paint. Does a kind of roughness suggest a point of view? The drawing is a study for a medium-sized painting. The painting is one of only a few where I allowed the paint to drip over the sides of the canvas. Usually I tape them so that they remain clean. Does that change imply a position on the subject? When I look at the drawing I see malevolence in these forms. Would a Trump supporter see instead a kind of pioneer earthiness?

On a personal level, the decision to work with this image was like a layperson with no religious background performing an exorcism. I like to think of my work based on corporate logos as liberating the image from the logo. Spending the time on this drawing, and the subsequent painting, was an attempt to perform a kind of agency by proxy over the election, an election that has shaken my world and filled me with dread.

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