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LOS ANGELES — If Donald Trump’s presidency has done anything at all for the arts, it has inspired a whole new genre of work specifically opposed to him and everything for which his administration stands. Los Angeles’s most recent installation of anti-Trump (and thus anti-patriarchal) art made its debut in Night Gallery’s parking lot.
Gas, a traveling gallery inside of a step truck, stopped at Night Gallery in September to show off its inaugural exhibition, Fuck the Patriarchy . The temporally and spatially challenging group show simultaneously rejects the confines of a conventional gallery space and the United States’ current entanglement with fascism.
Inspired by the work of Theodor Adorno, the show features the work of 10 artists and collectives all striving to answer one central question: What does refusal — of the Trump administration, patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, fascism, social convention, or just complacency — look like?
The exhibition’s title, appropriately, inspired participating artist Roy Martinez to create a bumper sticker featuring the same activist phrase, slightly tweaked: “Fuck tha Patriarchy.” It includes a range of specifically anti-fascist works, from the writings of feminist witch group the YERBAMALA COLLECTIVE, to Angélica Maria Millán Lozano’s floral fabrics adorned with rose thorns and Ana Roldán’s snake-like light sculptures. It even continues online in the form of anti-fascist video makeup tutorials by Dynasty Handbag. Each piece plays with, embodies, and refutes the articulations of a fascist United States.
From the outside, the small black truck decked out in protest signage looks like it could blend inconspicuously into the traffic of any left-leaning metropolis. The front windows are covered by Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited’s “New Proverbs,” appropriated Westboro Baptist church posters that are staunchly, comically anti-Trump. On the back door and windows hang excerpts from YERBAMALA COLLECTIVE’s anonymous, author-less zine, Our Vendetta: Witches vs Fascists. One sign bluntly reads, “FASCISM IS HATE FEAR FUCKERY / WE REFUSE THIS WEAK ASS SHIT,” rendered in the collective’s signature large, all-caps, black Arial typeface.
There is only room enough for two or three people to peruse Gas’s interior at any one time, but this rather intimate experience creates space for private reflection. On one wall sits Lauren Satlowski’s “For Protection,” a sculpted dagger, marked by the impressions of a hand’s strong grip, with a golden cherubic figure dancing just above the handle, and white painted flowers scattered about its surface of gold and pink marbled paint. Satlowski’s dagger is decidedly a feminine object, a weapon, and a symbol of women’s defense against masculine aggression.
Further in are Angélica Maria Millán Lozano’s Espinas, distressed fabrics reinforced with rose thorns that represent a similar sentiment of defiance by Latina women. The thorns, unlike the roses from which they came, remain taut, prickly, ready to nip at your skin. Both Satlowski’s and Lozano’s works serve as a reminder of the ever-present threat of patriarchal aggression and, moreover, as a warning to those who may try to hurt us. We artist and activists, the sculptures seem to say, will fight back.
Almost all of the works in Fuck the Patriarchy — from stockings by Hanan Sharifa that read “Trust No Man” and hang from the truck’s door and the colorful, interlocking circles on Cristina Victor’s “100 Days of Action Resistance Flag,” to the fabrics, lights, zine, dagger, and clownish antifa makeup tutorials — are objects that, in some sense, amount to a political life and body. Together, these works have the capacity to nourish and arm us against the current political regime.
In Adorno’s Authoritarian Personalities, which examines the characteristics of the “potential fascist,” he finds that the “potential antifascist” — who emerges only in response to the fascist’s presence — does not “constitute any single pattern.” That is, in the current face of neo-Nazi activity, anti-fascist work can manifest in any number of forms, whether it be punching Richard Spencer in the face, tearing down Confederate statues, protesting in the streets, or — in the case of this exhibition — casting spells and breaking down all convention. However, one quality seems to unite all “antifa art”: it can serve a utilitarian purpose through acts of artful resistance.
Despite its overarching motifs of functionality and political resistance, Fuck the Patriarchy is a disjointed exhibition. The scope of many of the works spans far beyond the tiny truck moving through Los Angeles, whether via YERBAMALA COLLECTIVE’s zines — which traverse the internet, subway cars, and appear on protest placards — or Dynasty Handbag’s tutorial, filmed days after the 2016 election, which has a life of its own online. In many ways, the show crystallizes the terms of a specific genre — antifa art — that uses the language of dissent as its medium and resistance as its raison d’être. This approach to art is perhaps best incapsulated by a citation-less quote featured on one of the YERBAMALA COLLECTIVE signs: “THIS IS NOT A TIME FOR DISBELIEF / A TIME TO REMAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE.”