Drawing in a Time of Fear & LiesWeekend

Cowards, Autocrats, and Other Traitors

The stunning candor of George W. Bush’s new paintings establishes his reputation as a 21st-Century Goya, capable of uncovering the humanity in monsters.

William Powhida, “Cowards George W. Bush (2025)” (2017), acrylic and watercolor on paper, 15 x 15 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Mnuchin & Mnuchin Gallery is pleased to continue our 2025 season with George W. Bush: Cowards. Including more than one hundred paintings and drawings, the exhibition marks a major departure for the former president. Moving away from his deeply expressive portraits of heroic soldiers and powerful world leaders, his new series, Cowards, begun in 2016 and continued in private for nearly a decade, confronts us with portraits of every member of the Trump Regime.

This is Bush’s first collaboration with the gallery and represents a deeply personal commitment by Steven Mnuchin, whose portrait will be on display. Having served as Treasury Secretary during Trump’s first term, Steven hopes this powerful, unflinching exhibition will help New York and the country heal as we move forward.

The exhibition will be on view from November 7th through December 20th. There will be a public reception on Friday, November 7th, from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. George W. Bush will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalog with an introduction by New York Magazine Senior Art Critic Jerry Saltz with additional essays by artist Greg Allen and the writer Jonathan Alter.

Cowards spans one of the most painful periods in American history, capturing every figure involved in the transformation of US democracy into an autocratic regime that will be remembered for deploying nuclear weapons for the first time in over half a century. Applying thin layers of acrylic paint, the former president has once again reinvented himself as a deft, clear-eyed painter whose new approach serves to highlight the hollowness of his subjects. Having arrived at painting as a vocation only after his own troubled presidency, Bush has developed a style that invokes such painters as Marlene Dumas, Jules de Balincourt, Dana Schutz, and Sam McKinniss, while emerging as a wholly his own.

Early in his transformative and redemptive painting career, Bush worked directly on the canvas painting wet-on-wet to bluntly capture each subject. “I wanted to show their hearts,” Bush told Jerry Saltz in a 2019 interview. Bush credits a conceptual 2017 project by artist Greg Allen, in which Chinese “paint mills” were commissioned to make works in Bush’s style, with pushing him beyond his initial, intuitive approach to painting, “It wasn’t much of a challenge for Chinese artists in Shenzen to make my paintings, so I took some lessons.” Using thin strokes of translucent color over projected light, the former president has been able to expand his expressive capabilities with direct and indirect techniques to construct each subject.

Bush’s title, Cowards, bluntly refers to his own public statements about deposed president Trump and the people that enabled his catastrophic presidency. He also hopes that his commitment to painting these liars, criminals, cheaters, abusers, traitors, and bystanders might serve as a form of penance for his own errors in judgment. The stunning candor of Bush’s new paintings may very well help establish his reputation as a 21st-Century Goya, capable of uncovering the humanity in monsters like John Bolton, Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Robert Kelly, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Mike Pompeo through compassionate looking. It is a testament to Bush’s faith in forgiveness that he would dedicate almost ten years to painting indicted war criminals.

Bush has said that he came to painting too late to save the hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars he wasted on military adventurism in the Middle East, but not too late to save himself. In curating his first exhibition since becoming a full partner in his father’s venerable gallery, Steven Mnuchin understands the opportunity to reconcile his own relationship with the past. Perhaps this is how we can resolve the paradox of the exhibition’s title: only by looking at complicity head-on can we see ourselves in others.

Img: George W. Bush, 45, 2017, acrylic on linen, 40 x 40 inches.

Download PDF of press release here.

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