Inspired by the current election cycle, art gallery #makeamericagreatagain made its debut at White Box Gallery on the Lower East Side on Tuesday, Feb. 2, coinciding with the Iowa Caucuses. What started out as a critique of Donald Trump’s candidacy grew into a multi-artist exhibition that draws inspiration from both sides of the aisle and the narrative of fear that has come to define political media in the digital age.
Upon walking in, visitors are greeted by a multi-media sculpture depicting a pair of legs peeking out from under rubble. Behind the rubble is an eerie, large-scale mural of current presidential candidates, all distorted to look like vultures circling the crushed figure. This piece seems to accuse politicians from both major parties of thriving in the distress of their constituents in order to gain political power.
Though the gallery is not entirely directed at Donald Trump, the fact that he was the inspiration for the exhibition is no secret, as he appears in more pieces of artwork than any other candidate. Most notably, a destroyed piñata depicting Trump and his signature combover hangs from the ceiling, perhaps representing a retaliation against Trump’s attacks on Mexican-Americans. In the line of sight behind the piñata is a painting of Trump with the phrase “There’s never a lone gunman when you need one…” written underneath his head. Clearly, this is not a pro-Trump space.
Digital art is featured in a piece that mocks the structure of the televised debates. Three digitized panels hang on the wall, with a moving and speaking candidate in each frame. The candidates are scribbly drawings in a red, white and blue color scheme and their vocalizations are marked by heavy static. All three panels play off of one another to give the appearance of an ongoing argument between the candidates.
A motif throughout the exhibit is political paraphernalia promoting pro-revolutionary, 18th century writer Thomas Paine as a candidate for the presidency. Bumper stickers bearing a close resemblance to the Bush-Cheney bumper stickers of yore that read “VOTE PAINE” or “76 – THE TIME IS THEN, VOTE PAINE” can be found on walls, doors and even on the bright red Nissan pickup truck sitting in the middle of the gallery.
This pickup truck perhaps best captured the essence of the collection by parodying the militant American nationalism exemplified by the right wing. Complete with a Texas license plate and a truck bed full of loudspeakers playing audio for a recording of Hitler projected on a nearby screen, this unique piece feels both familiar and dystopian.
#makeamericagreatagain is on display through Feb. 21 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 329 Broome Street between Bowery and Chrystie Street.
Email Hannah Starke at [email protected]