Art Strategies / Week 4 / Systems, Ethnographic and Infrastructural
For a long time, my interests have lied in caricatural illustrations, and black and white. Which is why, from a visual perspective, William Powhida’s work appealed to me. Most of Powhida’s work is a critique of the society, the art culture specifically. Many of his diagrams and illustrations offer direct statements on art collectors, critiques, galleries and the art-making process. Pieces such as The Critique and Artist’s Statement are relevant examples.
His words are simple, his presentation cluttered and convoluted. But everything is on the surface. His work, instead of being allegorical, is very apparent in understanding. This is another aspect which I appreciate. Simplicity has a certain allure for me. But in this blogpost, rather than talking about his earlier work, I’ll be reflecting on something that is culturally relevant at this point of time, as the 2016 election draws closer. His series of drawings on the Trump vs Clinton presidential bout (collectively presented as Grayscale at Postmasters Gallery) present a clear statement on what his political inclinations are ( after all, one of the titles says “The Republicans are not people. Fuck them All!” ). So, it’s quite clear what the artist is trying to achieve here.
However, what’s interesting is the strategy being employed to present the message. Powhida makes use of systems thinking when implementing his ideas. His sketches are not only a commentary on what the candidates stand for, or what their policies are, or how diabolic they are. His work also interrelates biological stereotypes, political ideologies, social structures, and psychological constructs with the presidential candidates. As can be seen from the Clinton vs Trump and Bernie vs Clinton comparisons, terms such as liberal idealism, progressive revolution, moderate pragmatism, scopophilia, traditional masculinity/femininity, machismo, suburbia, identity chaos are thrown in the mix.
The campaign is exhibited as a system, consisting of parts – biological, psychological, cultural and personal, all of them used in a political context. Although each sub-system isn’t elaborately presented, the idea is right there, easy to interpret. The entire collection of drawings is certainly meaningful and effective. The message couldn’t be more blatant than the rendition of Donald Trump as a monster ( as seen above ), or perhaps the lewd piece humbly called Some Names for Drumpf.
His earlier was generally about the art culture and consumerism ( The LA Makeover Chart, for instance ). This time round, he is exploring political territories, not his first political venture though ( Griftopia, 2011 ). But no matter which system his work explores, the common theme is relevance with the time. His work is a commentary on the present, be it in a political, artistic or capitalist context.