As we move on from one presidency to another, we are reminded of what the last four years have looked like for America.From a president inserting most of his family members into political positions, going through impeachment proceedings… twice, banning transgender people from serving in the military via a tweet, threatening to veto coronavirus relief and failing to distribute more than half of the available doses of the corona virus vaccine, claiming the virus itself to be a hoax. Failing to condemn police brutality and racism within the police force, creating the biggest civil rights movement in US history. The final push of this President was inciting an insurrection of the Capitol building a mere 2 weeks before having to transfer power.
"Artists are reporters of the time that we live in" - Robert Longo
These events saw politically charged art brought right to the forefront as artists respond to what the world has seen throughout the Trump presidency. From Jenny Holzer’s impeachment vans and skateboards to the Trump baby Balloon created by Matt Bonner. Re-affirming the importance of the artists that have consistently created works with a political edge; documenting the world's events as a means to create. An artist who has done this throughout his career is Robert Longo.
The American artist Robert Longo is known for his large-scale photorealistic charcoal drawings, depicting the fine balance of both the beauty and horror of the present day. Before Longo found art as his subject he was already strongly affected by the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam war and the subsequent shootings at Kent State University. When he became an artist, it was within the Regan presidency. The first president who coined, “Make America Great Again'' and claimed to stand for the traditional values of the people. Longo has, and continues to tap into the history that he has had experience living through as a promise to always know what is going on in the world. Longo strongly believes that artists are the reporters of the time that we live in.
The process adopted by Longo in his focus on reporting current events is one of transformation. He purchases images from reporters and then uses charcoal to re- create the image. Longo’s choice of the archaic medium of charcoal enables him to slow images down and add his signature touch. Longo released a book in 2012 entitled Charcoal. Filled with his works from the last decade as well as four prints on the 2017 re-release of current motifs: The Capitol, Policemen with riot shields, the ocean under a swinging chandelier and a portrait of a riderless horse - that was in the funeral procession of John F. Kennedy. Longo’s Depictions of political imagery are transformed through the attention to detail whether that is the ability to see within the Capitol buildings with the attention to detail or the intricate pattern of wrinkles on the horse’s neck as he bows.
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