The political atmosphere in the US is suffocating.
But the Unseen Eye is pleased to report that there is more than just a cool breeze coming in at OSMOS Address in the east village. Their Duane Michals’ Anti-Trump, Agitprop exhibition is a tsunami of relief that is both silly and not.
The show is full of delights, although like all great clowns or tricksters, Michals is deadly serious here. As the press release indicates it is the artist’s role to speak truth to power which is done here by using the American president’s own words against himself.
Michals’ rage and outrage with The Donald (Trump) are tempered by the quick fun to be had. Working in sculpture and video for the first time, The Duane brings to it his zest, and irascibility and wackiness with the insanity and gravity of our times as his target.
The humorous titles are just right: Handjob, The Bully’s Bullshit, The President Pinocchio Tree, Mar-A-Lago Pravda, and Miss Slovenia. These works are simple painted wooden cutouts or signs. Executive Odors appears to be a plate of desiccated poop.
Yet for The Eye, the most successful work is photographic.
At the Barricades (with Tim Soter) is a good-looking print of The Duane in a top hat wearing a sandwich board. Mr. Soter would appear to be the actual photographer of record.
Rusky Business is a sequence of six color prints. The Eye is certain that The Duane would want to think of this a sex-tych. It depicts a series of fictional face-offs between The Donald and Vladimir Putin. The Duane channels The Donald in what looks to be his Sydney Sherman wig in action with a not very convincing but nonetheless shirtless stand-in for the Russian president.
Duane Michals has been an inspiration and hero to a couple of generations of photographers and followers. He is the master story teller with a fantasist’s sense of wonder and a truth teller’s exasperation.
Long ago he offered classic advice in his guise of ”Dr. Duanus”. ”Don’t try to be an artist: try to be true. If your vision is honest, art will find you.’’
The OSMOS storefront was once a notorious saloon, and it may be haunted by the spirit of anarchist and activist Emma Goldman. Appropriately she left the door open for The Duane.
W.M. Hunt is an American photography collector and writes as The Unseen Eye. He is an occasional contributor and an original supporter of L’Œil de la Photographie.
Duane Michals, Anti-Trump Agitprop
Curated by Cay Sophie Rabinowitz
June 6 to August 1st, 2017
50 East First Street
New York, NY 10003