Review: Dazed or just plain mad, artists react to President Trump in Bonfire Gallery show

“ARTRUMPS” at Seattle’s Bonfire Gallery is an angry, messy jumble and a fascinating case study for how art can fuel varied expressions of shared political sentiments, writes critic Gayle Clemans. It has works by 34 artists, poets and art collectives.

This art exhibition is not for Trump supporters. The 34 artists, poets and artist collectives in “ARTRUMPS: RESISTANCE AND ACTION” at Bonfire Gallery are pretty clearly flabbergasted, despondent or mad as hell about the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. It’s an angry, messy jumble and a fascinating case study for how art can fuel varied expressions of shared political sentiments.

There’s a lot packed into a fairly small space and the immediate impact is from knee-jerk, punched-in-the-gut reactions. Like the countless memes zipping around social media, there are quick punches of biting, often juvenile, easily digestible humor: Trump as the emperor with no clothes, Trump as a “well-oiled lying machine,” Trump as less evolved than a Neanderthal.

In that regard, I take slight issue with the subtitle of the show: “resistance and action.” A caricature of Donald Trump or a jokey reference to the size of his hands does not necessarily equate to political resistance. But they are actions. Or, at the very least, heartfelt reactions. And so, it is hard to argue that this art should be something other than it is.

EXHIBITION REVIEW

‘ARTRUMPS: RESISTANCE AND ACTION’

Noon-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through June 3, Bonfire Gallery, 603 S. Main St., Seattle; (206-790-1073 or thisisbonfire.com/gallery).

A few artists extend their work beyond the immediate, visceral “aaarrgh” into broader, sustained actions. Ellen Sollod distributes ribbons signifying resistance and takes photographs of people with signs stating what they resist and embrace (my favorite: “I embrace radical hospitality”). Both projects are ongoing and expansive, spreading across the platforms of Tumblr and Instagram.

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A modest postcard rack makes an effective point about individual involvement with the system. Part art installation (with cards by Barbara Van Wollner and Liza vonRosenstiel), part sales vehicle, the rack connects the browsing impulse with current cries to make our voices heard by writing to political representatives. (Note to organizers: Maybe offer a place to sit, write and mail?)

In a generous collective action, half of the sale proceeds (of everything in the show — postcards, prints, hats, buttons, the art itself) goes to nonprofits of the artists’ choice, organizations working for justice, resistance or social change.

Interestingly, the show’s text-based pieces are noteworthy for their more nuanced explorations of how Trump operates or what the election says about us, the electorate. In one of his starkly printed poems on view, artist and writer Yonnas Getahun…

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