‘Never Again (Again)’ satirizes Trump’s first 100 days

15 percent of art sales from the show, at Highland Park’s Annex Gallery at The Factory, will go to the ACLU

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Ain’t democracy grand?

“Piss On Me,” by Brenda Oelbaum, is in the “Never Again (Again)” exhibit at the Annex Gallery at The Factory.

It’s a fair bet there aren’t many Russian art exhibitions making fun of Vladimir Putin.

But here in the USA, any president is fair game — and Donald J. Trump gets his share starting Saturday at the Highland Park’s Annex Gallery at The Factory in “Never Again (Again).”

The show, which will donate 15 percent of all art sales to the American Civil Liberties Union, runs through May 13.

The work, curated by Nancy J. Rodwan, ranges from sober to gleefully savage, like the toilet Ann Arbor artist Brenda Oelbaum’s gussied up with a yellow-yarn wig on top of the tank, and the president’s face stitched onto the seat cover.

The show’s aim was in part, said Rodwan, creative catharsis. She curated an exhibition at Detroit’s Tangent Gallery in January, “The Uninvited” — a reference to those unlikely to dine with the president — and found the response unexpectedly enthusiastic.

Detail of “A Living Nightmare X 8” by Jack Summers.

“All the participants thanked me, saying they needed this,” Rodwan said. “Then they asked what I was going to do next. So I said I was going to do a show on the Trump Administration’s 100th day.

Rochester Hills artist Oscar López has three canvases in “Never Again (Again),” the most compelling of which is “Not Without My Family.”

This composition in five parts features a mother and child, a lone man trying to cross the border, two hands straining to reach one another, and an older woman’s anguish overseeing the whole piece.

López is a Mexican citizen who moved to Michigan last year when his wife scored a great job in the auto industry.

They’ve got all the requisite visas and paperwork, but López, who’s an architect, still can’t shake his sympathy for his less-fortunate countrymen.

“I read about a family whose kids were born here and were citizens, but their father got a traffic ticket and was deported,” he said. “That struck me as so sad, so I did this picture, which speaks to the whole issue of family separation.”

Nearby are two narrow, corten-steel structures that feel as architectural as sculptural.

Robert Onnes, one of the co-owners of The Factory, said “Doubt & Dogma” was a concept he’s been kicking around for a few years, but which seemed fittingly political for the current show.

One silver tower is topped by an angry profile, while the other is “a smooth-flowing, flexible sort of character.” The two face away from one another, as if in mutual incomprehension.

“Donald J. Trump, Signature” by John Watson.

“We’re seeing more ideology driving politics,” said Onnes, a New Zealander who moved to Detroit four years ago, “and I see that as a really detrimental thing, with all these people living in their own little echo chambers.”

Trying to break out of that echo chamber, perhaps, is a piece of industrial scrap with “Share Your Candy” painted in bold white letters in Detroit’s Lincoln Street Art Park, that photographer J. Gordon Rodwan shot.

“I thought it was appropriate to this show,” said the Sherwood Forest resident, whose photo book “Detroit Is” was published last year. “It’s not just the top one percent who should be getting all the candy.”

As for his view of the president’s first 100 days, Rodwan said, “I haven’t agreed with a thing he’s done yet.”

Detroit artist Lindsay McCosh, who moved back from New York City several years ago, submitted her maquette for an allegorical sculpture of “Not-So-Blind Justice” — although in this case the traditional Greek goddess is played by a young black woman with dreadlocks.

“She’s supposed to represent the discrepancy between race and money in our judicial system,” McCosh said.

Her art, she adds, has generally been figurative, like “Justice.” But given the current administration, she thinks it’s going to get more political in the near term.

“What’s going on now is reprehensible,” McCosh said, “and changing our country forever. I hope we survive it.”


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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

‘Never Again (Again)’

2-6 p.m. Saturday

Through May 13

Annex Gallery at The Factory

333 Midland, Highland Park

facebook.com (search for “Never Again (Again)”