Edel Rodríguez, possibly Trump’s most hated illustrator: “Part of the artist’s job is to offend those who should be offended”

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A Edel Rodriguez (Havana, 1971) no one can take away the merit of being among the graphic artists most notable and also most controversial of these first decades of the XXI century. In your business card the artist degrees are usually added, illustrator professional and political activist without the sum of the factors altering the product, in this case, some graphic creations that can leave KO. For more than 20 years his illustrations have become a shock to American society. The graphic consciousness of an agitated country with the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House.

On January 20, 2017, Trump proclaimed himself the 45th president of the United States. A few weeks later, the German magazine The mirror published a cover that will make history: the drawing of Donald Trump with a bloody knife in one hand and in the other hand, the severed head of the Statue of Liberty. It was the beginning of a new stage in the United States whose preamble was collected by the magazine Time in another mythical cover of Rodríguez, –from August 2016, during the electoral campaign–, in which you can see the face of Donald Trump melting.

He magazine recovered the illustration in October of that same year as a result of hollywood tapes, in which Trump is heard bragging about the sexual abuse he allegedly committed. The image, as explained by the director of Time, Nancy Gibb, when she collected the award for best cover of the year from the American Publishers Association, wanted to represent a candidate at war against everyone from wealthy families to the leaders of her own party; and in both cases it was a simile with Meltdown, a problem of protection of computer systems, whose logo is a security shield also melting.

They are two of the examples that make the magazine The Hollywood Reporter can’t help but wonder: “Is Edel Rodríguez the artist most hated by Donald Trump?” “I have received hundreds of messages with insults, very extreme,” answers the illustrator in ICON DESIGN. “It’s part of the job and I understand that some things offend some people. Part of the responsibility of an artist who works with political issues is to offend those who should be offended ”. Or as Gibb sums up: “What we do is useful, has value, and is sometimes dangerous.”

With the horizon of the next presidential election in the United States looming, predictions are on the front page and, again, Trump is the target of his brush. What do you think is going to happen? “A lot of people disgust Trump, he’s a visceral thing. But it is difficult to predict what will happen in the elections. The issue of early voting is a factor new [la participación en esta modalidad de voto está logrando récords históricos, con más de 30 millones de votantes], and for now, it seems that it favors Biden. Apart from the Democrats, Biden has the support of many independents and even among the Republicans themselves ”, he analyzes. “What will happen after the results are known will be interesting. If Trump loses, it seems to me that he will not leave very easily … The thing is to keep working and creating, for me that is the only commitment that an artist has to be able to call himself an artist ”.

For Rodríguez it is a commitment to sincerity and coherence: “An artist must express what he feels or thinks at a certain moment,” he affirms. As a result of the massacre in a Colorado cinema in 2012, where The dark knight from the Batman saga, the magazine The Hollywood Reporter published the face of the superhero masked with a red tear. “I think the most important thing is communication. If the poster does not communicate the idea, then it is a failure. The rest, the colors or the quality of the drawing, is secondary. The image can be anything from a small photograph, a child’s drawing, or even a blank poster. If it manages to communicate, with emotion and clearly, then it is a success ”.

At the age of eight, Edel Rodríguez came to the United States from Cuba, settling in Miami with her family. “I have had a life with many experiences. First, childhood in Cuba, where I grew up with the design and illustration of revolutionary posters and propaganda; then with the North American design. When I arrived in the United States, I was fascinated with the iconography of rock and roll, of music groups, all the imagery of popular culture, pop-art … I think that Cuban and American mixture has ended up being reflected in my works ” . Curiously, the two countries, the two cultures, have things in common for him. “One tries to sell you the revolution and the other, products; both directly ”. And when it comes to pointing out artistic heritages: “The artists who have influenced me the most have been people like Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Van Gogh, Klee, Hockney, artists who work with form, color, and design in their works. ”.

Edel Rodríguez’s graphic creations have had other media speakers beyond the publishing world, such as the U2 group, which projected their posters on giant screens during the Tour Experience+Innocence. Nor have they lacked problems, starting with censorship: “Sometimes, in places where I did not expect it. A university did not want to exhibit some of my works because, they said, they did not want to offend the public. In another exhibition, one of my drawings representing the Ku Klux Klan was arranged almost hidden in the room so that it would not disturb people of color ”.

Where is the border between the political and the artistically correct? “When I draw magazine covers there is always a conversation about the limit of what can be published. And I always try to fight against those limitations. On more than one occasion, I have managed to publish a drawing that has caused controversy, but, on the other hand, that has also brought the magazine attention. There are certain things that magazines will never publish but for that type of topic I use my social networks, and then, curiously, as a result of the success of these drawings on the networks, some ask to publish them ”.

Everything except preaching in the desert. “The art of protest or political art should be seen by many people, that there are recipients that make them think, reflect on what happens.” In that sense, social networks have been an indispensable speaker: “I dedicate myself to editorial art , in a certain way I am like a journalist documenting or commenting on political news. I think that all journalists want their articles to be read by the maximum number of people. Social networks have become our own printing press “.

Some of his illustrations – those that warn about the dangers of populism and the rise of neo-fascist parties in the world – have even served as a banner during the demonstrations of the #BlackLivesMatter movement against racism and police brutality. “It is a worldwide reactionary wave to the advances that have occurred in recent decades. Anything that advances minority rights, be it gay marriage, women’s rights, immigrant rights, will certainly be attacked, because it challenges the power that white society or religious institutions have had, And this is something that will continue to occur for years or decades to come. They are centers of power that are not easy to change, ”he predicts.

“I was raised as a Catholic and many of the ideas that I profess, that I express, I learned in church,” he acknowledges. “The figure of Jesus Christ as we understand it and as the church teaches us is that of a rebel against power, against injustice, who helps the poorest, so it is significant that those who call themselves Christians have forgotten or not want to see it ”.


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