Robbie Conal’s ‘Cabinet of Horrors’ is a funny, freaky portrait of Trump’s inner circle
Perhaps you’ve seen the posters around town. Wheatpasted on a graffitied mall directory in Little Tokyo, there’s a finger-pointing Donald Trump with heavy bags under his eyes and mouth twisted into a grotesque roar above the text “Bully Culprit.” On a Silver Lake utility box, a blubbery-faced, cockeyed Rudy Giuliani is pasted to its side, emblazoned with the phrase: “Was it Something I Said?”
The images come from a new body of work by 74-year-old satirical illustrator and guerrilla street artist Robbie Conal. His “Cabinet of Horrors,” on view at Track 16 through Dec. 8, includes nearly two dozen cartoonish oil paintings of Trump and his inner circle. And collectively, it’s a downright ugly portrait.
“I’ve been doing this since 1986,” Conal said of his caricatures of political conservatives. “But this has made my head explode, the Trump administration and what they’re doing to our little concept of democracy, as much of it as we have it.”
The works in the show are rendered in Conal’s signature black-and-white style, some peppered with bits of red. His brushstrokes are especially quick and thick and sloppy. His visual satire and humorous wordplay are particularly biting.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is pictured with a swooping, putty-like, Pinocchio nose below the phrase “Knows Job.” Trump advisor Stephen Miller appears Satan-like, his heavy-lidded eyes burning red; “Staff Infection” reads the dripping text, as if scribbled in blood. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is almost reptilian-looking, with bug-eyes, thin lips and a pinched mouth; “Learning Swerve,” it reads.
The Trump administration provided such rich material and so many characters to riff on that the former L.A. artist, who now lives in Los Osos, Calif., said he found he couldn’t stop making new paintings. The nearly two dozen works in the exhibition were culled from about 40. Conal’s portrait of newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, pictured roiling and boiling with anger, was made just days before the Track 16 show opened. “Breaking Bad,” reads the painting’s text.
“We had to curate the best of the worst,” Conal joked, “because there was such ample material.”
One would be hard-pressed this Halloween to find anything more horrifying around Los Angeles than his freaky-looking “Cabinet of Horrors,” Conal said.
“I call Trump ‘the Mad King,’ but he’s turning America into the undead,” he said. “It’s really ghoulish what they’re doing. A campaign of fear and lies just does not sound like the American people to me. But I’m an optimist. There is an end in sight — and it’s starting on Nov. 6.”
“Robbie Conal’s Cabinet of Horrors,” Track 16 Gallery, 1206 Maple Ave, #1005, Los Angeles, 310-815-8080. Through Dec. 8. www.track16.com
Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin
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