The Center del Carme. Cultura Contemporània de Valencia shows from Thursday the works of one of the most renowned illustrators of today, a title that Edel Rodríguez (Havana, 49 years old) has earned thanks to his impressive covers against Donald Trump published during the last five years in magazines like the American Time or the german The mirror. But the origin of this exhibition is not in the foreign press, but in an old Valencian satirical magazine, La Traca, disappeared in 1938. During the filming of the documentary Carceller, the man who died twiceOn the editor of this republican publication, Vicent Miquel Carceller, and one of its main cartoonists, Carlos Gómez, better known as Bluff, both shot by the Franco regime in 1940, the film team contacted Edel Rodríguez in the United States so that participate in the project talking about the cartoon and how power tries to censor creative freedom.
Rodríguez has become a reference in the profession for his critics and daring drawings in which the then president of the United States melted (August 2016, in Time) or cut off the head of the Statue of Liberty (February 2017, in The mirror). The Cuban-American illustrator lent himself to collaborate when he learned the story of the weekly which had a circulation of almost half a million copies and whose perpetrators were assassinated for dedicating themselves in the “lowest, most rude and rude way to insult the highest representative personalities of National Spain, of the dignity of the Church and the informing principles of the Glorious Savior Movement of our Homeland, taking advantage of the popularity acquired in previous years, for the benefit of Marxist subversion ”.
From that meeting held during Trump’s term, a relationship was established that has resulted in this exhibition, in which 124 reproductions of his works can be seen in different formats, especially dedicated to illustrations about the former president and his mandate. The austerity of the Gothic cloister of the old Carmen convent contrasts with the huge red and black reproductions of an unleashed Trump. The artist published about 20 covers that had a huge impact and were massively reproduced. Private messages and threats on social networks multiplied against the artist, who left Cuba with his family at the age of eight.
“Well, tempers have calmed down. The influence of a president and what he can cause, the spirit he can create in his followers, was very noticeable. I’ve been working since 1994, but my case is well known since what happened with Trump. When I started those covers with him, they called me from televisions, newspapers, and I was still an immigrant, even though I also have American nationality, and it was a risk to confront him, with everything he was doing, ”Rodríguez explains to this newspaper from his studio near New York in a videoconference interview last month.
Rodríguez closed the circle with another cover in November, after the last elections in the United States, in which the winner, Democrat Joe Biden, is seen restoring the head of the Statue of Liberty. “Now it is a normal presidency. It is not known what the president is doing every day, at all hours. Before you would get up and Trump was already awake writing and the press taking him out, instead of covering other things. The media was to blame for paying so much attention to Trump as early as 2016. Also the New York Times Everything was Trump. You put it as a headline clickbait [ciberanzuelos para pinchar en la noticia] and the web traffic went up. The press went a little crazy, ”says Rodríguez.
“Now everything is attention. Magazines, newspapers have to get them to pay attention to them. Calling attention is the only way to earn money ”, he points out. His job is to communicate an idea so that it reaches everyone, “not just the university professor.” “Drawing allows people to be reached in a more basic way, that they understand things immediately. I grew up with people who did not study anything, with guajiros, and I also want to communicate with those people, with my father ”, he says.
At the exhibition Edel Rodríguez. Orange agent, Until September 12, you can see his penchant for the use of strong colors, perhaps as an influence of his origins. “Cuban art, the poster, comes from the roots of the country. All the houses have four or five colors, the cars … There are no blacks or whites, they are things that when you are in those places enter your eyes. When I came to New York, the teachers did not understand why we use stronger colors, red, I could not with white, yellow is yellow. I think that in some way it is the Cuban way of thinking ”, says the artist, delighted with his first exhibition in Spain, which is curated by Nacho Navarro, executive producer also of the La Traca, that now begins its life in festivals.
“I am a peaceful man, but if you hit me I have to defend myself. And the way I have to defend myself from a fascist is with the force of my work “, affirms the Cuban-American artist, who rejects” the two populisms, to the left and to the right “, that has lived,” both that of Fidel Castro like Donald Trump’s ”. “I never draw something that is a lie, I comment on what is happening, what I think. Propaganda is when you lie or when the State tells someone what to draw or write, “he adds.
An admirer of Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Goya’s political art and Duchamp’s way of thinking, Rodríguez is now preparing a graphic novel about his life, his traumatic departure from Cuba in 1980, his passage through an exile camp, his life in USA and on how the teachers knew how to stimulate their talent. The current interest in this genre is lived with enthusiasm: “It connects with many ages. Companies have seen that there is a lot of interest, everyone wants to attract youth and it is a very direct way of communicating. The visual form is very special, unique; the text does not reach certain people who are not interested in reading a book or an article, but they do see something and understand it immediately. Visual art and images invade people’s space, they immediately connect with people, in a way that writing does not. You can ignore the writing, but you pay attention to a drawing in half a second. Even if you hate what I want to say, you saw it, it’s already in your brain ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.