One of my great pleasures is introducing the entire ThoughtMatter studio to work by artists they didn’t know before. Our latest foray was to see David Opdyke’s recent show at Chelsea’s Magnan Metz Gallery.
It didn’t disappoint. Opdyke has made some of the smartest political art I’ve seen in years. The show’s title, Truthful Hyperbole, is a turn of phrase coined by the author of the 1987 Donald Trump biography The Art of the Deal. It captures to a T the incessant drumbeat of self-puffery that is the Donald.
But Opdyke hasn’t expressly targeted Trump, Republicans or the Right here. Nor has he sided with Clinton, Democrats and the Left. Instead, he trained his artistic and satirical skills on what he considers to be at the root of our national political mess, Power, and how it underlies two strikingly different visions of America–the idealized vs. brute reality. What Opdyke has done is to take their various manifestations and marry them together, making for utterly wacky results.
The fact is, it’s not the first time Opdyke’s work has had an offbeat political slant. For instance, there are his miniature constructions representing the wreckage of a post-industrial world. Or a series of oddly connected PVC pipe joints topped by pink flowerets that upon closer inspection actually are tiny toilets.
His primary medium this time: Vintage postcards. Turns out Opdyke’s been a collector for years and has scads of them–everything from a grand Wisconsin hotel and the U.S. Treasury to a Topeka memorial garden and the Monte Carlo esplanade. So he started reworking this trove, using pen and ink, gouache and other techniques to introduce a host of unlikely, unsettling elements to the pictures. Among those tweaks are giant octopus tentacles, helicopters, cartoon snippets, angels, fire, structural damage, warships and graffiti. Sometimes he even pits them against each other. When Opdyke adds this fresh batch of nasties to readily recognizable symbols of our national identity–he skewers monuments, bridges, civic buildings, natural wonders, all manner of landmarks and more–he delivers a punch that knocks them smack off their glorified perches.
Moreover, he’s nothing if not a quick study. The show also features a handful of animations and a video, media Opdyke had never worked in before. Plus there are two large anti-gun flags that he sewed himself, having taught himself to sew to make them.
Thanks to his trenchant eye and tongue in cheek, David Opdyke’s art offers a refreshing riposte to the current, bitter election season.