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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Orange Is The New Black and Blue

Last week, the creative agency Wieden+Kennedy announced its latest gallery collaboration, with renowned Cuban-American artist Edel Rodriguez. Coinciding with his latest cover of TIME Magazine, the show, titled “Agent Orange,” focuses on the artist’s political works, timed with the one-year anniversary of Trump in office. Recently called “America’s Illustrator-in-chief” by Fast Company and “Trump’s Most Hated Artist” by the Hollywood Reporter, Rodriguez has produced major works for publications including the New York Times, the New Yorker, TIME, Newsweek, and Der Spiegelthroughout his 24-year career.

The show, which opens Thursday, January 25 at Wieden+Kennedy Portland, will feature the debut of a new piece, among numerous published Trump-inspired works including “Meltdown,” “Total Meltdown,” and “America First,” produced in large scale. A limited run of 100 signed fine-art prints will be sold at the gallery for $200 with net proceeds benefiting refugee rescue organization Proactive Open Arms.

“I’m very honored to have been asked by Wieden+Kennedy to show my work from the past two years at the agency’s gallery in Portland, Oregon,” says Rodriguez. “The show consists of numerous works spanning the 2016 presidential primaries through today and is the first exhibition to showcase my artwork and magazine covers on the 45th president of the United States. About a year ago, I began envisioning that this work might be collected in a book. The title that came to my mind for such a book was ‘Agent Orange,’ a toxic orange chemical in the body of a Russian agent. The book will hopefully come one day, though for now we have the show. Signed prints of this image, a combination of many of my well-known images, will be available at the opening, with a portion of proceeds going to refugee causes.”

“I was eager to produce this exhibition with Rodriguez from the moment we began working together,” notes Andrea Bakacs, art producer at Wieden+Kennedy, who previously collaborated with Rodriguez on a campaign to raise awareness for blue-collar workers’ rights. “Like many, I find myself so enthralled with his work, as each new piece is a direct response to news events or quotes made by Trump. The one-year anniversary of his inauguration seemed like the right moment to share these boldly iconic illustrations as a complete body of work.

“Seeing these pieces together in one room tells a narrative story of what will no doubt go down in history as one of the most controversial, scandalous, and outright terrifying political years many will see in their lifetime. Rodriguez, no stranger to provocative and sometimes shocking work, has an incredible ability to summarize massively complex social and political issues into a few brushstrokes and a simplified color palette.”

Bakacs says that these radically approachable works will continue to inspire the courageous and difficult but ever-so-important conversations we are having as a society and as a country, as well as serve as a reminder not to normalize or trivialize what has now become our daily news cycle.

In addition to Rodriguez’s illustrated works, the show will also feature a selection of pieces from Memphis-based American folk artist Edwin Jeffery Jr., who was born in 1949. Jeffery’s work is highly influenced by his experience growing up as an African American in segregated Memphis. Self-taught, he’s one of the most celebrated woodcarvers of his generation.

The show runs through February 23, 2018.

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