Editor’s Note: Many of the following images are NSFW and feature adult themes.
This much is unquestionably true: one, that the artwork in a new exhibition opening tomorrow in L.A. not only mercilessly savages Donald Trump and gun nuts in general but also benefits gun violence prevention; and two, that it was planned long before Trump’s notorious Second Amendment comments just a few days ago. Then there’s that other true—“Trumped-up true.” That’s the type that claims his spew wasn’t a barely-veiled implication of armed retaliation against Hillary Clinton. But I editorialize. Let’s get back to our subject, the visually editorializing illustrator JT Steiny. His show, “Oh, My!,” is housed at Pasadena’s Daniel Rolnik Gallery.
Rolnik, who curated the show, explains its origins: “It came from me thinking about how I could be attending sit-ins and demonstrations to protest guns, but I found it impossible since I’m the only person keeping the shop open. So when I started seeing JT, one of my artists, doing this anti-Trump and anti-gun series on Instagram I was like, ‘finally, I can do something!’ I’m also giving proceeds from sales to the Brady Campaign, who are the nation’s best organization at trying to prevent gun violence.”
Rolnik also shared what he calls “fun facts” about Steiny, such as…
• His studio is in the garage of his childhood home where his 93-year-old mother still lives and complains about his clutter.
• He was in Otis College of Art and Design’s first Illustration graduating class, may have been the first hired in that department as a professor, and has been teaching there pretty much ever since.
• He’s been instrumental in cultivating L.A.’s thriving zine movement.
• His books “Porniture” and “Fuck” are the best selling items in the gallery.
Steiny’s expressive linework can be as sculpted as David Levine and as fluid as George Grosz, and his aesthetic temperament would’ve been comfortable in the pages of Simplicissimus and Puck. But when directly asked the ol’ “influences” question, he’s refreshingly expansive and eclectic. Here’s a sampling…
• I love Leonardo da Vinci. I mean who doesn’t? He was a sketchbook fanatic, an inventor, and a really good drawer. He introduced me to the notion of making things up and inventing, which is basically all I want to do.
• I am fascinated by L. Ron Hubbard, just by virtue of what he built. To build that odd empire from sci-fi novels and make-believe is inspiring.
• I pull from the attitude of the Little Rascals. They made everything work out just fine with donkeys, dogs, and hand-built stuff.
• I look at a lot of comedy and am in awe of the ability to take daily existence and show you another insightful and clever way of seeing serious things in a structured way by people like George Carlin and Louis C.K.
• I am in love with black and white and pen and ink and the notion that a real drawer should need only that in order to be intriguing.
• In turn I have looked hard at people like Bernie Wrightson and Charles Burns and Jack Kirby and Moebius and even Jim Woodring and a million others like them.
• I am envious of those that tell cohesive, fluid, maybe chaotic literary or visual narratives, like Lynd Ward, Robert Crumb or S. Clay Wilson, or Adrian Tomine.
• I follow those who can truly control the pen and ink with watercolor, like Jack Unruh and Ralph Steadman, Mu Pan, Arthur Rackham, and William Blake.
• And I am especially obsessed with those who can give massive commentary on the human existence with very few marks such as Saul Steinberg.
Steiny concludes with this: “It’s really never one thing or one movement or one person, and it can change from day to day. The desire to make things is something of an illness in that one may forego other things in order to do only that. It can be a lonely thing and it can upset people and be misunderstood, but that’s just how it works.”
There’s no misunderstanding that Steiny’s caricatures—especially with their liberal use of nudity, sex, and scatology—will upset, provoke, and even outrage. Particularly in our current climate of volatile and incendiary verbal outrage. That much is also true. And good.
Steiny’s most recent renderings of the chicanery candidate and the firearm fanatics as well as his fresh new RNC and DNC convention sketches will get a “huge” opening reception, from noon to 11 tomorrow, Saturday, at the Rolnik Gallery. Details here.