The political caricature is a treasured form of public discourse that still holds as much power as it did when we relied on the printing press. Able to express sentiment and opinion without uttering a syllable, the artist can sway the direction of conversation with skill, insight, and humor. Artist Robbie Conal has built a career from visually roasting the most sebaceous of our various leaders in the last few decades, often bringing his posters to the street and installing them in advertisers’ wildposting manner.
With the briefest of texts, slogans, or twisted nicknames, he reveals the underbelly as a face, dropping expectations into the sewer. If it were as simple as a political party, one might try to dismiss his work as only partisan. But Conal’s work functions more as an ex-ray, and frequently the resulting scan finds cancer.
In this newer book by author G. James Daichendt, EdD, who has written previously about Kenny Scharf and Shepard Fairey and in The Urban Canvas: Street Art Around the World (Weldon Owen, 2017), Conal is thoroughly recorded, examined, and explained. A street artist, among many other things, Daichendt calls Conal an “LA fixture and someone who is universally respected for the passion and vitality that he has brought to his work as an artist and teacher for several decades.”
Chapters of Conal’s interests and opinions are thoughtfully compiled and laid out, the artist seemingly never out of a fresh supply of political figures to skewer. As an object lesson, his practice is what draws him near and dear to the part of the street art community who uses the streets to communicate, advocate, and rebuke the hypocrisies in culture and politics
“I vividly remember the first time I saw Robbie Conal’s art because it felt like the exact thing I was meant to see but didn’t realize it until I experienced it,” says Shepard Fairey in his foreword. In his description, one can see that this artist has influenced Fairey, among others, but particularly.
“From that moment of discovering Robbie’s work forward, I had a clearer vision of what art could be… A poster on a corner utility box caught my eye … it was an image of Ronald Reagan on a bright yellow background with bold type that said CONTRA above and DICTION below. Then, a block later, I spotted another one. Now I was on the lookout, and the Contra-Diction posters seemed to be on every corner,” Fairey says. “This Contra-Diction poster spoke to me as a communiqué from a truthful voice of the people.”
High praise indeed.
ROBBIE CONAL / STREETWISE. 35 YEARS OF POLITICALLY CHARGED GUERRILLA ART. By G. James Daichendt. With a foreword by Shepard Fairey. Published by Schiffer Publishing LTD. Atglen, PA