Artist Interview—Knowledge Bennett’s Use of History and Appropriation
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Mao, Knowledge Bennett’s painting titled Mao Trump is a pastiche of the 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump superimposed over the face of the infamous Chinese dictator Mao Zedong. The obvious inference is the comparison of Trump to a dictator rather than the leader of the free world. The subtle differences between each leader’s political agenda create a clever juxtaposition that serves to highlight the two leaders’ similarities. As the leader of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao was exalted to an iconic status; however, the widespread destruction of cultural capital and the violent class struggle that were a result of his politics have inspired comparisons to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Similar criticisms of Trump have arisen following his xenophobic remarks and party line “Make America Great Again,” and while Trump likens himself to the leader of the working class, or proletariat, he himself was born with a silver spoon.
Signature: Signed and dated in black marker on verso "Knowledge Bennett 2016"
Inspired by 1960s Pop Art, Knowledge Bennett remixes Andy Warhol’s iconic silkscreens with the celebrities of today, creating graphic portraits of Rihanna, Kanye West, and Donald Trump that range from playful to political. Bennett is most known for his “Cojones” series, which casts audacious figures in a crotch-grabbing pose, appropriated from Janette Beckman’s 1989 photograph of Hip Hop artist Slick Rick. “In today’s world of social media saturation, people’s attention spans are at an all time low,” explains Bennett, “The visual artist must present something so arresting, enabling his/her statement to literally stop people in their tracks.”
American, b. 1976, Asbury Park, New Jersey, based in Los Angeles, California