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Poor Richard Nixon: A Biting Pre Donald Trump Satire On Another Transparent Fraud (1971)

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In 1971, Philip Guston (1913-1980) lampooned Richard Nixon in a series of 180 drawings called Philip Guston’s Poor Richard. Created at Guston’s studio in Woodstock, New York, the biting satire could be used to explain any number of US presidents since, not least of all Donald Trump.

“The wonder of Nixon (and contemporary America) is that a man so transparently fraudulent, if not on the edge of mental disorder, could ever have won the confidence and approval of a people who generally require at least a little something of the ‘human touch’ in their leaders,” wrote Philip Roth in Reading Myself And Others.

 

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Roth has just completed Our Gang, a work that brought the reader “Trick E. Dixon”. The work was inspired by this Nixon quote:

“From personal and religious beliefs I consider abortions an unacceptable form of population control. Furthermore, unrestricted abortion policies, or abortion on-demand, I cannot square with my personal belief in the sanctity of human life – including the life of the yet unborn. For, surely, the unborn have rights also, recognized in law, recognized even in principles expounded by the United Nations.”

As Dwight McDonald wrote in the NY Times:

A mouse, surely, compared to the President’s daily elephants; nothing worth squashing under a mountain of satire. Especially since President Nixon was meeting a clear and present danger; he had just discovered that “Under liberalized military procedures, the wives’ of servicemen were able to obtain abortions more easily than they would have under state regulations.” He put a stop to that instantly – he’s the Commander in Chief, after all -and if he only hadn’t felt obliged to rig up a philosophical base for his ukase, “Our Gang” wouldn’t have been written.

 

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‘Two years before Watergate and three years before Nixon’s resignation, these provocative, searing condemnations of a corrupt head of state are remarkable, prescient political satire. The drawings mock Nixon’s physical attributes–his nose is rendered as an enlarged phallus throughout-as well as his notoriously dubious, shifty character. Debra Bricker Balken’s book is the first book–length publication of these drawings.

‘A visual narrative of Nixon’s life, the drawings trace Nixon from his childhood, through his ascent to power, to his years in the White House. They incorporate Henry Kissinger (a pair of glasses), Spiro Agnew (a cone-head), and John Mitchell (a dolt smoking a pipe). They depict Nixon and his cohorts in China, plotting strategy in Key Biscayne, and shamelessly pandering to African Americans, hippies, and elderly tourists.’ – Debra Bricker Balken

 

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He poses for photographs with his arm around the necessary demographics—hippies, blacks, “mom and pop” whites—bearing a grin betrayed by a hungry glare. Guston dresses him in a police uniform, a Ku Klux Klan hood, blackface, and, in the final panels, offensive Orientalist costumes as he sets sail confidently on his ill-fated “journey of peace.”

 

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philip guston richard nixon 1971 philip guston richard nixon 1971 philip guston richard nixon 1971 philip guston richard nixon 1971 philip guston richard nixon 1971

 

Via The Paris Review, The Boulevardiers

  • What’s false about this?

    “From personal and religious beliefs I consider abortions an unacceptable form of population control. Furthermore, unrestricted abortion policies, or abortion on-demand, I cannot square with my personal belief in the sanctity of human life – including the life of the yet unborn. For, surely, the unborn have rights also, recognized in law, recognized even in principles expounded by the United Nations.”

    You should be a lot more worried about men promoting abortion than men who are against it… The former have, shall we say, ulterior motives.

  • Eric Veritas Blair

    Unsubscribed.

  • TheGAGLine

    And with this column, adios!

    MAGA

    • Yeoman Lowbrow

      Come on, friend – we have a lot of different writers with a lot of different views here. It’s not a homogeneous liberal circle-jerk like some sites which shall remain nameless.

    • Haga Akane ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

      Kinda feeling the same.

  • roland von freiser

    Oh this is so sad and pathetic. Guston was one of the biggest frauds in American art history. He had limited if any formal art training and as a result he used the old standby: POLITICAL SATIRE as a means to ingratiate himself to the art critics of the time DESPITE his abandonment of abstract expressionism (which by the way he was a very late participant because it became trendy and he jumped on the wave when he saw the potential). Guston muddied the art waters with his constant boring dreary overworked commentary on ART. It was a distraction. Richard Nixon was a boyscout compared to the likes of Clinton (both) and Obama yet none took the time to base an entire line of drawings an paintings on these political figures. Thank goodness we have almost eliminated the BS associated with political art themes as a means to advance one’s artistic and monetary needs. The liberal minds is totally confusing and disgusting if nothing else for their inability to tell the truth about ANYTHING. And let’s not forget the obvious. Stylistically and mechanically Guston’s work is………….HORRIBLE.