Robert Cenedella was the subject of the award-winning 2016 documentary, “Art Bastard.” His newest painting, titled “Pence on Earth,” features a towering President Donald Trump, wearing a crown, with his arm in a cast, holding his own head. Below, is a miniscule Mike Pence with a priestly white, large cross around his neck. They are perched atop a dark, scorched Earth.
Why is Trump holding his own head? “Because I feel eventually he’ll take himself down,” Cenedella says. “I feel that’s where it’s headed, that Pence will be the president, with his values taking us back to the fifth century.”
Cenedella is considered a political artist. Last year, his painting, “Fin del Mundo,” depicting Trump as a devil crushing the Pope while surrounded by politicians like Ted Cruz, made headlines around the world.
His activism is lifelong, starting in the 1950s. Cenedella got expelled from New York’s High School for Music and Art for writing an article that infuriated the administration and refusing to sign a loyalty oath stating he had never been a member of the Communist Party. “My father was blacklisted, and we went into poverty as a result, so a lot of my political interests come from having lived it.”
In 1965, he staged a show, “Yes Art,” a satirical spoof of Pop Art that included a live sculpture in which he threw freshly boiled spaghetti onto a canvas. “I said when I did this show that I would get more publicity than any other artist, including Warhol, and I did,” says Cenedella. “It was probably the most widely written about show I ever had.” The show even garnered international media attention.
“So when they say I’m the most widely written about, unknown, American artist, unfortunately it’s still true,” he laughs.
ART STUDENTS LEAGUE
His outspoken political art has even influenced New York’s prestigious Art Students’ League, where Cenedella has taught life drawing and painting for many years, and will offer a class in satirical political art this fall. He chalks it up to today’s fraught political environment. “They had never done anything like this, a lot of people talked about “Fin del Mundo” because it got a lot of attention.” The class will start in September, and a lot of people have signed up. “I don’t think you can really teach satire, but if someone’s interested in satire I can help them define it.”
DONALD TRUM BUMPED FROM LE CIRQUE MURAL
One of Cenedella’s most well known works is a mural of 181 very famous people dining at the swank restaurant, Le Cirque. Think Jackie O, Paul Newman, Sophia Loren, and Barbara Walters. He did the piece in 2000, and restaurateur, Sirio Maccioni, did mention the people he wanted included in the painting.
“To my credit, I must say the only person that I didn’t want to put in the painting was Donald Trump,” Cenedella says. “So I put in his first wife Ivana instead. I think other than that, I would put in anyone. I even put in Nixon and Kissinger, who I didn’t think much of. “
RUSTIC MAINE SUMMERS
Since 1980, the artist and his wife Liz have spent their summers on a rustic island in Maine. There is no electricity, no cars, they have to fetch water for cooking from a pristine spring, and use hand tools to prepare food and do chores.
“The island for me is a place where the world makes sense,” says Cenedella. “It’s a place where you literally are in another world. I sometimes like to think that we’ve seceded from mainland America, and that we are on this giant ship.” rcenedellagallery.com