LAST MONTH In the Corcoran's Auditorium semicircle, Rob Rogers – a man who was last employed in national elections in America – talked about the dwindling number of his political peers on the drawing board. He stood on the stage opposite the White House, reminding him why his visceral craft is crucial to supporting the national conversation, and why such voices now need to be reinforced rather than extinguished.
Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in June, his hometown for a quarter of a century. The newspaper leaned to the left for generations, but when Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in the summer of 2015, the newspaper began to turn against political rights – and let the liberal cartoonists know that its focus was on the editorial side of the Post-Gazette dramatically shifts.
Before Rogers was released, 19 of his cartoons and outlined ideas were killed within a few months by his editors, which aroused national attention. The following month, 18 of his works were displayed in the Corcoran, and curator Sanjit Sethi wisely jumped at the opportunity to show the editorial courage of the students of the educational institution. Silence is "not an option for our community," wrote Sethi, director of the Corcoran School, as the opening of the exhibition titled "Spiked."
Two days before the midterm elections – widely referred to as Trump's referendum on the Trump presidency – the "Spiked" films are brightly tinted and strongly associated with the crosses.
On Monday, a new right-wing cartoonist will officially inherit Roger's longtime perch in the post-Gazette. Meanwhile, Rogers remains jobless, although he is still being driven away by Andrews McMeel Syndication, and he has been supported by a rapidly growing number of social media in the prominent, partisan nature of his shooting.
Almost all the work in "Spiked" spiked either Trump or problems with his administration. At a time when Trump's press is being portrayed as an "enemy of the people," Rogers' cartoons and sketches, the latter of which highlight his mental process of creative repetition, are minimal symbols of distilled dissent.
Of course, every piece of art gains in importance when it provokes resistance. Who does not want to see a picture that someone does not have want to see you?
This secrecy awakens our curiosity: what point of view – what potential truth – lies in the lines that threaten the agenda or ideology of a powerful person or the attempt of a persuasive break?
Kingdom after the kingdom has tried to reassure its cartoon critics. And how did that work?
In some cases we still talk about these works today and look at them. Those who are on the throne at short notice often end up strengthening these works of art in the long run.
In the 1830s, the great French illustrator Honoré Daumier was imprisoned for half a year for satirizing King Louis Philippe. Today, his work – including his socially recognizable La Caricature lithographs – can be seen in museums and galleries around the world.
Contemporary visual satirists around the world, from Iran to Syria to India and Malaysia, have been harassed, arrested and sometimes brutalized for expressing their opinions through art – many after the massacre of Charlie Hebdo in Paris of cartoons.
In the United States, political cartoonists still expect freedom of expression, even though most have received death threats and some – such as syndicate Chris Britt, who recently drew the controversial anti-judicial caricature of Brett Kavanaugh – must turn to the federal authorities.
Rob Rogers' case is quite different. His situation was exclusively about the levers of editorial control from top to bottom.
One by one, spring after spring, Rogers's cartoons were killed.
Trump on Memorial Day? A specific sPike!
The events around the shot could have ended there and there – except that Rogers and the Corcoran knew that politically rejected works had an inherent power.
So hard on Pennsylvania Avenue, his dead cartoons found their way into the sunlight.
The deceptively positive fields of pastel shades. The heavy ink shading that starts easily and turns into black gravitas. The loosely-padded structures mingle with the rounded lines of soft, bubble-lipped humans, which are brightly colored and almost like balloon animals. These cartoons are as original as they are authentic.
Roger's trick is that his often candy-colored visuals are so inviting, but the tip of his pointed pen makes the ink too acidic. He paints with poison arrows, and the satirical trick comes fast and strong.
Does a newspaper have a home for such an accomplished employee caricaturist? The last national elections have triggered events for Roger's departure. Perhaps the elections on Tuesday will help put the political stage for his return in a place that values his strong, unwilling voice.