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In order to experience humiliation, one must first have the capacity for shame. As such, watching our shameless president’s visage appear through a series of humiliations in Van Hanos’s Late American Paintings at Chateau Shatto is a curiously hopeless, and joyless, experience. Trump appears throughout as a caricatured baddie, less menacing than ubiquitous, at the scene of every crime: global warming and catastrophe, corporate malfeasance, et al. Hanos’s Trumpty Dumpty (all works 2017) pictures Trump in a variety of guises, feuding with swashbuckling My Little Ponies and some scenery-chewing cartoon lightbulbs. Elsewhere, Trump is figured as a gleeful child stabbing at the earth with a fork (Snakes and Ladders) and as a grotesque parade float presiding over a particularly obnoxious poker game (A Recent History of the United States of America).
More striking works appear where Hanos’ focus zooms out. Prototypes for White Children is perhaps the most interesting work here—an all-over composition featuring decades worth of cartoon faces crowded together. The tension between its damning title and frothy nostalgia is palpable, if stiff, underscoring one of the central social conditions underpinning our dire political reality.
Van Hanos’ Snakes and Ladders is a messy compendium in a similar vein to Judith Bernstein’s recent In Evil We Trust (2017).1 However, Hanos’ piece reads more as farce, lacking the lurid, visceral crackle of Bernstein’s, though both are rooted in the hyperbole that the President both represents and regularly proclaims. The art world, ever-anxious about its own relevance, has been busy making out of political lemons very expensive lemonade—solidarity with the Resistance™ taking the form of arty potshots at an easy, powerful target. Hanos offers no way out—perhaps it’s not his, or art’s, job to do so—but what results revels in humiliation and a kind of limpid, teenage inertia. To that end, the spleen-venting of Late American Paintings fatigues rather than enlightens, and retreads rather than revolts.
Van Hanos: Late American Paintings runs October 7–November 11, 2017 at Chateau Shatto (1206 S. Maple Ave., Suite 1030, Los Angeles, CA 90015).