Seth Abramovitch of The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Edel Rodriguez about his newfound notoriety as one of the president’s harshest critics.
You probably don’t know his name, but chances are you’ve seen his work. He is Edel Rodriguez, an artist whose brutal depictions of Donald Trump have graced recent covers of Time and Germany’s Der Spiegel. Rodriguez emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as a 9-year-old political refugee; he’s since become one of the world’s leading magazine illustrators.
It was Rodriguez who in 2012 created the image of Batman shedding a red tear that graced the cover of The Hollywood Reporter after the Dark Knight Rises movie-theater shooting. More recently, he created a portrait of David Bowie, for a THR story about the singer’s final year.
Rodriguez’s two Time covers, rolled out as Trump’s presidential campaign seemed to be tail-spinning out of control, portrayed Trump melting into a drippy puddle, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Then, of course, Trump won. In one Der Spiegel cover published just days after the Nov. 8 election, Trump’s head is depicted as a fiery hurtling sun about to devour Planet Earth. That one was outdone by their latest cover: Trump triumphantly holding aloft the Statue of Liberty’s decapitated head.
THR spoke to Rodriguez about his newfound notoriety as one of the infamously press-averse president’s most scathing critics.
In a week of some startling Trump magazine covers, your Der Spiegel stands apart. Was the concept yours?
Yes, I had illustrated the concept on my own. The editors picked it up and ran with it.
Did you draw from ISIS imagery for the elements (the knife) and position Trump is standing in (arms upraised)?
I have done multiple street posters about ISIS, back in 2014. This new image is partly based on one of those original poses.
How do you create your illustrations? Computer? Physical paint?
This series of Trump is a combination or digital and painted techniques.
Trump never has eyes in your paintings. Why?
On some people, certain details are superfluous and I feel that’s the case with Trump. He is a constant talker and I feel the mouth gets that point across.
How do you achieve your “dripping paint” effect in the Time covers, “Meltdown” and “Total Meltdown?”
Years ago I made a photocopy and the toner cartridge was a mess. Out came these nasty drips. I scanned them and repurposed them.
Did Time ask you to create those images?
Time had a headline “Meltdown,” and asked me to figure out a way to do a portrait that said that, and that was my result.
Did his election victory come as a shock after these two Time covers?
It came as a shock in general. I was a concerned citizen just like everyone else.
Are you concerned at all, as both an artist and someone working within the press, of your freedoms being compromised by the Trump regime?
I’m always concerned about press freedoms. He has mentioned opening up libel laws and is generally a belligerent person. I’m also concerned about cuts to arts programs such as NEA and NEH.
Your Trump images relay outrage. As a Cuban political refuge seeker in the U.S., do they reflect what you feel?
Yes, I’ve always felt that immigrants have and will always make this country what it is. I’m outraged at the vitriol spouted at immigrants.
Can Trump inspire good art, music, expression?
Great music, art, etc., has always come as a result of fighting right wing extremism, from the German expressionists to poster artists in the U.S. in the 1980s.