Rich Silverstein read newspaper headlines in horror during the Trump Administration. Day after day, more abuses. More autocracy. More racism. More damage done to a nation.
Nothing unusual about that. Tens of millions of Americans shared in that experience. What separates Silverstein, founder of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, an advertising agency in San Francisco, is his turning that angst and rage into something productive beyond social media posts.
His solo exhibition, “I Read the News Today Oh Boy,” at the Minnesota Street Project (1275 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107) through July 31, features a series of works Silverstein made reflecting on the Trump era, created by using text and images that he hand-ripped from the New York Times.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with the news. Later, graphic design, typography and images printed on newsprint were even more compelling to me,” Silverstein said.
He graduated from Parsons School of Design and worked as an art director at Rolling Stone magazine, among other organizations, before founding Bay Area ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, creators of the “got milk?” campaign. This project represents the intersection of his personal and professional interests, drawing on his longtime experience in graphic design, advertising and editorial.
Silverstein’s project began on Wednesday, November 25, 2019, with the goal of documenting Donald Trump’s impeachment by tearing full-width banner headlines out of the New York Times and using them to create collage-based artworks. At the time, Silverstein referred to the project as 85 Days, though it quickly expanded far beyond Trump’s initial impeachment trial to include the election of President Biden, the storming of the Capitol and Trump’s second impeachment hearing. Each morning Silverstein would read the morning paper and deliberately rip out key sections of texts that felt particularly relevant or stirring. Over the course of the events that unfolded during the pandemic, Silverstein’s project expanded beyond Trump’s first impeachment trial, and 85 Days became a single, large-scale work that was part of a much larger exhibition.
Among the works on view will be 85 Days, a large-scale, text-based collage that will be installed on the floor of the gallery and can be reconfigured like a puzzle to create different narratives. The black-and-white work brings together short headlines, single impactful words and words collaged together from various stories taken from Trump’s first impeachment hearing. Also on view will be the exhibition’s title work, I Read the News Today Oh Boy, which calls attention to Trump’s misunderstanding and mislabeling of hypersonic missiles, underscoring the great irresponsibility of the Trump administration.
These works, among other text-based artworks, will be presented alongside a series of photograph and diptychs that explore Trump’s presidency, his legacy and the beginning of the Biden administration. One large diptych features John Trumbull’s painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (which hangs in the Capitol Building) paired with a photograph from Trump’s acquittal celebration at the White House, juxtaposing the gravity with which the Founding Fathers held the law with the previous administration’s scorn for it. Another large-scale diptych pairs a photograph of militarized police preparing for a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle with an image of a single guard at the Capitol Building fighting off the masses of rioters protesting Trump’s defeat, another grave reflection on our social and political moment in time.
Taken together, the works serve not only as a document of the tumultuous past few years, but also as a reflection on Silverstein’s creative outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunity it afforded him to tie together his interests over the past several decades to create a singular exhibition.