Inaugural Question: Why Do Rich Criminals Barely Suffer?

THE DAILY PIC: In Petzel Gallery’s timely show, Andrew Tider and Jeff Greenspan portray America’s inequities.

Installation view of "We Need to Talk" at Petzel Gallery. Courtesy of Petzel Gallery

THE DAILY PIC (#1716): I write today’s Pic on the train to Washington, where I will be attending the women’s march against Donald Trump.

Like most of the art world, I am appalled to see Trump trashing some of the country’s most important virtues and habits: Reason, honesty, integrity, tolerance, equality, courage, generosity and so many others.

Petzel Gallery in New York is staging its own act of resistance to Trumpery, in the shape of a group exhibition called “We need to talk… Artists and the public respond to present conditions in America.”

Installation view of "We Need to Talk" at Petzel Gallery. Courtesy of Blake Gopnik

Installation view of “We Need to Talk” at Petzel Gallery. Courtesy of Blake Gopnik

The piece that most caught my eye on a recent visit was today’s Pic, an installation called The Captured Project (People in Prison Drawing People Who Should Be), by the artists Andrew Tider and Jeff Greenspan. As the title suggests, the piece consists of dozens of portraits of tainted captains of industry, drawn more or less competently by inmates in prison for the standard roster of crimes—drugs, attacks, thefts and so on. The question that’s left hanging, not for the first time, is why American society is so brutal to citizens who hurt one or two other people and barely touches those who hurt hundreds or thousands—or all six billion who live on our suffering planet.

Even monkeys react more strongly to unfairness than to simple privation. All but the richest Americans can feel the gross inequity that’s at work every day all around them; it gets them to lash out in anger and frustration, even at their own expense.

I don’t believe that very many of my fellow Americans actually share the anti-American values—non-values; anti-values—that Donald Trump represents. As I’ve said before, they’ve simply lobbed him, like a Molotov cocktail, at a system that has so clearly stopped serving them. That orange hair is the glowing wick; his poisonous thoughts are the explosion.

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