"It Is What It Is": All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump

JANUARY 2017 - JANUARY 2021

Richard Kraft

  • 2017-Cards
  • 2017-Text
  • 2018-Cards
  • 2018-Text
  • 2019-Cards
  • 2019-Text
  • 2020-Cards
  • 2020-Text

Above: Cards and texts from mid-November of each year of Trump’s presidency. The first grid spans over two weeks, the last just three days.

 

When Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, artist Richard Kraft felt an urgency—like many others—to keep a close watch on his presidency. Every single day during the Trump administration, Kraft scoured the news and Trump’s Twitter feed, assigning—like a referee in a soccer match—colored cards associated with transgressing rules and codes of conduct.

This five-volume, slipcased set of artist’s books presents over ten thousand cards for Trump’s words and actions. It is a daily reckoning, a refusal of normalcy, a bulwark against forgetting, a work of art that creates an unrelenting record of Trump’s ignominious four years in office, while also transforming it—in the crucible of dark humor—into something quite beautiful. 

In soccer, yellow signifies a warning. Red is for more serious offenses—ones for which a player should be dismissed. The futility and absurdity of assigning these cards to Trump is part of the point: What power does a referee hold when norms, fairness, and justice have been eviscerated and a player refuses to leave the field?

Quite soon after the inauguration, Kraft began adding more colors for a variety of infractions: magenta for especially egregious transgressions, orange for days Trump spent at his golf courses, pink for those who played golf with him, and dark blue when someone in the administration was fired or resigned (Kraft calls these “fuck you as you go” cards). On April 23, 2020, when Trump suggested curing COVID-19 by injecting bleach into the body, Kraft added a purple card. In September 2020, when he repeatedly refused to agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election, Kraft devised a crimson card. There are also, conversely, many teal cards throughout, honoring acts of resistance.

Each book—one for each year of the first three years Trump’s presidency and two for 2020—opens with that year’s cards then ends with a textual log of the transgressions to which each card is assigned (2020 is split into two volumes—one for cards and the other for texts). The texts are succinct and as neutral as possible (researched from sources such as The Guardian, Washington Post, Politifact, Govtrack.us and the New York Times).

When asked about COVID-19’s staggering daily death toll by journalist Jonathan Swan in a September 3 interview, Trump replied, “It is what it is.”

This project takes its title from that callous dismissal. “It Is What It Is”: All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump, January 2017 – January 2021 asks readers to confront the erasure that results from the daily assault by the Trump administration: What do we remember? What have become inured to? What shocks us out of our complacency, our fatigue? How does memory shape our experience of what seemed impossible almost four years ago? As much a confrontation with the facts and phenomenon of a Trump presidency, it is also a truly durational work of art, marrying futility with vigilance, outrage with humor, and transforming toxicity into beauty. 

 

 

About the Artist

Richard Kraft (pictured below) is an artist whose multidisciplinary works often use public spaces (library aisles, sides of buses, city streets, cow pastures, abandoned airforce bases) as well as converse with the literary (many of his works use language, book pages, and appropriated narratives as material). He is the recipient of a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, and he has had numerous group and solo gallery shows, including at Charlie James Gallery, LA Louver, and Rosamund Felsen, as well as at museum, university and non-profit art spaces, including the Portland Art Museum, the Laguna Art Museum, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the Ruffin Gallery at the University of Virginia, and Printed Matter, among others. “100 Walkers, West Hollywood,” commissioned by The City of West Hollywood for its thirtieth year celebrations, won a Year in Review Award from Americans for the Arts/Public Art Network. Books include The Afterlife of Paper, a collaborative book with poet Peter Gizzi, (Catalpa) and the artist’s book Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera (Siglio). Other publications include BOMB, Bookforum, and Carousel, among other journals, and in 2016 his work was featured in The New Collage Book, a comprehensive survey published by Gestalten. He has co-edited three books for Siglio: John Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matter Worse), Marcel Broodthaers: My Ogre Book, Shadow Theater, Midnight, and, out this fall, Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Photostats. Kraft was born and raised in London, England and now lives in Los Angeles and New York. More information about his work is at richardkraft.net.