The Simpsons once said Canadian-born actor Jim Carrey can “make you laugh with nothing more than a frantic flailing of his limbs.” It turns out he can also make you sigh at the state of politics in his adopted home of America with a stroke of a marker as well. Going on at the Phi Centre from June 20-Sept. 1, This Light Never Goes Out: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey positions the Ace Ventura funnyman towards his current preoccupation: colourfully grotesque cartoons lampooning right-wing politicians, from Trump and Cruz to Putin and Bannon. It’s the first such official exhibit of his work so far.
The seething rage that inspired him to pick up a pen and doodle is what contextualizes the over 50 pieces that make up the small but impactful exhibit, and there’s something about the quick assembly of it all that perfectly captures his fractured state of mind — the artworks are literally torn from a spiral notebook — and how outrage is disseminated these days, since most of his drawings made their debut on his Twitter feed.
From the onset, you’re introduced to the American Commander-in-Chief, his comical appearance and utter lack of basic empathy and humanity forever making him ripe for mockery, along with his former press secretary, the bullfrog-like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. With his Ralph Steadman-eye for capturing the ugliness of his caricatures — inside and out — Carrey takes you into his world as a hopeless outsider, who like all of us is witnessing the world devolve on a daily basis and can’t do a thing to stop the slide.
The cartoons are less about fighting the powers that be and more about feeling less alone. Drawing has been a passion for Carrey since childhood, and his daily drawing sessions have allowed him to make sense of the absurd things constantly hitting our social media feeds.
“I don’t hate the subjects of my cartoons,” he’s quoted as saying in the exhibit’s intro. “I hate their unconsciousness. I pity them for thinking that they can win the game by selling their soul for a name.”
Phi founder Phoebe Greenberg went down to Los Angeles to work with him on the exhibit, and the heavily implicated Carrey had a final say in everything from which works were selected to how they were set up. His Twitter feed scrolls on a screen in the room, and there are also two larger pieces: a wobbling chair held level by a matchbook and shark fins circling the Constitution of the United States.
There are a few dedication drawings at the end, paying tribute to late celebs but also former President Barack Obama and banished football quarterback Colin Kaepernick. These cartoons were offered to the exhibit courtesy of Judd Apatow and Zoe Saldana, suggesting Carrey is either giving some of these out to his Los Angeles pals or is selling them.
Of course, Carrey isn’t an innocent participant in the rise of ignorance online. Do a quick search of his tweets and you’ll find more than a few railing against the mercury in vaccines. It’s hypocritical that he would so vehemently go after the thugs poisoning our planet (both literally and figuratively) without reflecting on his own destructive actions, but careful consideration and fighting misinformation isn’t what his online persona and cartoons are about. They’re about palpable anger and frustration, and finding an outlet to vent. ■
This Light Never Goes Out: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey on the Trump administration is on at Phi Centre (315 St-Paul W.) through Sept. 1, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Tues-Thu, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri–Sat, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun, $12.40 (all in.)
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