With the voting for President just over the holiday horizon, the involvement of the visual arts community in Presidential politics is nonexistent. Weirdly playing into the hands of dung-dumper Rudy Guiliani, the only art news throughout the campaign has been stories of artworks embarrassing various candidates.
In May, Richmond’s Plant Zero Gallery removed some so-so paintings by James Boling of Britney Spears’ private parts and a woman wearing a "Kill Abe" t-shirt in advance of a Barack Obama fundraiser, and in November Sam Taylor-Wood’s majestic Soliloquy VII, a photograph of a male nude positioned like Mantegna’s Dead Christ, mysteriously disappeared from the walls of contemporary collector and major Democratic honcho Tony Podesta, before a Hillary Clinton event, though all involved denied censorship.
That art is now defined as marginal and transgressive only adds to the general ignorance of all Presidential candidates about what is, with music, the greatest contribution of Western, and every other, civilization, to the human spirit. Organizing efforts tied to the run for President by Artsland have been sporadic in recent years. There was an effort to sent volunteers to Ohio for John Kerry in 2004 and Ronald Feldman’s brilliant marketing of Roy Lichtenstein’s print of a colorful and empty Oval Office in support of Bill Clinton in 1992.
This year, to coin a phrase, nada. Perhaps the art world’s joyous bath in collector dollars, to the strains of unknown and musically passé rock and roll bands, has eliminated any overt concern for the public weal. Certainly, this indifference is matched by the unsurpassed artistic ignorance of the candidates. Giuliani condemned "Sensation!" and Hillary Clinton was unjustly criticized for exhibiting a late de Kooning in the East Wing of the White House. That’s it.
Does Bill Richardson collect Navajo blankets or Rufino Tamayo prints? Does Mike Huckabee have a secret lust for a Reverend Howard Finster? What of the exalted kitsch that is Salt Lake City or the psychedelic piercings and tattoos (no kidding!) of the young and lovely Mrs. Dennis Kucinich? There is rich fodder of all ideological persuasions for artists in the Prezzy Circus. If only said artists would get off the NetJets and out of Cartier’s and into the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire!
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).