Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NEA's Art of Politics

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/14/AR2006051401190.html?referrer=email
Art
You Shouldn't Have!
On the NEA's 40th, the Art of Politics
By Philip KennicottWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, May 15, 2006; Page C01
An interesting convergence will occur Wednesday, when the National Endowment for the Arts begins a three-day celebration of its 40th anniversary at American University's Katzen Arts Center. Inside the impressive new facility, commandingly perched on Ward Circle in Northwest, is an exhibition of political art, or "Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement," as it is called by the curators. This is art as provocation, political commentary, utopian imagination, protest and, sometimes, pure unmitigated rage. It deals with gender, race, war and imperialism.
It is, to its core, exactly the sort of art that got the NEA into so much trouble more than 15 years ago.

.................................................. NEA bigwigs will share the Katzen facility with a large charcoal drawing of Ronald Reagan as Mickey Mouse painting anti-communist slogans with a bucket of blood -- and there seems to be no worry about jangled nerves.

................................................But throughout "The Art of Engagement," you sense a different emotional dynamic. The artists here don't consider the relationship over. They're still talking, if not with politicians, at least at them. They have more hope, when it comes to politics, than most politicians have when it comes to art. As you walk through the exhibition, past the gay Latino art and the flying Jesus with swastikas under his wings, you can't help but wonder how the great gap between the pragmatic political mind and the idealistic and sometimes childlike artistic one might be spanned.

.................................Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement, through July 30 at Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday noon-4 p.m. Admission is free.........