Heil to the Chief

ASU's Art Museum is planning a show to coincide with this fall's presidential debate. The art would make Michael Moore blush.

The release also mentions more traditional work to be exhibited, including "William Hogarth's election series; works by Henri Daumier; campaign buttons from throughout the century; and folk art commemorating traditional icons and values. Other twentieth-century works will include Roy Lichtenstein's 'Oval Office'; Julian Schnabel's 'Vote'; [and] Nancy Spero's 'Choice.'"

At the end of the release is a list of artists participating in "Democracy in America," including Lynn Randolph.

Randolph fancies herself a bit of a prophet. (Others might use the word "doomsayer.") And, to Randolph at least, the Bush clan -- the one that claims U.S. presidents Nos. 41 and 43 -- represents certain Armageddon, in social, intellectual and planetary terms.

Let's Play Armageddon by Mear One
courtesy of Mear One
Let's Play Armageddon by Mear One
Still images of Larry Litt's film Before You Don't Vote .  .  .
courtesy of Larry Litt
Still images of Larry Litt's film Before You Don't Vote . . .

Randolph's latest oil painting, titled The Coronation of St. George, is overtly critical -- as opposed to the often scratch-your-head subtlety of contemporary art -- of the result of the 2000 election, the U.S. Supreme Court, and George W. Bush himself.

The five justices who overturned Florida's manual recount of ballots are seen on canvas literally crowning Bush commander in chief, as demons hover and an upside-down American flag waves, signaling the union in distress.

"It's medieval, but I think we're in medieval times," says Randolph in a slow and soothing Texas drawl. "This administration is anti-progressive. And Bush is staging a medieval war between my god and your god."

Randolph's piece is just one in an exhibition of more than two dozen works of art that are sure to stir the political pot, including:

• Three prints collectively titled "Be the Revolution," by L.A. artists Robbie Conal, Mear One and Shepard Fairey. Conal's rather unflattering representation of the current President Bush -- skin wrinkled fatter than a prune in the searing sun -- sets an ashen profile of Dubya in front of a mushroom cloud, with the clever and ironic play on words "Read My Apocalips" at the top of the illustration.

• Graffiti artist Mear One's Let's Play Armageddon, again with a nuclear explosion in the background, but portraying Bush as a hysterical maniac who turns the Bill of Rights into a paper airplane and gives his thumbs-up to mass genocide.

• Fairey's piece, titled Hug Bombs, which presents Bush -- in the style of Soviet propaganda -- cradling a bomb and questioning himself, ". . . Or was it hug babies and drop bombs?"

• A small army of papier-mch pulp figures by Jon Haddock, titled 98-107, standing at attention. ("98-107" refers to the 98 senators of the 107th Congress who voted for the Patriot Act.) The legislators are raising their right arms in a vote of confidence -- or are they sieg heil-ing? "The reference is pretty obvious," Haddock tells New Times.

• Three pieces by Peter Kuper, including Richie Bush, a satire of the 1960s comic book and 1980s Saturday morning cartoon Richie Rich, which has Bush playing the part of Richie gripping two wads of cash dripping with . . . oil? "Whew, it's only blood," little Georgie, er, Richie, says.

• University of Arizona art professor Alfred Quiroz's Bushwhacked, a sepia-tone and grayscale painting of Bush from the chest up surrounded by an assortment of images representing Dubya-era crises -- such as the Twin Towers, corporate fraud and Big Oil -- inside a wooden TV-like box.

• New York political humorist Larry Litt's film Before You Don't Vote . . . Advice to the Angry, Apathetic and Alienated.

As well as other works critical of the war in Iraq, conservative media (i.e., Fox News) and the religious right -- and, not to forget that solitary piece about John Kerry, Jim Budde's Kerry in Idaho, a ceramic teapot in the shape of the state famous for spuds with a bottle of Heinz ketchup serving as the spout.

"I guess it could be construed as being critical of Kerry's wealthy background," Budde says, disputing John Spiak's initial claim that the piece was a polar opposite -- ideologically -- to the pieces critical of Bush. "You should see some of my Bush stuff. It can be downright nasty! But I don't think people should have a problem with that. I think you should have critical work about whatever issues the artist wants to focus on."

One of the many points ASU spokeswoman Nancy Neff raises when trying to explain that "Democracy in America" isn't really a show is that there hasn't been a curatorial process. Museum director Marilyn Zeitlin concurs, sort of, saying, "The show is a long way from being finished. It hasn't really been curated yet," because some members of the museum staff -- including Zeitlin herself -- have been on vacation. But many of the artists were asked to submit work beginning four months ago.

Lynn Randolph says she was asked personally by Marilyn Zeitlin to create a new work for the exhibition. She obliged with The Coronation of St. George. Alfred Quiroz says he was asked by Zeitlin as far back as February to submit something specifically about Bush. And he did, with Bushwhacked. Others, including local artists Colin Chillag, Jon Haddock and Heidi Hesse, as well as Peter Kuper, Michael Ray Charles, Jim Budde and Larry Litt, all say that this exhibition has been set for several months and that they were each solicited by the curators personally.

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