Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Character Assasination, or Resume Ressurection?

On June 4th, Yazmany Arboleda attempted to put up a political art installation in a storefront across from the New York Times. You can view some photos of the exhibit about Barack here. And photos of Hillary's exhibit here. Some of the pieces on Hillary are especially sharp (as in cutting). And some of Barack's pieces are especially inflamatory (as in a large black penis on the wall).

According to the New York Times
"New York City police detectives and Secret Service agents briefly detained and questioned an artist on Wednesday morning as he installed an exhibition with the title, 'The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama.' "

The Secret Service emphasized that they didn't shut the exhibit down. They just weren't keen on the word "Assassination" being in the title.

Mr. Arboleda defended himself on The Huffington Post against charges of racism, sexism and media whorism:

"My goal was to create a mirror through which we might perceive the way traditional and online media continues to preach racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia. I created The Assassinations to better understand how American society communicates and how visual codes appeal to cultural stereotypes, prejudices, desires, and fears. The result has been a maelstrom of dialogue more passionate and pervasive than I ever anticipated."

The original exhibition during the month of March at the Naomi Gates Gallery could be seen by appointment only due to the controversial nature of the work. It seems that appointments did not generate enough of a "maelstrom of dialogue" for Mr. Arboleda, so he re-staged it in a setting more conducive to dialogue (across the street from The New York Times). Artists are to be forgiven if they feel the need to point out the importance of their work to a pre-occupied public that is often too busy to notice masterpieces. Even Walt Whitman wrote and published rave reviews of his own work anonymously.

The Naomi Gates gallery characterizes the work as exploring "the figurative but highly effective attempts by the American populace to assassinate Barack Obama's reputation during his historic candidacy for president... In the all-encompassing installation that explores the themes of sexism, racism, ageism, and religious intolerance, one questions to what end we are willing to go to tear down our leaders in the process of electing them. "

The sarcasm in the exhibit is crueller to Mrs. Clinton, for example placing photos of her under the slogan "Politics as Usual". The sarcasm in the Obama exhibit tends not to be pointed at him, but instead is directed at the media or the larger racial subtext of our culture; like in the room full of nooses with photos of white smiling faces. In one piece there is a slight dig at the "Obama Brand" next to Gap and Budweiser signs, but it's a pretty gentle knock compared to the slam that Clinton takes with "Most Likely to Compromise" next to her yearbook picture.

Arboleda seems like someone who approaches problems creatively, and he re-staged parts the show as a video exhibit:

My boyfriend says that the exhibit is akin to throwing a grenade in a crowded theater, and was not impressed. Although I don't think he saw the video piece.

Sable Verity says that she never called him a racist, but has some other choice words for him:

"...maybe he needs to read up on the laws of this country. Using the word “assassinate” in reference to a presidential candidate or a Senator is a crime. What the hell were the cops supposed to do? Can you imagine the 911 calls that came in on that one?

Can you imagine walking down the street and doing a double take, the words assassinate and Obama in the same sentence, with nooses hanging in the background?

How cute that the concept is nothing more than a metaphore [sic] for Mr. Arboleda. For the rest of us? Yeah, not so much.

Mr. Arboleda, you need a lesson sir. You need to be schooled, as they say, and I am more than qualified for the job. My doors are open to you, 24-7.

Class is in session.

You’re late.

Here is some of Arboleda's earlier work.

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