October 7, 2009

The artwork Obama has chosen for the White House.

What does it say about him?
While Jacqueline Kennedy was known for her love of C├ęzanne and Hillary Rodham Clinton for living with paintings by Kandinsky and de Kooning as well as glass by Dale Chihuly, the Obamas have made a wider selection.

While there are only a few women represented — Louise Nevelson, Susan Rothenberg and [Alma Thomas, the African-American Expressionist painter.] — there are several contemporary African-American painters like William H. Johnson and Glenn Ligon, whose “Black Like Me No. 2,” a paint-stick-on-canvas work from 1992, was among the works chosen.
Which object do you think most represents him? It's so easy to pick this:



But on subtle contemplation, I'm going with this:


49 comments:

Hoosier Daddy said...

I heard Bill Clinton had some velvet Elvis paintings in the Lincoln bedroom.

Paddy O. said...

So, you think Andy Williams and Obama have a lot in common?

lacegrl130 said...

I can not believe they chose the 'Maybe' picture. That choice tells me they have NO CLUE what kind of criticism they face in the outside world...they pay NO attention...

rhhardin said...

The White House installation will make an excellent "guess the period" photo for future generations.

Original Mike said...

Is that "maybe" picture for real?!?! When I looked at it, I assumed the words were photoshopped in.

Unbelievable.

Lem said...

Scanning thru this art I don’t feel my self-esteem uplifted.

Obama has failed me once again ;)

Bissage said...

Color me brokenhearted.

It was the First Lady, herself, who assured me that the Lincoln Bedroom would soon be graced with this contemporary classic.

No, no, I’m sure you all mean well, but please don’t anybody try to make me feel better. I fully intend to make myself a cup of tea, put a sad record on the stereo, and sit by the window having myself a good, old-fashioned sulk. And I intend to enjoy it, dammit!

* s n i f f *

SteveR said...

Strange things happen when someone tells you what to like.

traditionalguy said...

Our Commander-in-chief Obama can send reprints of the "Maybe...wait a minute" print to the COs of all of the units now out in the Afghanistan outback trying to educate stone age tribes into the joys of liberal democracy and Starbucks meetups for tea. Actually making a decision about Afghan community organizing is no fun when the community includes tribes of armed and dangerous suicide killers who are only interested in target practice and the taking of American scalps. Obama's pay grade is only ACORN fundraiser level. He needs to turn the President's job over to a presidential type before time runs out.

Scott said...

What pretentious crap. Like his presidency.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I doubt any of these were picked for their content, and they wouldn't seem ironic to someone who doesn't understand how others view him.

...doesn't understand how others view him.

Suddenly I'm reminded of the story of the Emperor with no clothes.

Michael said...

I am with Scott all the way on this. Crap art.

Paddy O. said...

Art emphasizing indecision and color is an interesting choice.

I do like the Albers--very much love his book on color--and I'm a more than a little intrigued by Hillary's choice of Kandinsky--who I know more about through his writing than his art, so that probably makes a difference.

Robert Cook said...

I have no doubt that Obama, who, for all his failings, is a smart and sophisticated man, picked the Ruscha painting precisely because of its ironic relevance to his office. Where Bush simply declared, rather defensively, "I'm the decider," Obama expresses the same thing more humorously and with more self-awareness of the downside to being "the decider" through the selection of this painting to hang in the White House.

Rich B said...

I wanted to find out what Bush had chosen (Texas landscapes) and was reminded of this in the WSJ article-
"Weeks into his presidency, Mr. Obama caused a stir when he removed a bronze bust of Winston Churchill, loaned by the British Embassy, from the Oval Office and replaced it with a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. by African-American sculptor Charles Alston, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery."

Seemed like he could have had both - shows where his heart is.

AJ Lynch said...

Would anyone here choose either of these two pieces for their home?I am just curious.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Where Bush simply declared, rather defensively, "I'm the decider," Obama expresses the same thing more humorously and with more self-awareness of the downside to being "the decider"

Where Obama simply declared, rather arrogantly "I won."

Chip Ahoy said...

As a painting, the second photograph, Homage to the Square, is clearly racist!

As a photograph, it serves as an example of how bad exposure can wreck a photograph. Consider the dark square to be a window to the outside which is darker than the inside and where detail is lost. The exposure reading is taken for the inside of the room, a Spartan room as there is no detail, thus the outside window is left underexposed and detail out there is lost. Had the exposure reading been taken for the window to expose its detail, then the inside room would be overexposed blowing it out. What is the solution to match the two exposures to reveal the detail of the outside and the lack of furnishing, decorations, architectural touches inside, which in this case the artist was too lazy to provide and then disguised his artistic laziness under the rubric "cutting edge Weimar Bauhause" besides buying another painting (which we're pretending to be a photograph and which in fact in our case is a photograph) ? Huh? High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, that's what. Bracketing, in which two photographs are taken of both exposures then combined in an image editor such as Photoshop or specialized tools like Photomatrix (Windows and Mac for about $100.00, hdsoft.com).

Apart from this ridiculous modern painting, this is actually a very common problem for tourist photography. Usually the opposite of this painting. Either the inside of the room or the shady portico is well exposed and the sunny outside detail blown out, or the outside light is well exposed and the inside detail with its lovely statues and architecture is lost, or they're both compromised.

How to fix this using bracketing photography and Merge to HDR in Photoshop.

To take the picture:

Take three pictures of the room with a window where it's dark outside (it could just as easily be more light outside)

1) Tripod. Use remote mode to assure camera remains stationary.

2) Use "bracket" (BKT) and choose a 3-shot set. Select two Exposure Value (2EV), Merge to HDR works best with large differences.

3) Drive mode to "Continuous High" to ensure all three braced shots are taken consecutively.

4) Select "Shutter Priority". This is counterintuitive. You do not want the f-stop to change because that would change the depth of field. You want the shutter speed to change. Ordinarily if you were doing this manually, you would select Aperture Priority so that stays the same, then change the shutter speeds manually for three different exposures. But since you want your hands off the camera and for this to happen automatically and because the bracketing is being used, that emphasis switches. Tricky, in'nit?

5) Select RAW. Merge to HDR uses 16-bit images. Doesn't work in 8-bit formats.

6) Focus (the camera, Silly)

7) Fire away. Bang, bang, bang.

8) Copy to computer. If your edition of Photoshop or your camera does not handle RAW (Nikon's RAW is called NEF) then convert to 16-bit TIFF.

Chip Ahoy said...

In Photoshop.

1) If you do any format conversion, do not make any adjustments. Merge to HDR requires the rawest of RAW or the rawest of RAW converted to TIFF, no white balance correction, no nuth'n.

2) In Photoshop: File → Automate → Merge to HDR

3) Select the photos to be used. Note checkbox to automatically align if that's necessary which it should not be since you were so delicate and careful in the first place.

4) Merge to HDR blends the images. Save to a 16-bit format of your choice to retain the information in case you want to make further adjustments. Otherwise, save to your favorite format, even 8-bit JPG for use on the internet (as this example of the painting is JPG, you can see for yourself by B-clicking the image and selecting "save as" then reading the name and extension without really saving).

The result will be a new blended image of a single square of a single tone with a value in-between these the two original tones. -- a representation of a painting even more lazy and unartistic than this one, in which we could disguise the super unartistic super-laziness under the rubric "super edgy hyper Brauhause" or perhaps "Post Racial America".

Actually, in Photoshop for an image this inane there are other methods much easier than this. For example, use the eye-drop tool to select one of the two colors. Double click on the color to see its placement on the color scale. Do the same thing for the second color. Using either your color-fu judgement, or mathematically average the numerical values for the two colors, select a color in-between the two colors or two numeric values. Create a new layer on top of the original layer. Use the bucket tool to dump the new color filling the new layer. Merge the two layers so the new color is on the top. Save as JPG. Or don't merge them, just save that one layer.

Ta daaaaa.

Jason (the commenter) said...

AJ Lynch :Would anyone here choose either of these two pieces for their home?I am just curious.

I'd hang the second one. It's about color combinations and proportions. It's a simple piece of design that is really easy to understand and can blend right in. If it works with your drapes, why not use it?

Of course, I'd make my own from scratch; take a picture, buy some paint and a canvas, and have at it.

I don't understand why more people don't do this. It's just like a craft project you see in a magazine.

David said...

Obama is so cool, so urban, so sophisticated.

So . . . . what?

Scott said...

"Would anyone here choose either of these two pieces for their home?I am just curious."

@AJ Lynch: If it complemented the size and color of my sofa. That's the way most people pick living room art.

Robert Cook said...

"Where Obama simply declared, rather arrogantly 'I won.'"

No. Obama's declaration was also defensive.

ricpic said...

Watusi by Alma Thomas is quite good, if you can forget it's a complete ripoff of late Matisse.

t-man said...

Jason (tc) -

That is the funny thing about shows like "Trading Spaces" or other home redecorating shows. The designer is always having the homeowners themselves create some "art" for the space. They know that modern "art" is a hoax.

wv: masco - a place to buy funny-costumed creatures in bulk

miller said...

More like "I, One" like in "I, Robot."

Original Mike said...

picked the Ruscha painting precisely because of its ironic relevance to his office.

Yes Robert, we got it. My "unbelievable" stands unamended.

Henry said...

I, for one, admire the Albers. The man had a genius for color.

Paddy O. said...

I think a lot of modern and contemporary art is a hoax, oftentimes more a matter of the ability of the artist to BS a few sentence description than a matter of art. However, gotta give credit to Albers. The man was deliberate. He knew his history--he knew color. He played with the interplay of shape and colors in a masterful way. That if it can be mimicked in a poor fashion still doesn't take away Albers' own intentionality. There is an immense amount of depth of thought behind those squares. Which might be mimicked by other squares of similar colors, but not so deliberated upon in the process of considering the seemingly simple interplay of light, color, and shape.

Home decorating shows sentimentalize and kitschate (kitschize?) actual artistic endeavors.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I think a lot of modern and contemporary art is a hoax

Ditto. I think its a hoot when you see 'artists' splattering buckets of paint across a canvas when your average 2 year old can do the same thing.

edutcher said...

Reminds me of where I used to work.

If there's a psychiatrist in the house, could (s)he venture a guess as to why this vindicates the criticism of the man by the so-called Althouse Hillbillies?

PS Makes me proud to say Frederic Remington is my favorite artist.

ricpic said...

I both agree and disagree with Paddy O. Albers found an almost hypnotic image in his square within a square within the square. But once having found that image or motif the rest of his career amounted to variations on a theme, that theme. Not variations in shape. He had to hold onto the square shape. Only color variations. Color me not all that impressed.

H_Dwight_Beers said...

The biggest surprise, I guess, is that he didn't choose any of Leni Reifenstahl's Nuba photos--given his apparent fixation with Triumph of the Will.

Of course, I'm sorely disappointed that he didn't take one of my own photos off of Flickr.com or Arizona Yank.:)

t-man said...

I have Albers short book on color at home, and refer to it often. His understanding of color is impressive, but the painting is not. The fact that something was done with deliberation does not mean that it is art.

wv: ecest - my two home computers having sex

Jason said...

I was expecting a bunch of portraits of Obama. And maybe some of those paintings with him riding naked on a unicorn, killing Wall Street bears and shit.

http://www.faithmouse.com/obama_unicorns.html

WV: Synym. Synym, Hearin' him. Feelin' him.

Clyde said...

Great. Obama is relying on the artistic equivalent of a Magic 8-Ball. Or is it more like the artistic equivalent of a Ouija board? I guess it depends on whether he's just shaking it or putting his fingertips on it...

Just Lurking said...

But on subtle contemplation, I'm going with this:

I see a squared shape, squared as if to face the coming challenges, stuck inside a paper bag, that's been put in water over it's head. It raises the question: Can the figure fight its way out of the paper bag, and rise to the surface?

How does that represent Obama?

Joe said...

That art sucks. But the picture of that art; my God that's good.

Iapetus said...

"What does it say about him?"

That he missed a great opportunity to ask a fan of his, Prof. Althouse, to provide him with one of her photographs, almost every one of which would have been a better choice than was made.

Doug Sundseth said...

The Albers is brilliant -- if only there were a term for that color combination. If I might suggest, perhaps something like "split complementary" could be used.

Just a modest proposal, mind.

Revenant said...

That people actually paid for that squares picture is certainly evidence that we, as a civilization, are doomed. :)

blake said...

Maybe he stopped at the "I".

Freeman Hunt said...

Selection indicates pseudo-intellectual.

Not any individual piece, just the selection as a whole, or at least this sample of twelve.

I am disappointed. Oh well.

Freeman Hunt said...

And I have to agree with lacegrl, what is he thinking picking the Maybe one?

Freeman Hunt said...

I think I should be more precise. The selection casts him as the sort of faux intellectual who is very bright, though not a genius, but lacks wisdom.

I'd rather the President were wise.

Issob Morocco said...

To the Left, the One is increasing personified (as the painting shows) by the famous Churchill quote on Russia. To paraphrase, Obama is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma.

He is the post man who doesn't deliver for anyone, with their mail piling up in his garage and the left is now beginning to sense that.

The painting is a wonderful cubist rendition of their current conundrum.

AllenS said...

"So, President Obama, are you going to raise taxes?"

maybe...yes...

"You said you were going to close Gitmo, still feel that way?"

wait a minute...[...]...

"Are you going to send more troops to Afghanistan?"

on second thought

"Well?"

maybe

maybe...no...

I'll...

yet

[I see a pattern]

Freeman Hunt said...

Heh. Allen makes me think that perhaps Obama cannot act decisively because that painting hanging around in his workspace is influencing him.

The Maybe art is hypnotizing the President into maybe-hood!

Joe said...

Two part possibility:

1. Obama has absolutely no taste in art whatsoever.

2. The museum palmed off their crap on him.