White House Purple Heart Ivory Tower Red Neck Blue Devils Yellow Submarine Agent Orange Black Power Green Thumb Pink Dollars Dumb Blond Golden Showers Silver Linings
30 October - 20 December 2008
Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Gimmickry and art are rarely a winning combination, but amid the twitter of November’s historic presidential election, Aleksandra Mir proves that timing is everything. In her latest exhibition, White House Purple Heart Ivory Tower Redneck Blue Devils Yellow Submarine Agent Orange Black Power Green Thumb Pink Dollars Dumb Blond Golden Showers Silver Linings, the Polish-born Swedish-national artist appropriates the grandest symbol of American executive power—the White House—and transforms it into a one-note joke with a rotating punch line of cultural clichés. Recalling her previous exhibitions Newsroom 1986–2000 and The World from Above, the works here are rendered solely in black Sharpie on oversize sheets of white paper. This time, the words WHITE HOUSE are inscribed alongside other phrases. The one exception is White House Yellow Submarine, 2008, in which Mir eschews the latter text for Beatles-inspired psychedelic-pop imagery. Mir studied media, communications, and anthropology; each work in the exhibition betrays her background and effectively functions as a linguistic and aesthetic exercise in typography through kitschy cultural signifiers including a rainbow and the folksy stitch of needlepoint, which connote the LGBT agenda and the grassroots environmental movement, respectively. Yet it is Mir’s specificity that keeps her concept from wearing thin. One of the most arresting pieces, White House Silver Linings, 2008, is hidden behind a desk in the back office of the gallery. Layering delicate crosshatching with freewheeling scribbles, the work reminds viewers that despite America’s successes and follies, its titular platitude rings true, perhaps more so in the wake of an unprecedented and ecstasy-inducing Obama victory. Also tucked away in a side room is an impressively jam-packed installation of homemade black-and-white presidential buttons, whose slogans and pithy summations range from bona fide to fictional, grave to ridiculous. As I walked out of the exhibition, a fellow visitor was heartily laughing out loud—a testament if not to the jokes’ content then definitely to Mir’s well-timed delivery.