Power, Corruption and Lies
23 June - 23 July 2004
Roth Horowitz, 160A East 70th St, New York, NY - USA
The unsurprisingly acrid mood of this bracing show of politically oriented art, past and present, is established at first sight (or step) with a carpet by the Conceptual painter Rudolf Stingel. Wall-to-wall and black as coal, with pinprick highlights that gleam like diamonds, it lies in wait, a combination of high punk, some freshly mined natural material in which you should possibly buy options, and a toxic field of rarefied industrial waste. The carpet gives the mostly black-and-white works by more than 30 artists a noticeable sparkle that proceeds to show its teeth. (Another carpet by Mr. Stingel is at Grand Central Terminal through July 29.)
Through shared critical will and graphic starkness, these artists' efforts coalesce into an enormous poison-pen collage with all kinds of intended targets: the Japanese imperial family, Richard M. Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, war and the dangers of excessive testosterone in general. Sarah Lucas fashions a penis out of cast-aluminum beer cans, bringing to mind both Jasper Johns and Cady Noland. Ms. Noland, in turn, is represented here by works that evoke the violent sagas of Patty Hearst and Lee Harvey Oswald, while Banks Violette offers an inverted American flag in black and white, signaling S O S but also suggesting prison bars.
Occasional episodes of color come from Jonah Freeman's irrationally Piranesian views of corporate architecture at night and Andy Warhol's 1972 ''Vote McGovern'' poster, a bilious mint-green portrait of Nixon. Also on view is a swarming, little-known ink drawing by Philip Guston that relates to his fantastically creepy 1975 painting of Nixon and his phlebitis-swollen leg.
Christopher Wool is represented by a study for one of his most memorable paintings, which uses some of the best-known words from the film ''Apocalypse Now'': ''Sell the House Sell the Car Sell the Kids'' (a written message from a rogue American soldier in Vietnam to his wife). Douglas Gordon sends a mixed message with large letters on a wall pleading ''Do Something'' until, continuing around the corner, you catch the imperative's conclusion: ''Evil.'' This last word is seconded by a work by Ed Ruscha. Richard Phillips's recent portrait of President Bush, based on a work painted in the months before 9/11, looks malignantly clueless.
Aleksandra Mir creates two blatantly fake Faberge eggs, evoking an empire in decline at the turn of the previous century, while on a brighter note, Garry Winogrand contributes a photograph of Elliot L. Richardson, who as Nixon's attorney general resigned rather than fire Archibald Cox, the special Watergate prosecutor. Adam Smith, Nate Lowman, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jeremy Deller, Richard Hamilton and Chris Burden add to the bristle of this show, assembled by the artist Adam McEwen and the writer Neville Wakefield, which will unfortunately close before the Republican Convention.