Exhibition Artists and Work
We the People will create a diorama of the American populace using strategically chosen examples of figurative painting, sculpture, and photography. Works from American artists of older generations―including Romare Bearden, George Segal, Margaret Bourke-White, Alice Neel, Duane Hanson, Alex Katz, and Robert Rauschenberg—will be installed in cacophonous dialogue with works by a younger generation of artists—Tina Barney, Fred Wilson, Elizabeth Peyton, Barkley L. Hendricks, Shirin Neshat, Nicole Eisenman, and Danny McDonald. This exhibition includes new works made for the show by artists Nate Lowman, Julio Cesar Morales, Richard Phillips and Swoon.
Each artwork has been chosen to suggest a sociological typology, an electoral demographic, or an actual person that makes up our famous American melting pot. Taking inspiration from the crowded, riotous album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, artworks will be installed in a shoulder-to-shoulder exchange. This hypothetical portrait of America not only provides numerous possible commentaries on the issue of identity, but also questions the very nature of political art itself, as artists and artworks will be included that are not traditionally associated with political discourse.
We the People TV
Politicians and American television networks collect and utilize demographic information in a similar way. Mainstream media and national candidates use their demographic assessments of the American populace as a means to tailor their messages, woo certain groups, and project idealized representations or subjects. In both spheres, viewers and voters are imaginary populations. But even as a demographically engineered construction, these viewer-voters have power if TV ratings and votes are now equal in American identity politics.
The media component of We the People examines this parallel between television audiences and electoral constituencies by exploring the fantasy of watching TV as a form of citizenship. Titled We the People TV, this video program uses the paradigm of the mainstream broadcast television schedule to create an original week of programming. Each day begins with religious programs, then a magazine-style talk show, and continues to follow the conventions of the old-school broadcast television schedule. Since the flow of TV is always interrupted by commercials and other interstitial material, We the People TV includes some iconic examples of these interruptions, and adds into the mix landmark works from video art’s long history of questioning the relationship between media and democracy.
Curated by Alison Gingeras, Jonathan Horowitz and Anna McCarthy, the exhibition will be a conjectural exploration of American identity politics against the backdrop of this year’s political debates
We the People will run from October 3 through November 9 at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Project Space, located at 455 West 19th Street. The Project Space is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free.