by Valerie Valentine
Sound bites and slogans fill the walls at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for The Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion exhibit. The only criterion to local participants was to create politically flavored art—party affiliation didn't matter. The result is a mish-mash of thoughtful art, political cartoons, campaign signs and stickers, collages and unusual concept pieces.
suggests a forum for all citizens' ideas, opinions and votes, but the cacophony
roaring at the MIA is skewed towards the liberal-minded. Still, some works are
non-partisan, encouraging people to get out and vote. Other images eschew dogmatic
preachiness, making vague political commentary. Even more obscure are works
that are so incoherently phrased that it’s hard to determine an objective.
Due to the enormous body of work in this exhibit, those who provide memorable
imagery put forth a major amount of creativity. After the umpteenth rendition
of stars and stripes, one’s eyes begin to glaze over at the stickers,
T-shirts and glossy campaign accoutrements. Only the most unusual images stand
out here. Some of the collages are really good, but the sculptures add even
greater variety. A gift box wrapped in newsprint photographs of dead soldiers
symbolizes one of the undesirable gifts President Bush has bestowed upon more
than a thousand American citizens. A painted sign, alternately flashing "OIL"
and "WAR," offers a simple, six-letter summation of the U.S. war in
Iraq. A stick of sausage labeled “Bush and Cheney 2004” on a post-it
note, looks absurd and causes twittering.
Some of the art is humorous, working its commentary like a political cartoon.
One favorite sound bite was “Kerry Sucks Less.” But not everyone
visiting the gallery thought the stuff was funny. I heard one woman angrily
declare, “I’m out of here,” along with several other disgusted
grunts and groans. A disclaimer at the entrance warns those with delicate sensibilities
that they might be offended. But in this show, Freedom of Speech prevails and
differing viewpoints are literally on display. A computer terminal in the gallery
also invites viewers to participate by leaving commentary of their own.
This exhibit is sure to stimulate emotions during one of the most contentious
political races in recent memory. See the show now, then check back in a few
weeks. The before and after effect of the presidential election provides a fascinating
framework for artistic renderings of American political culture.
The MIA will continue to accept submissions from noon to 2 p.m. every Saturday
through November 20. Artists and activists, this is your chance to participate!
The Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion runs through
Nov. 28. Gallery hours are Mon.–Tue. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thu. 10 a.m.–9
p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Minneapolis
Insitute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-870-3131.