Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twilight Sounds

Last November I viewed a traveling exhibition of American Abstract Expressionism that was briefly at the St. Louis Art Museum. I wrote about it here. One of the works I really liked was called Twilight Sounds, painted by African American artist Norman Lewis. I included an image in my post, click through to see it.

Time Magazine art blogger Richard Lacayo also likes that work. He uses an image of it in his recent post Art Goes to the Obama White House. According to Lacayo

... First Families are free to choose whatever works they like for the White House residence and offices, including the Oval Office. As for the public areas, the president and his family can make proposals for what to show there, but those have to be approved by the White House curator and something called the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, which sounds like it was formed to protect the place from Damien Hirst's shark. Works can be lent by museums, galleries or private collectors, or drawn from the 450-piece White House permanent collection. When a president leaves office, the loans are returned.

So those are the rules, and within them you more or less express your tastes, though obviously with an eye to whatever political statements your tastes are making. So choosing a painting for the White House is a bit like picking a justice for the Supreme Court, except that it doesn't have to go through a Senate confirmation hearing.

The Obamas have been choosing works over the last few months and have been choosing many abstract and modern works including works by minority artists.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Obamas are sending ripples through the art world as they put the call out to museums, galleries and private collectors that they’d like to borrow modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists for the White House. In a sharp departure from the 19th-century still lifes, pastorals and portraits that dominate the White House’s public rooms, they are choosing bold, abstract art works.

Lacayo approves of this and even makes a suggestion. It seems that Lacayo saw the same exhibition that I saw and was also struck by Lewis' painting. He recommends that the Obamas look at Lewis' work.

If the Obamas are interested in work by African-Americans and abstractionists, Lewis would be somebody worth a look, if they haven't been tipped to him already. (And I shouldn't have to say this but just so we're clear — I have no connection to — and have never even spoken with — any gallery owner, collector or even any curator who has any connection to Lewis or his work.)

I agree.