poster for "We the People" Exhibition

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Curated by Alison Gingeras and Jonathan Horowitz

We the People TV
Curated by Alison Gingeras, Jonathan Horowitz and Anna McCarthy

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, in collaboration with curators Alison Gingeras, Jonathan Horowitz and Anna McCarthy will mount a show titled We the People, which provides an artistic view of the diverse demographics of our country, in contrast to the taglines and catchphrases of the 2012 election.

Exhibition theme
Using the famous first words of the U.S. Constitution as its title, the exhibition explores issues of identity politics, demographic trends, swing-state gaming, and the influence of special interests against the backdrop of this year's political debates. We the People…but just who are the American people? Can we be pigeonholed into categories such as Starbucks Moms, NPR Republicans, America First Democrats, and the Facebook Generation? Can we be reduced to the 99 percent and the 1 percent, or special interests pitted against regular folks? Are we able to define ourselves as red vs. blue states? Does the issue of income inequality translate into class war?

"This exhibition's theme resonates with Robert Rauschenberg's own artistic and philanthropic legacy—the use of art to explore and expose key issues of our time, the power of media and headlines in our society's understanding of itself, and the pulling together of a community of artists as activists to confront those issues," says Christy MacLear, Executive Director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. "In reviewing our archive we extracted Rauschenberg's testimony from the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination hearings in 1987 where his opening statement included the following thought: 'Democracy is not the product of law; democracy is the need of people to be free in dreams and reality. Controversy is part of creation and changes are essential to current survival nationally and therefore internationally. The doors of control should be broad minded and wise with experience, compassion and understanding. This, without a doubt, must be the history of the future.' Exploring how one characterizes the American fabric is relevant to understanding the voice and representation of the people. This is a part of Rauschenberg's legacy, as much as being an artist he was a man of the people, in all their diversity."

Exhibition artists and works
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, 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
A second component of the exhibition will be a video program patterned after a week-long broadcast television schedule. The program will include TV programs from the '50s to the present -- sitcoms, newscasts, public service announcements, and art videos that engage with the politics of the day. Additionally, campaign commercials from the 2012 presidential campaigns will be interspersed throughout the program.

[Image Left: Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want, 1943. Right: Danny McDonald, Restricted Access to Medical Care (The Mummies), 2008. Images courtesy Danny McDonald and Norman Rockwell Museum Collection. ©1943 SEPS.]


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