Line Up Mug Shot: Dick Cheney
Line Up Mug Shot: Donald Rumsfeld
Controversy has flared up from the sleepy third-floor hallway galleries at the New York Public Library, where a modest exhibition of contemporary prints called Multiple Interpretations is on view. The work that has prompted protests from some library patrons is called Line Up, a series of politically inflammatory prints by the team of Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese. Each black-and-white digital print is a mug shot-style print in which a member of the Bush administration appears in profile and face forward, holding a police identification sign and the date on which he or she made a statement of questionable veracity relating to Iraq.
A video accompanying the prints allows you to hear an actual recording through headphones as you view each speaker’s fake mug shot reproduced on screen. President Bush announces the discovery of Saddam Hussein’s effort to purchase uranium in Africa. Dick Cheney says, “Nobody has produced a single shred of evidence that there’s anything wrong or inappropriate here,” presumably a reference to Halliburton.
It is at first mildly shocking to come upon such bluntly partisan artwork on a New York Public Library wall. Biting political satire is deeply a part of printmaking history, but handmade prints are no longer a significant form of political communication, and many people don’t expect anything so brazenly controversial in the public library context. Seen elsewhere, the prints would not be so provocative. That said, Ligorano/Reese’s piece does pose a challenge to the rest of the exhibition, which looks quite docile by comparison, even taking into consideration that the show is not meant to focus on political work.
Organized by the library’s curator of prints, Roberta Waddell, the display is intended to present the range of contemporary printmaking styles that the library has collected during the last 10 years.
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