The Art of Politics

DAM director Lewis Sharp shows that there's more to the job than knowing what to hang.

As we round the corner, Zalkind swiftly changes gears, and we are immediately in the context of contemporary art. The first pieces are by artists from the former Soviet Union; they were lent to the Singer by the Sloane Gallery in lower downtown. This group includes 1999's "Molotov Cocktail," a mixed-media work on paper by Alexander Kosalapov, in which the flaming incendiary device is held aloft by a beautiful woman set before type that spells out "Molotov."

Hung next to it is a major painting by the famous Komar & Melamid, "The Third World War Ends," an oil on canvas from 1982-1983. The humorous painting apes the bombastic style favored by the political establishment that ran the Soviet Union, and by making fun of it, Komar & Melamid turn it upside down. In the painting, a beefy blond Soviet soldier holds a sword in one hand and cradles a black baby, symbolizing the United States, in the other. The figure and infant are lit against a recessive dark ground, a technique reminiscent of Rembrandt.

Other contemporary political works include an Art Spiegelman print, two signature prints by Philip Guston, and Golub's disturbing "White Squad," a lithograph from 1987. This piece shows a gun pointed at the head of a black man. Golub frequently uses abstractions of scenes of violence by whites against blacks as his subject. On the opposite wall are photos, including a two-headed self-portrait from 1940 by Weegee, and the creepy "Patriotic Young Man With a Flag, NYC" from 1967, by that champion of creepiness, Diane Arbus.

"The Plow," by David Fredenthal, painting.
Balvis Rubess
"The Plow," by David Fredenthal, painting.
"Pieces of Silver," by Hugo Gellert, lithograph.
Mark A. Manger
"Pieces of Silver," by Hugo Gellert, lithograph.


Through June 11


Singer Gallery of the Mizel Arts Center, 350 South Dahlia Street

Next door, Zalkind has placed a group of posters, including famous anti-Nazi ones from the 1940s by Ben Shahn and 1990's "Holy Homophobia," by Robbie Conal. Especially charming is 1969's Picassoid "War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things," by Lorraine Schneider. This anti-Vietnam war poster, done for the Mothers for Peace group, was a dorm-room standard a generation ago.

Aside from bringing together more than half a century's worth of political art, Zalkind's greatest accomplishment with Justice, Justice is that it is didactic and intellectual as well as being visually stimulating and, at times, downright beautiful. It couldn't have been an easy result to achieve.

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