Jonathan Horowitz: Gavin Brown's Enterprise

Article excerpt

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won the presidency. That night, an election returns party was held within Jonathan Horowitz's opportunistically timed and oddly entertaining "Obama '08" exhibition, Horowitz irreverently and wittily appropriates items from American lowbrow and middlebrow culture, converting an already-reified pop vernacular into a pastiche of itself, and reveling in the tragicomic dimensions of postmodern life. His practice is cynical, hopeful, soulful, empty, celebratory, critical, complicit, engaged, fatalistic, satirical, stupid, and thoughtful.

"Obama '08" might be understood as an alternative campaign headquarters, a platform offering an acerbic lampooning of the ridiculousness of popular and advertising cultures, the news media, the art world, and mainstream politics. Two elements of the show were viewable from outside, through the gallery's windows: the title phrase OBAMA '08 inscribed on a wall, and a canvas (The Ugly Republican [violet], 2008) that slyly evokes Richard Prince with this joke: JOHN MCCAIN AT A REPUBLICAN PARTY FUNDRAISER: "WHY IS CHELSEA CLINTON SO UGLY? BECAUSE HER FATHER IS JANET RENO." Inside hung an ink-jet-print pseudo-campaign poster featuring a grid of US presidential portraits and, at the bottom, a photo of Obama and the phrase OBAMA '08. Nearby hung a framed sequence of New York Post front pages combining images of Britney Spears gone wild and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with headlines such as SUICIDAL BRITNEY AND HILL FIRE: SHE LETS LOOSE BLAZING ATTACK ON BARACK. Horowitz produced two other fake campaign posters (together titled Nightmare on Main Street: Election '08, 2008) that riff off the underlying racial fears surrounding the election: The VOTE MCCAIN one features a hip-hop Britney carried like a child by a dreadlocked Snoop Dogg; the VOTE OBAMA one offers up a pregnant Jamie-Lynn Spears in a parking lot. Nearby, a soda vending machine (Coke and/or Pepsi Machine, 2007) offered us the archetypal consumer-culture menu of non-choice as choice, difference as sameness: Pepsi as the blue candidate, Coke as the red candidate, a reference to the corporatization of politics and the politicization of consumption. …


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