An interesting article on Obama's choice of art for the White House living quarters.
The 45 works the First Family chose to display, borrowed from various government institutions, range from simmering meditations on geometry and color by the great and underappreciated Josef Albers to depictions of Native Americans by the ever-mysterious George Catlin to a glowing abstract Zen TV screen by Mark Rothko to otherworldly still lifes by the minor modern master Giorgio Morandi. They topped off the collection with three geeky U.S. Patent models (a paddle wheel, a telegraph and a prototype for a gear cutter), a realist portrait of Harry S. Truman, works by Native American artists (including a fantastic ceramic by Maria Poveka Martinez), Jasper Johns' super-strange low-relief 0 Through 9, and paintings by Sam Francis, Winslow Homer, Richard Diebenkorn, Alma Thomas and Susan Rothenberg, among others.
Critics were quick to put a gloss on the collection's meaning. On the right wing, the more aggressive contemporary work in the collection came in for a predictable beating. The focus was on Ed Ruscha's apparently banal, almost-monochrome conceptualist work made in 1983. "I Think I'll. . . " is an infinitely optical, obtusely cerebral fire-red/Popsicle-orange minimal field, streaked with floating phrases like, "Maybe. . . yes," "Maybe. . . no," and "On second thought." Predictably, a clueless anti-Obama website groused that the painting was "celebrating indecision."
But back to the Ruscha and its purported embrace of indecision. In fact, what it conveys perfectly is not waffling, but thinking. Like so much of the work the Obamas have chosen, it highlights a central difference between two states of mind, the progressive and conservative. "I Think I'll. . ." effortlessly and efficiently transmits a psychic inclination that accepts paradox and allows that the world is not only good or evil. The hallmark, so far, of Obama's administration has not actually been indecision, or Clintonian triangulation. It's been a hanging back, waiting till all the facts come in, and for all the ideas to be floated, and then making a (decisive) move. This painting embodies that inclination, and it's not the only one in the collection that does so.
"I met a law school classmate of Obama’s last week, and heard the long form version of reports on his conduct then: he’d get up and consistently make completely pedestrian, middle of the road comments (his classmate put them on the order of “rain is wet”)."