What's New on the White House Walls

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Hopefully, what you put on your walls (besides paint) should do more than just match the couch -- it should make a statement about who you are. For years, the paintings that adorn the walls of the White House have remained more or less the same: American landscapes and portraits of Dead White Guys being the norm. But now, president Obama is shaking up more than just economic and health care policy -- he's also changing what's on the walls. The Obamas are still on the hunt for all the art they want to hang -- the call is out for works by female, African-American and Asian-American artists, and galleries and private collectors are eagerly opening up their catalogs -- but a few pieces have already been chosen. Here's what new on the walls of the White House.

Ed Ruscha's "I Think I'll ..." (1983)
This bold, abstract work from Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha (roo-SHAY) comes from a painter known for using unconventional materials in his work, from gunpowder and vegetable juices to blood. It might just fit the personality of an unconventional president -- one who's known for bouts of contemplation.

"Watusi (Hard Edge)," 1963
Another abstract painting, this one from African-American artist Alma Thomas.

From The Independent: "A prominent abstract painter of the 1960s and 1970s and the first African-American woman to have a solo art exhibition at New York's Whitney Museum. Born in Columbus in 1891, racist attitudes and a poor education system for African-Americans at that time hampered her childhood, but she excelled at architectural drawing."
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"Numerals: 0 through 9," by Jasper Johns (1961)
From the Tate Gallery's website: "In the 1950s, Johns began using flags, targets and numbers as the basis of his paintings. These were ordinary familiar things, but also had an iconic, emblematic quality. This work is one of a series that he undertook in the summer of 1960, using the superimposed numbers 0 to 9. Johns let the process of painting the number sequence dictate the structure of the painting. This allowed him to concentrate on the qualities of the paint itself, exploring colour and thickness. The result is a highly abstract structure, but one rooted firmly in the real world."
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"Berkeley, No. 52," by Richard Diebenkorn
A 20th-century abstract expressionist, Diebenkorn had his studio in the Santa Monica neighborhood where I now live, and named his most famous series of paintings -- abstract interpretations of the view out his studio window -- after it. Here's Obama's painting (not my neighborhood):

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And here's one of his "Ocean Park" paintings -- a pretty accurate rendition of my street, I must say.Cityscape_I_360

July 17, 2009 - 3:04am
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