(Images via The Smoking Gun)
This post might surprise you! I've written before about politicos making terrible paintings (here and here), so you may have expected me to do the same with the artworks by George W. Bush revealed this morning by The Smoking Gun.
Truth is, however, that I think they're interesting and even kind of great. The application of paint is unlearned, and the anatomy is awkward, but the compositions are counter-intuitive, and even sophisticated*, and the use of color quite nice, indeed. These paintings remind me quite a bit of work by Neil Jenney and even more of Alex Katz, with perhaps a little bit of Alice Neel thrown in for good measure. I don't make these comparisons in jest.
A little mistrustful of my own judgement, I showed them to several of my coworkers, and all agreed that they were creative and unorthodox... in a good way (one even brought up Alex Katz before I had a chance to). One important curator, who I probably shouldn't identify too obviously here, described them as "imaginative, crude, and revealing!"
The subject matter is compelling: both contain running water, show the subject in a very private, enclosed location, and both address issues of cleansing oneself. Considering Bush's obsession with reinventing his own legacy, I can't help but identify these paintings as excruciatingly personal and meaningful, just what we hope for in self portraits.
So go for it, George Bush; for once in my life, I'm rooting for you.
*I'm particularly impressed with how he handled the upper left-hand corner of the shower painting. The shadow cast by the hinge is wonderfully observed, and the whole area brilliantly balances the figure in the lower right. The strong diagonals counterbalance the vertical of the stream of water and relieve the grid created by the shower tiles (as does the shaving mirror). This is excellent composition!
UPDATE: Pony Pal Greg, who shared his thoughts on the paintings with Gawker, told me, "I'm glad I wasn't completely bonkers in thinking about Neel."