Now that Bush has left office, is political art becoming more accessible? It seemed that way at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s opening party on Sunday — the first since the departure of founding director Alanna Heiss. The newly MoMA-run Queens space came out punching, with a raft of shows including retrospectives of artist Jonathan Horowitz and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger.
Horowitz’s solo debut was a quick succession of searing political indictments of everything from Reagan’s handling of the AIDS crisis to the policies of the last administration. One holographic piece morphed from a slogan for Operation Iraqi Freedom into a gruesome image of a blown-apart face; a souvenir photo of the Pope was torn in half, while another of Bush was elegantly hung upside down; a photo collage paired Katie Couric’s upper half with Britney Spears’s infamously exposed vagina. Horowitz believes his show is part of a larger trend: “In the past ten years or so the art world has become a lot more conservative and politically disengaged and I think that’s unfortunate,” he said. “I think people are just more engaged and excited about the political process now.”
Meanwhile, Kenneth Anger — uncannily tanned and unwrinkled for an octogenarian — said he had just finished shooting a new movie as part of a series of films the Chinese government funded on the subject of dreams. “It’s called Death Dream,” he said. “I filmed it in the Museum of Death, which is a collection that exists in Hollywood run by a friend of mine, and he let me photograph various objects like decorated Tibetan skulls.” As for the long-anticipated third installment of his famously salacious Hollywood Babylon trilogy — a tell-all dossier of actress suicides and celebrity STDs — Anger says it may finally be published in Germany, thanks to the country’s forgiving libel laws. “You can’t write about Tom Cruise and Scientology and everything, because they’ll come after you, they sue everybody,” he sighed. “I don’t want to be sued, it’s just a bore.”