I found the 1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibit at SAAM quite moving. The exhibit was put together for the 75th anniversary of the New Deal; it is merely coincidence that paintings commissioned by the United States government to depict American life in a time of dire conditions happen to be on exhibit at this time. It is a good companion to view along with Robert Frank’s Americans at the NGA West Wing — also on view because of an anniversary, not because of its coincidental timeliness.
The art is not great art, and it is stuck in the period in which it was painted, in part because of the nature of the commission. The depictions of America show any resilience and beauty inextricably intertwined with hardship and struggle. In its very datedness, the art on exhibit raises questions about what are society’s priorities today, how we are responding to the crisis of war, environmental devastation, and economic crisis and how we could enhance and celebrate humanity and the planet rather than continue to decimate the earth and ourselves.
According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, approximately 43% of your 2008 taxes will pay for war. President Obama’s proposed budget has a smaller increase than previous years, but does not lower in any way military spending. I’d rather my tax dollars were buying art.