The Art of Shocking Politics

Controversial Paintings of Political Assassinations Come to New York

Crossman Panel Discussion

As the political climate heats up in the countdown to November’s election, an art show is about to hit town that is likely to add fuel to the fire. State of Shock imagines a world in which President Obama has been assassinated, and shows America’s decline into recrimination and violence in the weeks following the shooting. The show opened to an outcry of protests when exhibited in Charleston SC earlier this year.

Huge depictions of revenge attacks against Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter led to conservatives publicly condemning the show’s original installation in Charleston, with the City Paper describing “outrage in the community” and a TV station’s message board flooded with complaints. In response some political websites leapt to the show’s defense, with the influential Daily Kos website saying that State of Shock “needs to be seen by as broad an audience as possible.”

The controversial show is the creation of British artist Fletcher Crossman who was stunned by the level of anger he saw in American politics. “There’s just so much hatred out there right now,” Crossman says. “We’ve got people carrying loaded weapons to Obama events, and political leaders implying that we might settle our differences with guns. It’s like juggling with matches over a pile of gunpowder, so State of Shock imagines the consequences if the unthinkable happened. ”

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Aware of the criticism that the show panders to a voyeuristic desire to see certain personalities receiving a beating, Crossman is quick to point out that the tone is non-partisan. “It’s about anger and hatred,” he says, “not about Conservatives and Liberals. A number of people have said it made them reflect on their own feelings.”

“The interesting thing is that we received praise and criticism from both sides of the political divide,” adds Mike Elder, owner of Eye Level Art. “A lot of people came expecting to be appalled because of what they’d read in the press, but they left saying that the show is actually very thought-provoking.”

State of Shock combines large-scale paintings with media mock-ups of the New York Times, Fox News, and other news outlets in order to tell a story. “It’s all about making it seem real,” Crossman explains. “We wanted people to feel what it would be like to actually read those headlines. Artists should be addressing what’s happening in the real world, and when you see this show you are looking at the same cast of characters that you see on your TV screens every night.”

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Previously the British Council has sponsored exhibits of Crossman’s work at the New York Art Expo, and earlier this year his paintings were shown at the Katzen Art Museum in Washington DC. The artist now lives in New York.

State of Shock will open with a reception on Thursday 30th September at 6pm, which will be free and open to the public. The exhibit is located at 548 W 28th Street in Chelsea, and the will run until Friday 15th 2010.

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