Hail to the Chief: Images of the American Presidency

Last night Rebecca and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and saw the Hail to the Chief exhibit. Though it is a good free date at a ritzy art museum with lots to look at, the exhibit is compelling in itself, especially during an election year. My favorite piece was a haunting photograph of Dwight D. Eisenhower. An honorable mention (and because its online!) is this photo of Ronald Reagan:

Another item of note was a “Nixon bag” from the Republican convention–a grocery bag with his last name spelled repeatedly in a column of red Helvetica-bold letters. Though not a piece of art per se, it was a cultural artifact from a bygone era that communicated a fascinating combination of enthusiasm and Machiavellian policy. You feel the fervor of a 1960s Republican delegate who was hungry for change as well as the present day cynicism of Nixon’s claim, “I am not a crook” just by looking at its strange design.

For the Lincoln buff in me, I was pleased to see the 16th president’s signature on a preserved executive order calling for the draft of 2,000 New Yorkers to fight in the civil war. I had to wonder what he felt as he signed his name to what was most certainly an unpopular directive.

But if you aren’t into history make sure to see this amazing painting by Chuck Close:


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