honi soit qui mal y pense
September 15 – October 27, 2007
Opening reception, Saturday September 15th, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
In the show honi soit qui mal y pense, Whitmore explores the medieval hunt and key players in the Bush administration.
In his five “monomania portraits” Whitmore references Gericault’s empathetic portraits of monomaniacs from the 1820’s. Monomania in psychiatry is a type of paranoia, in which the patient has only one idea or type of ideas. George W. Bush’s own portrait is the smallest of the works, strutting through a bright pink background while wearing a white suit, Bush looks outward toward the horizon without concern or trouble. Whitmore’s portrait of Dick Cheney depicts him at the solemn anniversary of Auschwitz, where leaders gathered together to mourn and remember. All in attendance wore suits and ties, while Cheney however, wears a parka with a fur-lined collar.
In the hunt series Whitmore deals with two somewhat opposing forces, nature and culture. Focusing on different stages and perspectives of a hunt, in one painting he references the Salem witch trials while in another depicting a gluttonous vision of dinner. Other paintings include a lamb bound at the feet, a rearing horse with unseen rider, and a mythical hyena.
The title of the show may serve as an initial meeting point for the two themes. Anne Ellegood describes in her essay, “ The motto, ‘shame upon him who speaks evil on it’ suggests a silencing, or a censoring of digression or dissention. Although not expressed in Old French this sentiment is one we have heard repeatedly in recent years as our political leaders insist that to question or disagree with their policies is un-American, an arguably irrational and hysterical position in an ostensible democracy.”
In these works, Whitmore’s handling of the paint continues to be demanding and intriguing. Inviting interpretation while challenging it, he combines abstraction and representation, while collaging from various sources the imagery, style, and subjects. He describes his own canvases as skirmish fields where issues of form challenge content for supremacy.
Essay by Anne Ellegood, Curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
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