Reviewed: Melissa Ichiuji at Galerie Lareuse
Political caricature is usually the purview of cartoonists. Melissa Ichiuji's recent work, however, dips a toe into the pool—though her pieces are more closely related to Honoré Daumier than say, Bill Day or his contemporaries. Of course, there is one principle distinction: Ichiuji's portrait busts are made from, among other things, ladies' undergarments.
"Fair Game," the series on exhibit at Galerie Lareuse, is a clever pun bridging hunting with the issues and sound bytes politicians use to criticize of their opponents. Appropriately, the portrait busts are mounted as hunting trophies.
Mitt Romney's head is pulled open to reveal a trove of crap stuffed in his brain: a horn, the sieve from a French press. Most terrifyingly, Barack Obama's rendering is shown with a gunshot wound similar to Dallas '63, with several white doves taking nest. That's almost certainly a comment on the presidential assassination plots that have been foiled over the last few years, as well as a criticism of the president's Nobel Peace Prize. (Note: The image above does not reflect what the piece currently looks like; at the gallery's request, the artwork was modified. More on this later.)
Some of this election's past Republican candidates are featured—Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain. (Sarah Palin, John Edwards, Paul Ryan, and Osama bin Laden make appearances, too.) Borrowing from published news photos, Ichiuji's materials and sculptures strip the nobility and power from their subjects, humanizing some, and humiliating others. Newt has a bunch of panties and bras (how fitting!). Ron Paul, who is often cast aside by his party for his staunch views, has been reduced to a clown. Ann Romney, who claims to remotely identify with middle-class and working mothers, has expensive rings with large stones caught her teeth.
Lampooning the power elite gets easier every day—considering how much fodder they give artists—but doing so in a resonate way is the challenge. Ichiuji pulls it off with likenesses that are brutish, amusing, and visually arresting.
Melissa Ichiuji's "Fair Game" is on view 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through Sept. 29 at Galerie Lareuse, 2820 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
"Barack Obama," 2012, mixed media 26" x 20"
"Mitt Romney," 2012, mixed media 30" x 30"