Vote with your eyeballs

MIA’s “Art of Democracy” brings politics into the gallery

Greg Corradini

Mike Elko’s political art isn’t exactly made for contemplation.

When you find the phrase “resume oligarchy” in his poster work, the blunt instrument of irony is already clubbing your sensibility.

He’s not the only blatantly political Minneapolis artist.

The “Art of Democracy” exhibit now showing at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts brings together muckraking artwork that directs its criticism toward public education, foreign policies and war, among other subject matter.

The artists intend to push some sensitive buttons, so much so that the exhibit warrants a disclaimer at its entrance. Unsurprisingly, the artwork takes shots at the “big bad” Bush administration.

Collages, t-shirts, stick-figure drawings and yard signs comprise most of the artwork.

Elko’s poster “Cautionary Tales” parodies a “National-Enquirer”-type magazine.

A blond woman weeps on the cover of an issue dedicated to “Depressing Confessions,” a tell-all of spoiled relationships that seems to spoof national politics.

“He told me he was compassionate and conservative. But he alienated all my friends and he spent all my money,” the inset reads.

Also on display is the work of local cartoonists such as Andy Singer.

In a single frame from his “No Exit” strip, Singer is able to capture the heart of a clash between Islamic religious culture and U.S. pop-culture.

Two mobs of people are about to come to blows.

One mob, brandishing guitars and boom boxes, holds up iconic portraits of cowboys and bikini-wearing women. The opposing male mob wears traditional Islamic garb and holds up icons of famous Shiite clerical leaders such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein al-Sistani.

A yard sign sitting in the corner of the exhibition room seems to equate voting with prostitution when a scantily dressed female appears next to the words, “Every Vote Counts.”

Democracy can breed many different artistic interpretations. The benefit of “Art of Democracy” is the wide aim it takes at everything political.