Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Head Ache

Top: Enrique Chagoya "The Head Ache: A print after George Cruikshank" (2010)
Bottom: George Cruikshank "The Head Ache" (1819)

I recently found (this) article in the New York Times about the Metropolitan Museum of Arts then new exhibition, “Infinite Jest: Satire from Leonardo to Levine.” Among the works on display, was the caricature created by Enrique Chagoya entitled, “The Head Ache: A print after George Cruikshank.” Created in 2010, Chagoya’s print reference’s that of George Cruikshank’s 18th century print, replacing the characters head with President Obama’s. By employing satire into the piece, Chagoya exaggerates the recent healthcare headaches and trials that have beleaguered the President. Similar to Cruikshank’s approach, Chagoya keeps the socially critical image of grotesque demons attacking the authoritative figure.

“We have been taught by the artist to see him (the victim of the caricatures) anew, to see him as a ridiculous creature. This is at bottom the true and hidden aim behind the portrait caricaturist’s art... With a few strokes he may unmask the public hero, belittle his pretentions, and make a laughing stock of him. Against this spell even the mightiest is powerless.” - Caricature, E.H.Gombrich and E. Kris.

Here, the caricaturist is exemplified as having power. The power of laughter. It is with this power, that the artist is able to make a statement, in this case, about President Obamas recent healthcare reforms is “regarded by the dogmatic and loved by the public, it enjoyed a freedom denied to great art.” In this case however, it is almost as if the artistic freedom that Cruishank was denied, or oftentimes ridiculed for in the 18th century, now has been embraced, or accepted as an art form. For Chagoya’s piece is appropriated in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps political pieces like the Pamphlet against Louis XIV by R. de Hooghe, are now embraced by the public and encouraged?

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