Two prints I long to see

Last night we went to a lecture at the British Museum that was a taster of a major exhibition of prints that is about to open called The American Dream: Pop to Present. Part of the inspiration for the exhibition comes from Andy Warhol’s idea that every American has two Americas: one they live every day, and one that is a fantasy, a dream compiled of songs, poems, pictures, films, stories, conversations, fragments, aspirations whatever. (It is, I suppose true of every country that there is the lived reality and a dream, and Brits like me, whether or not we have been to the US, will also have a fantasy of the omnipresent America.)

The curator, a desultory lecturer, ran through the 12 divisions of the exhibition, projecting pictures from each and making mostly banal observations. From the mass of prints projected (many of them by Robert Rauschenberg ) there are two I long to see.


One is Andy Warhol’s print Vote McGovern is actually a manipulated print of Richard Nixon taken from the cover of Newsweek. Nixon is made to look devilish with his green face, yellow lips, and orange eyes. The print was made for the Democratic Party and distributed to its supporters.

I’m fascinated by the picture not only because it’s visually compelling but also because it was made in 1972, the first year I went to the US–flying from London to New York for £19. Somewhere I have a McGovern badge. I think too that that was the year after the War of Liberation in Bangladesh when Nixon screwed the Bangladeshis.


The other picture is Willie Cole’s print Storage inspired by the famous picture of the slave ship used constantly by the Abolitionists, who are heroes to me–partly because of their Clapham connection. The print uses an ironing board to represent the ship and imprints of an iron around the ship to illustrate (perhaps) the spirits of the slaves. It emphasises the domesticity, the ordinariness of slavery. It’s the largest print in the exhibition, measuring nine by four-and-a-half feet.

2 thoughts on “Two prints I long to see

  1. Pingback: A print of the American Medical Association (for Tessa) | Richard Smith's non-medical blogs

  2. Pingback: American Dream: the best designed exhibition I’ve ever been to | Richard Smith's non-medical blogs

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