About 250 people attended the opening, many of them the artists who submitted works. They were eager to learn whose work was selected by the jury for the exhibition, and especially excited to learn who the four prize winners were who would each receive a cash prize and have their work hung in the embassy for the duration of Ambassador Booth’s tour." Image from blog, with caption: Ambassador to Ethoipia [sic] Donald Booth addresses more than 150 artists assembled for the awards and opening of the Four Freedoms exhibition.
Nothing wrong with a celebratory exhibit, of course. But, given the Addis Ababa exhibit's evident failure to underscore the complexity of/problems posed by Rockwell's admittedly minor oeuvre -- well, ok, at least Ethiopian artists, I'm sure scrapped for cash, willingly received money "prizes" for reacting to it -- please consider the following words by Duncan Mitchel:
Norman Rockwell's paintings are not so different in their style from Socialist Realism, or even in the kind of people and situations they depict; they've often been used as Americanist propaganda. The difference between what might be called "bourgeois realism" and Socialist Realism is not the manner, or even always the matter, it's the address of the artist.Images illustrating this point, I hope not incorrectly:
Let me stress this, for what it's worth: US government-sponsored cultural events overseas should be asking important questions such as the following regarding Rockwell, as posed by the curator Tomas Pospiszyl in his article Socialist Evening Realistic Post:
It does not take an experienced connoisseur to notice the uncanny similarity between the widely popular art of Norman Rockwell and certain artworks of Socialist realism. Similarly, some of the official art created in the Soviet Union during Rockwell's most successful years could easily pass as emblematic of the Saturday Evening Post covers depicting that era.I think Norman Rockwell, for all his limitations as an artist, would agree with this approach to his work.
This can be a confusing realization given that these images originated from the two very polarized ideological standpoints of that time. Is this a mere coincidence of style, or are these two forms of expression somehow more deeply bound?