Fair and Balanced? The ‘Roger Ailes Memorial Show’ Sets Artists Loose on the Founder of Fox News
A gaggle of artists give the late Fox News head a satirical sendoff.
Days after the death of onetime Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, whose recent departure as head of the network was precipitated by tornado of sexual-harassment allegations, an op-ed appeared in the New York Times titled “Roger Ailes’s Dream Was My Nightmare.” Written by Monica Lewinsky, the editorial outlines how the scandal-obsessed, tabloid-style news network had essentially been the offspring of her affair with Bill Clinton, which had agitated America’s right wing to such a froth that it spurred record ratings.
Recently, the proprietors of the Lower East Side gallery yours mine & ours distributed Lewinsky’s much-read article to a troupe of 16 artists, asking them to use it as a prompt to create artworks for a summer show in arch tribute to the Fox News paragon, “The Roger Ailes Memorial Show: Fair and Balanced.”
The roster ranges from New York painters like the emerging Samuel Jablon and the veteran Rochelle Feinstein to 40-something Angeleno Amy Bessone, who contributes ceramics and paintings, to, in a nod to the artists’ forebears, a video by the late artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz.
Among the clearest reactions to Ailes’s legacy? Jablon’s small text painting, which simply spells out its title: Fury. By comparison, the other works address the media magnate’s legacy only obliquely, though many do focus on female subjectivity and gender issues in an implicit rebuke to the male-dominant culture of the news network. For example, Ria Brodell’s captivating gouache paintings portray “butch heroes,” showing historical women who lived outside of traditional gender roles and often paid a steep price for doing so; one painting shows Charles Hamilton, aka Mary Hamilton, with lashes on her back from being whipped for impersonating a man.
Additionally, Cindy Hinant’s works lay a grid and a sheet of clear Mylar over tabloid images of female celebrities, at once dissecting and casting a fog over them, giving Ivanka Trump a hazy cast and suggesting a grim look at how women are portrayed in the media.
But perhaps a more lyrical expression of defiance to the kind of reactionary mindset that defined Ailes’s tenure at Fox can be gleaned from David Wojnarowicz’s classic 1986–87 video A Fire in My Belly (Film in Progress). The piece is notorious for a few moments showing ants crawling over a crucifix—a scene that once caused it to be censored from a Smithsonian exhibition—but over its full 13 minutes it daringly broadcasts a range of abject imagery, such as amputee beggars and lips being sewn together.
In its final moments, A Fire in My Belly displays what serves as an emblem for a planet whose cataclysmic warming Fox dubs a fiction: a spinning globe that has burst into flames.
Below, see some images from “The Roger Ailes Memorial Show.”
“The Roger Ailes Memorial Show: Fair and Balanced,” is on view at your mine & ours, New York, July 6–August 4, 2017.
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