The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York that deals with the secret operations carried out by the governments of the leading Western democracies
«Connect the dots». From the Kennedy assassination to 9/11, through the Years of Lead in Italy, to the moon landing and even the explosion of AIDS in the 80s. Every great news story, especially if tied to politics, has been the subject of conspiracy theories.
Non solo America: gli anni ’70 sono stati disseminati di episodi controversi anche in Europa: dopo il rapimento di Aldo Moro da parte delle Brigate Rosse, l’artista Sarah Charlesworth criticò la copertura che ne fece la stampa internazionale isolando le foto che ritraevano l’ex premier italiano nel covo dei terroristi, isolandole all’interno delle pagine, per il resto lasciate bianche, testata esclusa.
In some cases, they have remained the prerogative of a few “nutcases”, in others they have breached popular culture. Other times… they have proved true. Sometimes, they became art. For the first time, a museum of the calibre of the Metropolitan in New York has dedicated an exhibition to those who have drawn inspiration from these “conspiracies”, often taking them seriously. This is a project on which the curator Doug Eklund has been working since 2010 and which, after a troubled past (could it be otherwise?), has now reached its destination.
In the rooms dedicated to this truly unique exhibition there is just about everything: paintings, newspaper clippings, light installations. It is no coincidence that the chronology of the works begins in 1969 and explodes in the ’70s – the era in which America, shaken by political assassinations, found itself in a state of paranoia. And it is no coincidence that a work from 1969, vaguely psychedelic, was also chosen as the cover of the exhibition: “Government in California” by Peter Saul, an acrylic in which, Ronald Reagan, then governor of the Golden State and Martin Luther King appear in a tentacular manner, not without a reference to the “war on drugs” that would be unleashed in two years in the rest of the United States.
«Everything is connected: art and conspiracy» is the fitting title to this exhibit, where even the killers become pop icons. Here we have Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin (at least according to official investigations) of President Kennedy with Jack Ruby, the thug who later killed Oswald, in two monochrome paintings with a Warholian flavour. There is also a wall dedicated to the propaganda of the Black Panthers, with a series of lithographs made by the “Minister of Culture” of the radical African-American group, Emory Douglas.
There is, of course, the “right wing” conspiracy theorists. An acrylic from 1998, signed by John Miller, depicts a scene of the famous television show “The Wheel of Fortune” – the writing that appears on the board is made up of three letters: “Zog” and stands for “Zion occupational government”, a message in code for those who think that Washington is controlled by agents linked to Israel. The Twin Towers are at the centre of Sue Williams’s paintings, surrounded by colourful phallic figures.
However, the exhibit is not limited to the United States. The 1970s saw controversial episodes in Europe. After the kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades, the artist Sarah Charlesworth criticized the coverage that made the international press by isolating the photos that portrayed the former Italian premier in the terrorist’s hideout, isolating them inside the pages, otherwise left blank, excluding the headlines.
From October 22th to January 6th, The Met will be home to seventy works by thirty different artists. In the words of the curators, «Our goal is to present an alternative history of postwar and contemporary art that is also an archaeology of our troubled times».