The intriguing details of Bauermeister’s lens box encourage viewers to look closely and puzzle at it from multiple angles. The arrangement of conical and spherical forms and stones is inhabited by a grotesque population of sketchy, monstrous heads, clusters of inked eyeballs, and caricatures of American political figures from the Vietnam War era, including conservative Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, and President Richard Nixon, who took office in 1969. The work’s title refers to the social reform programs instigated during Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidency that were never fully implemented — a circumstance that critics ascribed to the escalating costs of the Vietnam War. The multilingual patches of “yes” and “no,” mathematical equations, and strings of phrases describing the “germ-free…drugged society” that appear throughout #175 convey Bauermeister’s view that the government’s interest in Vietnam had tainted American society. Together, the text and images suggest that the state distorts reality such that nothing can be taken for granted or at face value.
Written by Katherine Eisen, Class of 2012
Russian Art Intern, Spring 2010