When Art and Politics Meet in Los Angeles

While George W. Bush was accepting the Republican nomination for president at Thursday’s party in Philadelphia, Fidel Castro was getting the nod for the job at a very different kind of party at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the Cuban leader wasn’t available to make an acceptance speech at the "[Un]convention 2000,” a mock election and benefit party hosted by local guerrilla artist Robbie Conal for L.A.'s Center for Political Graphics. The nonprofit organization collects and preserves political protest posters.

Candidates had been nominated by celebs and local luminaries. The founder of the Los Angeles Peace Center, Aris Anagnos, and his wife, Carolyn, placed Castro on the ballot. “I believe Fidel is one of the outstanding statesmen of the world today. He has served his people faithfully and unselfishly and is a model for presidents to imitate,” he said. “And I’m not being funny.”

I was rooting for Warren Beatty’s character Sen. Jay Bulworth, nominated by pundit Arianna Huffington, who wrote in the program: “He is crazy enough to speak the truth.” (She may have loaned her name to the fun, but she didn’t show up.)

Performance artist John Fleck’s sarcastic choice was National Rifle Assn. President and actor Charlton Heston. “His campaign button would have you looking down the barrel of a gun, and it would read: ‘You Do Right or I’ll Do You Wrong,’ ” wrote Fleck.


“This is an important event when you think that it’s posters, art, music and theater that move people to do things,” said Sally Marr, a Los Angeles artist and self-proclaimed political activist who was working the room wearing a Latex mask of the elder George Bush.

At her side was Peter Dudar, an artist in a Bill Clinton mask. The first political poster that made an impression on him, he said, was created by Conal. The ‘80s poster read, “False Profits,” and pictured Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. “It hit me like a sledgehammer between the eyes. I was so pleased and tickled that someone said it so clearly.”

There’s a cyclical nature to the issues political posters address, said Carol Wells, director of the center. “Many issues are the same as they were 30 years ago--women’s rights, for example,” she said. “But our newest poster is about genetically modified foods.” It pictures a purple tomato with a skull-like face in an announcement for an Aug. 12 protest at Fairfax High School.

Posters from the upcoming exhibit, “A Presidential Rogues Gallery: Satirical Posters, 1960-Present” at Frumkin Duvall Gallery, were hung on the walls. Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" and other folk rock songs set the mood as guests soaked in the social messages.


Ballona Wetlands activist William McNally got a kick out of the apple pies as dinner table centerpieces. “They must represent the gross national product, in which case this would be defense,” he said, indicating about two-thirds of the pie. “And this would be the arts,” piped in another guest, pointing to a teeny sliver.

Adolfo Nodal, general manager of the city’s Cultural Affairs Department, accepted the “Culture of Liberation Award” (whatever that is). Nodal says he’s decided to retire. “After 12 years, I’ve had enough,” he said, adding he won’t leave before December. After all, he wouldn’t want to miss the fun at the real convention.


For exhibit information: (310) 453-1850.