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Eric Fischl wants artists involved in shaping American identity

May 31, 2009 | 12:30 pm


New York painter Eric Fischl was in Bel-Air on Saturday, fundraising for "America Now+Here," a planned exhibition of art, music, theater and poetry meant to involve a wide variety of artists and participatory audiences across the country in the always-evolving vision of American identity. The show, whose multimedia shape is still a work in progress, will be mounted in four specially designed semi-trailer trucks that can set up in parking lots, fairgrounds and public squares in cities and towns large and small.

Citing the "national nervous breakdown" that followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 nearly eight years ago, Fischl told a sizable group of potential funders at the home of actor and art patrons Leonard and Susan Bay Nimoy that the United States had yet to incorporate artists in the conversation about fundamental priorities and issues of 21st century American experience. Among the 140 artists involved in the project are sculptor Bruce Nauman, who is representing the U.S. in the 2009 Venice Biennale, photographer Catherine Opie and painter Mark Bradford; playwrights Edward Albee and Jon Robin Baitz; musicians Rosanne Cash and Melissa Etheridge; and poets Suheir Hammad, Luis Rodriguez and California poet laureate Carol Muske-Dukes.

The effectiveness of such a tour, limited as it will be, is of course debatable. Still, there is little doubt that it will at least represent a radical departure from the fear-based representations of America now-and-here that have dominated so much political discourse, pop culture and press punditry since 9/11.

"America Now+Here" will be presented by Artrain, an established nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that has toured 18 different exhibitions in the cars of a modified railroad train since 1971. Fischl's project, estimated to cost $4.9 million for a 21-month tour, will be the first to be fitted for 18-wheel trailer trucks. A spring 2010 launch is anticipated for the National Mall in Washington.


--Christopher Knight

Credits: Artrain Inc.