A pantheon of politicized porcelin

Let’s just call it what it is-a joke-and be happy that we’re in on it. John Aaron’s “Pantheon of Scoundrels,” a small but strong collection of porcelain demi-dioramas, is now on display at the Zenith Gallery. Few members of the Republican party come away unscathed.

The artist John Aaron depicts various governmental figures who, as he sees it, have turned “God and country” into a capitalist smokescreen for ulterior motives (among them the advancement into the current war), Aaron has christened his muses with the sacred title “Saint.”

“St. CEO # 1: the Explanation” features a business owner with a shapeless mound for a face, and hands folded-save for an erect middle finger. The characterless visage (curiously tinged the color of an elephant’s hide), framed by rolls of dimes is a ham-handed, if not stanch depiction of the faceless corporation who refuses to provide straightforward, trustworthy reasoning for the economical imbalance that has further widened the financial fissure between the CEO and those on lower echelons.

“Don CHILL…” is a grotesque depiction of Donald Rumsfeld, also labeled “Mr. Belligerent.” The secretary of defense is dressed in a genteel blue plaid jacket reminiscent of the southern sophisticate attire for a function catered with chicken croquettes and key-lime pie. A tetrad of mushroom clouds forms a trail behind him, with the final blast bursting from the top of his head. “Hey Saddam, long time, no bomb” is engraved on one of his three arms. Surrounded by missiles and serpents, both whirring and hissing for war, the piece is a cluttered, passionate (there’s even an exploding heart on his lapel) mirror into the monstrous mind as viewed by the artist.

Aaron’s most convincing work is his simplest. Two reflections of George W. Bush are particularly witty without being so insufferably cheeky. Both feature a Bushism made popular on Saturday Night Live: “strategery.” On one, an unglazed clay bowl bears the president’s silhouette-puckered lips and all-mounted on a black square. The other, the most detailed piece aesthetically, is called “The D.C. Quarter: the Madness of King George W.” Replacing the original George W(ashington)’s face with the current one is delectably clever. He even has a five o’clock shadow that brings to mind Richard Nixon. Coinage never looked so invaluable.

Aaron does his darndest to stick it to the dirty rotten scoundrels of politics with his often muddled, but more often pointed creations of clay. At the exhibit’s best, it’s like walking into the mind of the political cartoonist. On the other hand, some things on display suggest the images you might spot while thumbing through Parade magazine. It might not be the intended joke, but it’s funny all the same.

“Pantheon of Scoundrels” is showing at the Zenith Gallery, 413 7th St., through April 30.

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