While everyone else has been asking what Jimmy Carter can do for the arts, his staff has been asking what the arts can do for Jimmy Carter, and, as it turns out, they've done a lot.
Way back, before the Democratic Convention, Claes Oldenburg was commissioned by the Democratic National Committee to do a limited-edition lithograph to help raise money to defray convention costs. And during the Voter Registration drive in 1976, Robert Indiana, the man who made LOVE the logo of the '60s was asked to design a poster that said VOTE as convincingly. He said.
And when the DNC needed to raise money during the campaign, Carter aide Tom Beard, who had previously arranged several benefit concerts for the candidate, asked Andy Warhol to make a limited-edition portrait of Jimmy Carter. By issuing 50 copies of the Warhol silkscreen print at $1,000 each, the DNC turned a quick profit of $50,000.That portrait, one of Warhol's best, is now being traded at upwards of $3,000.
After all that success, it is no surprise that when the Inaugural Committee needed $150,000 to pay for cultural events and late museum hours during Inaugural Week. Tom Beard turned once again to prints for profit. This time, however, the plan was for a limited-edition portfolio of five prints each.
Beard commissioned Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Jacob Lawrence and Jamie Wyeth, at $10,000 each, to produce a print based on the Inauguration, to which they were all invited. The 100 resulting portfolios, entitled "Inaugural Impressions," were all sold out in advance, sight unseen, at $2,500 each, raising considerably more than $150,000.
The portfolios were issued recently to subscribers, and they are well pleased, including President Carter, who is throwing a thank-you party for the artists in the White House Rose Garden next Tuesday afternoon. The prints will go on public view that day in the offices of Rep. Frank Thompson (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Administration COmmittee.
Like most portfolios, "Inaugural Impressions" has its high points and its lows. The Warhol, one of the lows is basically a freehand line drawing of the earlier Carter portrait, only this time with a toothy, victorious grin. Considering the power and seriousness of the earlier work, this one comes off looking like someone painted a smile on the Mona Lisa. Warhol was the only one of the five artists who did not attend the Inaugural. As Beard explained it, "Andy had a better deal in Kuwait."
Rauschenberg's touching and spirited photo-montage with his own words written in red, is stirring, with overtones of the South - and the whole nation - rising again. The artist flew famed print publisher Tatyana Grosman to his studio in Captiva, Fla., to supervise the printing on paper which was specially watermarked, "Presidential Inauguration, 1977."
Jacob Lawrence's superb multicolored slikscreen called "The Swearing In" best captures the feeling of that crisp, cold inaugural day, as people perched in trees straining to see the big moment, all set against a cold, bright blue sky.
Lichtenstein's typical enlarged Ben Day dot-style is here used to weave together a rousing tapestry like design incorporating symbols such as the hand raised for swearing in, the rising sun, and the patriotic blue field with white stars. You can almost hear the band playing John Philip Sousa.
Jamie Wyeth, the only artist in the group who has not made prints before, has basically reproduced a page of drawings from his inaugural sketchbook, and set it, troupe I'oell style, against a black background. It is a noncommittal piece which exploits virtually none of the possibilities of the medium.
Meanwhile, back in the West Wing basement, Tom Beard, in transition since the Inaugural, is now about to leave the desk he shares with Chip Carter for a desk of his own at the Democratic National Committee, where he will be in charge of "liaison between fund-raising and the arts." He and a dealer friend have already commissioned and produced another Warhol portrait of Miss Lillian wearing a Jimmy Carter button. Some of the proceeds will go to the DNC.
Beard's next limit-edition project will be to help raise funds for the Equal Rights Amendment committee of the DNC, a cause he has taken to his bosom since being roudly criticized for not including any women artists in his "Inaugural Impressions" portfolio.
"I just wasn't thinking," he says. "Now I know better. I know you won't believe me, but I didn't even know Jacob Lawrence was black."