Critics’ Picks

God Is American, 2008, giclée on archival rag paper, 22 x 25".

New Orleans

Dan Tague

Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
400a Julia Street
March 29–April 19

On entering Dan Tague’s new exhibition, one is surrounded by enlarged images of US currency—one-, five-, ten-, and twenty-dollar bills that have been crumpled, folded, and twisted. Their initial allure is quickly undermined by the sobering phrases appearing between the creases: OSAMA WARS, GOD IS AMERICAN, HUNT FOR OIL, SERVE THE STATE, HOME IS A TENT, STATE OF FEAR, TRUST NO ONE. Tague works within the parameters of the currency itself—its reminder of such American values as annuity coeptis, e pluribus unum, and “In God We Trust”—to reveal his own perspective on our governmental system.

The enlargements allow the money to appear more palpable and posterlike, furthering a notion of distorting the truth; Tague manipulates objects that contain manipulative power of their own. The enlargements also intensify the complex surfaces of the bills and enhance their fibrous properties; the images, scanned rather than photographed, possess an unusual visual clarity and depth, despite their flatness.

Tague’s obsessiveness drives home his points; the multitude of mammon reminds the viewer that, as the exhibition title claims, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”: government, quality of life, religious institutions, even contentment as human beings. Since Hurricane Katrina, Tague’s work has focused more directly on political issues. New Orleans is an environment where federal spending, or the lack thereof, could not be felt more deeply. When billions go out for war on foreign soil, it is not hard in this city to share in Tague’s quiet cynicism. These pieces function as lustrous graphic objects while remaining intensely political and socially relevant.