Mental Floss

What's New on the White House Walls

Ransom Riggs
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Hopefully, what you put on your walls (besides paint) should do more than just match the couch -- it should make a statement about who you are. For years, the paintings that adorn the walls of the White House have remained more or less the same: American landscapes and portraits of Dead White Guys being the norm. But now, president Obama is shaking up more than just economic and health care policy -- he's also changing what's on the walls. The Obamas are still on the hunt for all the art they want to hang -- the call is out for works by female, African-American and Asian-American artists, and galleries and private collectors are eagerly opening up their catalogs -- but a few pieces have already been chosen. Here's what new on the walls of the White House.

Ed Ruscha's "I Think I'll ..." (1983)
This bold, abstract work from Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha (roo-SHAY) comes from a painter known for using unconventional materials in his work, from gunpowder and vegetable juices to blood. It might just fit the personality of an unconventional president -- one who's known for bouts of contemplation.

"Watusi (Hard Edge)," 1963
Another abstract painting, this one from African-American artist Alma Thomas.

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"Berkeley, No. 52," by Richard Diebenkorn
A 20th-century abstract expressionist, Diebenkorn had his studio in the Santa Monica neighborhood where I now live, and named his most famous series of paintings -- abstract interpretations of the view out his studio window -- after it. Here's Obama's painting (not my neighborhood):

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