By Jerry Saltz
This week we got our first look at the Obamas' White House art, and it contained a few surprises. The 45 works the First Family chose to display, borrowed from various government institutions, range from simmering meditations on geometry and color by the great and underappreciated Josef Albers to depictions of Native Americans by the ever-mysterious George Catlin to a glowing abstract Zen TV screen by Mark Rothko to otherworldly still lifes by the minor modern master Giorgio Morandi. They topped off the collection with three geeky U.S. Patent models (a paddle wheel, a telegraph and a prototype for a gear cutter), a realist portrait of Harry S. Truman, works by Native American artists (including a fantastic ceramic by Maria Poveka Martinez), Jasper Johns' super-strange low-relief 0 Through 9, and paintings by Sam Francis, Winslow Homer, Richard Diebenkorn, Alma Thomas and Susan Rothenberg, among others.
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