Nearly 100 years ago, political scientist Edward Corwin presciently called the American presidency an “elective kingship.” You would never suspect that when you look at the forty-four news photos gathered here of our chief executives, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, shot for the Associated Press. Smiles, mugging and gaffes prevail with nary a trace of magisterial dignity and not a clue that life-and-death decisions are close at hand. We see Richard Nixon breaking out in gales of unrestrained laughter as a sly Sammy Davis, Jr. hugs his arm; George W. Bush dolefully holding up an inverted umbrella in front of Air Force One; and Jimmy Carter in rapturous glee as he sprawls on the hood of a limo in a motorcade pressing the flesh of flag-waving throngs—along with dollops more of the same. A paean to celebrity culture and democratic myth-making, this show, which is the last one at the museum before it closes its doors on March 1, teaches us volumes about our take on “democratic values.” (Michael Weinstein)
Through March 1 at the McCormick Freedom Museum, 445 N. Michigan.