Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Poster of the Week

Museum Censorship
Artist Unknown
Source: Hyperallergic.com

CSPG’s Poster-of-the-Week protests the recent art censorship in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), in Los Angeles.

CENSORSHIP IN LOS ANGELES—Deeming it potentially offensive, Jeffrey Deitch, MoCA’s new director, last month whitewashed a mural he commissioned by Blu, an internationally renowned Italian street artist. The mural was to be an important part of MoCA’s upcoming street art exhibition, Art in the Street. Blu’s powerful anti-war mural featured coffins draped in dollar bills. Admitting he had received no complaints, Deitch said he destroyed the mural as he thought it would offend veterans. What really offends the veterans we’ve spoken with is the war and the war-profiteering targeted in the mural.

CENSORSHIP IN WASHINGTON D.C.—The National Portrait Gallery’s critically acclaimed Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture is the first major museum exhibition to focus on gay-themed portraiture in American art—from the 19th century to the present—and to show how art reflects society's evolving and changing attitudes towards sexual difference. New York artist David Wojnarowicz made A Fire in My Belly in 1986-87, after being diagnosed with HIV. In the work, he addresses the suffering of an AIDS victim, mortality and his own Catholic upbringing. Wojnarowicz died of complications from AIDS in 1992 at the age of 37.

Over-reacting to complaints by Republican congressional leaders, Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Museum, removed a four minute excerpt of Wojnarowicz’s video which included an 11-second section showing ants crawling over a crucifix. The Catholic League and some conservative U.S. politicians led by House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (OH) and House Majority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (VA), called the work hate speech against Christians and threatened to cut the Smithsonian’s funding if they did not remove the video.

We applaud The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, one of the principal sponsors of Hide/Seek for saying they would not fund future Smithsonian projects unless the video is restored to the exhibition. We also applaud all the museums and websites now showing A Fire in My Belly.

Wayne Clough will speak at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on January 20th at noon as part of Town Hall Los Angeles public issues series.

PLEASE JOIN US for a Funeral Procession for Freedom of Expression!

506 South Grand Avenue (Across from Pershing Square)
Los Angeles, CA 90071


If you can’t be there, please write to your elected representatives to say that censorship of the arts is unacceptable, unpatriotic and un-American.

Art is supposed to be provocative. Art is supposed to educate, agitate and inspire public debate. The debate that results from censoring art focuses more on the act of censorship, than on the art itself. Why was it removed? What was it saying? Whose buttons did it push?

CSPG’s Poster-of-the-Week was based on the Parental Advisory Label invented in 1990 by the Recording Industry Association of America—the label consists of four words: "Parental Advisory/Explicit Content." The label was the result of pressure from The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) a committee formed in 1985 with the goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to be violent or sexually suggestive. The committee was founded by four women, including Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore and Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker. To some, it has become known as the "Tipper sticker" because of Tipper Gore’s visible role in the PMRC.

Some retailers (such as Wal-Mart) refuse to sell albums containing the label, and many others limit the sale of such albums to adults only, although most stores have settled on an age limit of 17 in order to buy an album containing the label.

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