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Art Censorship Not Welcome Downtown, Protestors Say

By Lauren Mattia
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, at 02:02PM
Smithsonian Protests Lauren Mattia

Activists gathered outside the Biltmore this afternoon with props referencing recently censored art works.

Activists silently circled the Biltmore on Thursday afternoon, where Smithsonian VP Wayne Clough was participating in a Town Hall Los Angeles speakers series titled "New Perspectives at the Smithsonian."

Clough has been under scrutiny for his December decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video "A Fire in My Belly" from an LGBT-themed exhibit after officials of the Catholic League deemed it "anti-Christian" and threatened to pull funding from the Smithsonian.

A protestor from LA Raw carried a large cardboard crucifix, referencing the "sacriligious" content in Wojnarowicz's video.

Other protestors referenced a more local art censorship. In December, MOCA's director Jeffrey Deitch took similar action when he called for the whitewashing of graffiti artist Blu's anti-war mural at the museums Geffen Contemporary.

Several members of CODEPINK, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice organization, were among those carrying a casket draped with a dollar bill in reference to Blu's mural, which "showed something akin to the cost of war," said CODEPINK's Kristen Schurr. Schurr herself carried a pink banner that stated, "You cannot whitewash the cost of war."

Dietch has said that he felt Blu's mural was was insensitive to a neighborhood that includes a Veterans Affairs hospital and a war memorial to Japanese American soldiers. The decision left many scratching their heads as to why Dietch did not confer with the artist prior to the initiation of the painting, which was part of MOCA's upcoming "Art in the Street" exhibition in April.

"Even though those items have been pulled from public view, we are reminding people that these images are important." stated LA Raw's John Carr.

"We are putting these images right back in people's faces," Carr added. "We are here to show [Clough] that people do care, and that they are concerned about censorship."

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