February 27, 2013

"The Genius of America" — a 30-foot mural that's been hidden behind a curtain.

Because a figure in the lower right corner was deemed offensive.
But late last year, the department... decided to delicately pull back the curtain — for a single hour, once a month — to allow people to make up their own minds....

Not a single objection was raised, which... might offer proof that “over the last decade and a half our sensibilities... have evolved.”

40 comments:

edutcher said...

The perpetually offended offend me.

(aren't you glad we all voted?)

chickelit said...

This is as ridiculous as Disney still holding back Song Of The South. Except we're talking about a work of art commissioned on the taxpayer dime.

I'm "culturally offended" by Beyonce "Take That Mitches" getting a personal invite to sing at Obama's Inauguration. What are you gonna do about it?

Doc Holliday's Hat said...

Remember kids, it's only conservatives who want to censor things. Now, let's set about getting Huck Finn out of schools.

Piss Christ = acceptable. Giant portrait from the 1870s with an ambiguous presentation of a black man in a corner of it which really looks like he is reaching for the glory of victory and being restrained by a white man...and I cannot fathom how that is offensive...because at best he is being helped up, or aided, at its worse it is implicitly stating that the black man is being restrained by a white man...which is what? True for the 1870s? Representative of the troubles African Americans would face in the new America?

Coketown said...

Where's Cecilia Gimenez when you need her? She'd have this thing fixed and on the front pages in no time.

heyboom said...

"...with new explanatory brochures and placards to put the painting in context."

In context being you'll think of it what we want you to think of it.

Vinden Av Krig said...

Personally, I think the guy is both holding Mr. Loincloth down and helping him up, evidenced by the positioning of his hands, one in a downward power position and the other grasping in a lifting pull. This represents how some whities were for slavery and some were against and how the dichotomy of the two was confusing and kept people off balance. Still does today, apparently.

I'm pretty sure I'm right; real artists don't make happy mistakes.

phx said...

It definitely should be out. A great conversation starter.

Michael E. Lopez said...

When I first looked at it, before I read the text, I was thinking "right" from the picture's point of view, and I was thinking "I guess I could imagine that Christ on the ground was offensive."

I had given the picture a fair look-over, and it never occured to me that it was the OTHER corner that was problematic.

wyo sis said...

Uncover it. And while you're at it uncover all the Christian symbols, written prayers, and Ten Commandment tablets that have been covered or removed.

gadfly said...

The only hope for America is to convert its population to Big L Libertarians. Our PC-crazed politicians have long forgotten what everyone else's First Amendment rights are all about. Exposing the artwork for only an hour is far worse than hiding it. And like all good art, no one should be hassled with an explanation other than the artist's "who and when."

Achilles said...

The Government's ability to screw something up that is hard to screw up is impressive.

edutcher said...

Vinden Av Krig said...

Personally, I think the guy is both holding Mr. Loincloth down and helping him up, evidenced by the positioning of his hands, one in a downward power position and the other grasping in a lifting pull.

FWIW, it looks to me as if he's being pulled up by the white guy.

But, of course, that would be racist, too.

Aridog said...

Let's just call the bearded white guy lifting the black guy a fancied rendition of the abolitionist John Brown representing even the slow civil awakening that finally completed our nation in the form originally envisioned.

Oh, and yes, John Brown was a terrorist by definition....and was hung for it. None-the-less he drew attention.

Hey, my guess is as good as any dim witted New York bureaucrat who probably knows nothing of history pre-dating his/her own birth of intellect in college.

It's New York...Now ask me if I really give a damn? :-))

Rusty said...

I can see why. It must be embarrassing to see that you were once free.

joated said...

"Not a single objection was raised, which... might offer proof that “over the last decade and a half our sensibilities... have evolved.”"

Manufactured outrage needs constant maintenance. In this case, being mostly ignored for a decade and a half allowed the "outrage" to wilt, wither and die. As it should have never been allowed to germinate in the first place, this is a good thing.

Dante said...

How does one know he is a slave? It looks like there is some black Adonis with some crown in the lower left.

Yes, confusing.

Jose_K said...

at its worse it is implicitly stating that the black man is being restrained by a white man. True. It was a critic of America

Eric said...

The Commissioner behind the cover-up was very concerned about diversity.

The mural is spectacular. Its sheer size is breathtaking.

Thank goodness the current Commissioner is sensible and black. Or else the mural would never see the light of day.

Oso Negro said...

Art, reality, and free speech are all offensive to the cosseted Negro of the 21st Century.

Mitchell the Bat said...

You'd have to pay me good money to palm another man's sweaty armpits.

Peter said...

It's no longer that someone was offended, it's about the possibility that someone might be offended.

AKA self-censorship.

madAsHell said...

Where's our post-racist president??

Put a picture of Obama in there, and the curtains will part!!

m stone said...

M. Bat: You'd have to pay me good money to palm another man's sweaty armpits.

Interesting point and I agree. The uniformed had to love the black man to do it.

Regardless, if revisionists want to whitewash images of slavery, will not the victories of the black man be diminished in the process and for posterity. Pointing out the reality of slavery then (if the image is interpreted that way), since overcome, only demonstrates the achievement of justice.

MadisonMan said...

If it's good art, everyone will see something different.

DADvocate said...

How ironic that a painting named "The Genius of America" would be the target of the stupidity of America.

kimsch said...

I looked it up at NYSM/NYSED where it says that that corner depicts the liberation of the slaves.

There's also a super high res gigapan image there that can be zoomed in on...

Astro said...

That's not the way you'd hold a person to restrain him. It looks like the white man is trying to lift the black man to his feet. Entirely appropriate.

EMD said...

But late last year, the department... decided to delicately pull back the curtain — for a single hour, once a month — to allow people to make up their own minds....

So is the curtain gone for good?

virgil xenophon said...

The world is being run by crazy people..

lemondog said...

Style not to my taste.

Kara Walker art is pretty stark.

sean said...

As the article makes clear, what really offends the chattering classes is that the mural presents a mostly positive view of America. It would be rare to find a professional educator who wouldn't find that offensive.

Aridog said...

madAsHell said...

Put a picture of Obama in there, and the curtains will part!!

By George, I believe you've got it! Replace Minerva's image with that of Obama, in robes with a spear, and trumpets will sound!

It might also help if your replaced the image of "Republic" holding a triangle/protractor, next to Minerva, with a wise Latina holding a burrito.

My question then, would be: why do we have to reference, an *measure*, *color* and anthropological *race* in everything we do? Is there no unifying principle...as suggested by the *atom* distribution thread?

PS: @ Kimsch...great link to that gigapan image. Thanks :)

Sam L. said...

Appears to me there's a black man's head just above the white guy's head.
What's that all about?

Sam L. said...

It is a given these days that someone, somewhere, will claim to be offended. That, in itself, offends ME.

David said...

I count 13 black people in that painting, not including George Washington who is also has a dusky rendering. What was that all about?

It's clearly a painting of black persons being freed, not restrained.

So in the name of not offending, they covered up a rather glorious piece of abolitionist propaganda?

How amazingly stupid.

chickelit said...

Appears to me there's a black man's head just above the white guy's head.
What's that all about?


The "black man" in the loin cloth is really a Native American and the black man behind the white man was complicit? That's embarrassing.

sydney said...

The link that kimsch posted explaining the symbolism, also says that the cherubs are playing with representations of the abundance of "commerce, medicine, literature, and art." And the two goddesses in the center:

Republic, the classical, white-robed figure in the center may have been adapted from Marianne—the French symbol of reason, liberty, and ideals of a republic. Republic holds a triangle—a symbol for order, balance, and moderation. Next to her is Minerva, a Roman goddess of wisdom, poetry, medicine, and commerce. The artist indicated that these two figures together represent the American government.

Oh, America! We have tossed aside medicine, commerce and wisdom to the side. Maybe poetry, too.

ken in sc said...

When thousands of Confederates emigrated to Brazil in the late 1860s, many of their former slaves voluntarily went with them. Why did they do that? Because human beings have human connections.


Southern whites and southern blacks have more connections than Northern whites have with blacks. Any black who has ever lived in the North can tell you that. Northerners love black people but they don't like any of them. My black professor told me that.

Lyle said...

David,

The painting isn't abolitionist. It was painted in the 1870s according to the article.

It gladdens me that some people are becoming less sensitive. They are thinking.

From Inwood said...

And they laughed at John Ashcroft & his covering up.

It always amazes me that the same legal-beagle talking head can come on the Telly on Monday & say that the 1st Amendment must be read literally & then come on Tuesday & say that "Hate" speech may be censored (& BTW, come on Wednesday & say that the 2nd Amendment must be read to restrict arms to the militia.)