A piece of art inspired by the minor scandal currently unfolding over a Denver municipal building, in the style of the pieces of art that inspired the scandal, might look something like this: a painting of a piece of art hanging on a wall, and the art is just the word “ART” painted in red on a canvas, and a policeman is trying to take the art down, and the artist is trying to stop him.
Law enforcement leaders, from a union boss up to the chief of Denver police, are in a tizzy over an exhibit currently showing at the Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building in Denver. They’ve honed in on one painting in particular, calling it “hate art” and a “horrible stereotype.” The police leaders are being whiny babies, as they so often are, but they’re basically correct on that last point, even if inadvertently so.
Not because of the painting’s subject matter, which is vital—police brutality informed by a legacy of racism that stretches back to the very founding of our nation—but because of the way that subject is depicted. A white cop, wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, points a gun at a young black boy in a hoodie, who has his hands up. There is an American Flag behind them, but there’s a hole in the American flag, and behind the American Flag is a Confederate Battle Flag. Truly, it is a horrible stereotype. There are bad apples in every bunch, sure, but not all political art looks like this!
If the art sounds like it was painted by a teenager, that’s because it was: The show is filled with works by local public school students. The teen in question, it should be noted, lifted the painting’s concept wholesale from Michael D’Antuono, an adult artist whose unbearably heavy-handed work basically looks like a precocious high-schooler’s. (The student said she was inspired by D’Antuono’s work, according to the Denver Post.)
The other paintings in the show are also designed to Make You Think:
We’re talking about a goofy painting by a kid, imitating an equally goofy painting by an adult, hanging on the wall of a sleepy municipal building. This is not Diego Rivera we’re talking about, or even Banksy for that matter. These cops need to take a chill pill.
But they are cops, and chill they will not. Denver Police Chief Robert White said he was “greatly concerned” about the art, and the Denver Police Protective Association president wrote a letter to the mayor asking for its removal.
“After learning of the negative impact of her work, the student has asked that it be taken down,” reads a statement released by the mayor’s office(!) this week. The police got their wish, but not before involving the city government’s highest executive in their quibble over an angsty adolescent’s doodle. How mature of them.