This past April I received an invite to attend an art opening at the Transport Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. The show, titled Mark of the Beast, was scheduled for one night only on April 23rd, 2005, at the small gallery space located in the Factory Place art colony. Graphic artist Brandy Flower curated the show, which consisted of recognizable corporate logos that had been reworked to reveal, or unveil, the truth behind the corporate propaganda.
The spoof ads ranged from the GAP (transformed into GAG), to the red white and blue CHEVRON oil company emblem (transformed into SHAME ON). The promotional material advertised the show as running from 7 to 11 in the evening. I wanted to be present at this one night exhibit, but instead decided to stay at home to work on a new series of oil paintings. It wasn’t until May 8th that someone told me the Los Angeles Police Department had raided and closed down the exhibit.
To my knowledge the raid and closure was not covered by local newspaper, television, or radio news outlets (our free press was no doubt too busy reporting on the Michael Jackson trial and couldn’t be bothered with blatant violations of citizen’s First Amendment rights). Only a few bloggers have caught wind of the story and the LA arts community seems to be blissfully unaware, or unconcerned, that the LAPD has now become the city’s premiere agency for art criticism.
Might the police raid have had something to do with the content and objective of the show? Perhaps they read the following from the exhibit’s advance publicity and decided the good citizens of LA needed to be protected from artistic subversion:
“Capitalist Globalization is no longer an evil threat but a dark reality in the 21st century. Multinational companies condition the consuming masses with lies, deception and manipulation in the form of advertising tricks and fetishized logos. These mega-corporations have infiltrated the world’s governments, created legislation in their favor, and become global superpowers.
Today, this misappropriation of authority has dealt us states of international conflict, a plundering of nature and its resources, imbalances in the global economy, and a tangled web of disinformation.
For one night in downtown Los Angeles, we will hold a conscious happening, aimed directly at the issues of consumerism and alternative globalization.
Please come out and support in hopes that together we can find truth amongst the many lies. To further carry our messages to the everyday world, there will be live silk-screening throughout the evening, “arming” guests with protest statements in the form of logo spoofs. Attendees are invited to bring an item of clothing to have silk-screened for free.”
According to the Transport Gallery, towards the end of the night’s festivities at precisely 10:40 pm, the LAPD arrived and closed the event due to the “aggressive and offensive” nature of the show’s content. Witnesses tell of up to four squad cars arriving at the gallery to make sure the venue closed its doors. While this writer was not present at the exhibit, others, including those who run the art space, attest to a calm atmosphere where there were no drugs, guns, or violence of any kind.
Photos of the evening’s festivities showing an appreciative crowd enjoying the artworks were posted to the Transport Gallery’s website and make plain the passive nature of those gathered. Furthermore, no arrests were made, which appears to discount police claims of an “aggressive” incident needing police intervention.
What I’d like to know is, which totalitarian country did I wake up in where police have the power to determine which art galleries and artists have the right to exhibit? Or perhaps I’m still asleep and experiencing another of those reoccurring nightmares where Americans have lost their cherished rights while a spineless, complicit, and silent press helps assure that no one will even know.