A controversial piece of art in a recently-opened North County exhibit could mean curtains for those who decided to include it.
The painting at the center of this controversy features police in tactical gear behind three pigs.
APAB, across the top of the painting, is the generally accepted abbreviation for “All police are bastards.”
“The first thing I thought was, ‘What does that have to do, thematically, with all the other things we’re talking about,” Mayor Paul McNamara said.
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The painting is among the California Center for the Arts Escondido exhibit called “Street Legacy SOCAL Style Masters.” It opened this weekend.
“I understand you can have controversy and you can have discussions about things, but we need to be civil, and I thought this was incredibly disrespectful,” McNamara said.
NBC 7 reached out to the artist, Richard Wyrgatsch II, otherwise known as OG Slick, but did not hear back before this report.
The co-curator, Dr. G. James Daichendt, is a professor of art history at Point Loma Nazarene University.
In part of a statement issued through a university spokesperson, Dr. Daichendt wrote:
“Censorship of an image or idea that does not correspond with our own personal view is a dangerous practice. In this case, censoring Slick’s artwork demonstrates that one perspective in the community is more important and powerful than another.”
McNamara says Escondido doesn’t have hands on oversight on the art installation - it contracts with a nonprofit organization which hires management to run the Center for the Arts. The mayor says the city provides the building and approximately $3 million in taxpayer dollars for operations. That’s equal to a third of the center’s budget.
The art piece was a last-minute add to the exhibit, according to McNamara, although city leadership was aware of it and warned exhibitors about using it.
“People who knew about it, in leadership positions, had talked to the center and said this is not a good idea,” McNamara said.
The council is committed to taking a closer look at its Art Center agreement and replacing the decision makers there if necessary, the mayor said.
“You certainly make a point that we have to be careful. None of us believe in government censorship, but we do believe in good management and good common sense.”
In part of a statement, CCAE’s Director of Marketing, Jennifer Urbano, told NB C7, “Our Board of Trustees is considering the public’s comments as well as the curators’ and artist’s perspectives; an official statement on CCAE’s position and expected next steps will be released this week.”
For now, the exhibit remains unchanged and behind closed doors. We’ll know Wednesday when the exhibit reopens, whether the police painting stays.
The “Street Legacy” exhibit features almost 100 artists. IT'S A tribute to the rich history of street counter cultures expressed through multiple art forms.