Atlanta Art: “Formula For Hate”

Artist Alvaro Alvillar’s piece, “Formula for Hate” is causing quite an uproar here in town. The piece, part of an exhibit at City Hall East, has come under fire from Atlanta police officers for being “racist” and “hate art.” There was even a forum last week to discuss if the piece should be taken down.

Now, I’m no expert in art, nor am I an artist myself. (I kid not. Funny aside: An art-world-connected friend once helped artists create an art show in my old garage, as part of his ShedSpace program, and the Creative Loafing piece on it actually quoted my art-knowledgeable friend as saying that my husband and I “didn’t really have any connection to the art scene at all.” Ouch – talk about being outed as completely uncool in the local weekly.)

I do know this. I would hate to see any piece of art taken down, or any artist’s voice stifled. Granted, I am not easily offended, and this piece does not offend me. There are plenty of pieces out there that I do find personally offensive, but that i would not expect to be taken off display.

The real question here: Should someone have the right to dictate to others what is acceptable art and what is not? Should it be about only things that are inoffensive? Seems like a pretty boring idea to me. Is it only about making the viewer feel good, or displaying some kind of beauty? Are ugly, offensive, frightening things not art?

It seems to me that the artist is posing a really important, compelling, probing, and yes, very uncomfortable question. My belief is that he should be allowed to ask it. I think if i have a spare hour or two this week, I might even drop by and take a look at it. Hell, I might even ponder the answer to Alvillar’s question.

If Atlanta is really “The City Too Busy to Hate,” why are we getting so worked up over this? Seems like we are a city really preoccupied with hate and its eradication, (as if that is possible.)


Via Creative Loafing

11 Comments so far

  1. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

    The irony to me is that the main people who I hear complaining about the “liberal” media’s conspiracy to reinforce the very sentiment put forth in this work are the ones who act offended now. I’ll never understand.

  2. Annie (unregistered) on April 13th, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

    Rashid – Agreed. I am totally confused as to who is even the offended “group” here? The whole thing is just absurd to me, as I don’t see how the artist is offending anyone. I guess I haven’t read up enough on it, but what exactly is offending people?

  3. True Believer (unregistered) on April 13th, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

    This issue is not about art, or dicating taste. It’s sort of disingeneous to suggest that’s the case. If the painting had been hung in an art gallery, even a public one, of course you would be right. But it’s not. It’s hung up in a public office. Even worse, it’s in the police department.
    The police are the most visible part of our judicial system and have an explicit responsibility to be seen as fair. Hanging a painting specificially designed to create controversy in their lobby shows poor judgement at best.

  4. Greg (unregistered) on April 15th, 2007 @ 12:57 am

    I think True Believer nailed it. If this artwork were displayed in a privately owned gallery, it would provoke no controversy. Displaying it in City Hall, though, is a different matter altogether.

  5. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on April 15th, 2007 @ 10:31 am

    I don’t buy that argument and I’ll tell you why. If the Ten Commandments – a document that evokes a tradition of law that includes murdering disobedient children – can be posted in a courthouse (albeit in limited ways, but this work fits that bill), then I can’t see how the arguments against this work stand up. Is it because the Ten Commandments offends fewer people? Is that how this thing is supposed to work?

    I think that those that have actually chosen to engage the subject in the spirit of reason and intellectually honest debate have gotten a lot out of it. People are always going to whine and as long as they are allowed to make a case then I think the system is working. Either we manage offense properly and fairly, or we just need to turn into a mamby pamby bunch of habitual capitulators with a vanilla culture.

  6. Stephen (unregistered) on April 15th, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

    I don’t care what sort of excrement (sometimes literally) an artist chooses to call “art” if he/she finds a private client to pay for it, or foots the bill alone.

    I care a GREAT DEAL what sort of “art” gets paid for out of the taxpayer’s nickel and exhibited on taxpayer property. In a perfect world, there would be NO tax-supported artwork. In an imperfect world, I’ll settle for tax-supported artwork being bland and inoffensive and “vanilla”. That’s not “censorship”, that’s respect for those who are paying the bills.

    This nonsense at City Hall East should never have seen the light of day.

  7. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

    Well in that case the taxpayers shouldn’t support art at all.

    Art is by nature subjective and therefore ripe for offense. Somebody can make out a swastika or one of the other millions of symbols that offend people on this planet from even the most bland patterns.

  8. james (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

    ‘well in that case the taxpayers shouldn’t support art at all.’


    couldn’t have said it better myself.

  9. ALLison REntz, dictator (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

    Greetings ART lovers,
    You MUST experience ART
    ART is the law!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it is art.
    Money does not exist, only ART!

    I am your leader. Kiss the artists feet. If you are an artist, kiss your feet.

    You exist in the domain of ARTimperialism.

    an army of artists will soon confront you
    embrace them with all your love [of art]

    lovingly yours in ART!!!!!
    ALLison REntz, dictator

    !!!the REvolution isON!!!!

  10. Todd (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    thanks for your insight, Allison.

    I always find that writing like a 13 year old gives credence to any of my viewpoints.


  11. Annie (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

    True Believer – I think maybe you meant disingenuous, and it was not my intent to mislead in any way, so I am not quite following you there. People did not request that all art be taken down, they requested that a particular piece be taken down, and that seems like an attempt at “dictating taste” to me.

    I do think that it is an interesting point that the police dept should not create inflammatory dialogue, and I can see that point.

    Really, as a hated Libertarian, I agree that the taxpayers should not be responsible for supporting artists, but my understanding was that this was a temporary installation, not that the City of Atlanta had purchased the piece, which would be a whole ‘nother rant for me. But I completely disagree with Stephen about us just paying for “vanilla” or “bland” art – If we’re paying for it, I damn well want it to generate some interesting discussion. I can rent a hotel room to look at shitty “art.”

    Allison – can i have some of what you are on?

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