As galleries across New York prepare for the fall season’s launch, Amy Greenspon must now retool her lineup after cancelling a two-person exhibition that would have featured artists Darja Bajagić and Boyd Rice. The owner of Greenspon Gallery told ARTnews that she decided to change course after receiving threats and criticism from colleagues in the art world.
An email announcement sent by Greenspon on Wednesday, the gallerist partially explained why she decided to shutdown the show. “Boyd Rice is known as a noise music pioneer and an accomplished painter. In light of this show announcement it has been brought to my attention the incendiary impact of his work. I have learned more about the artist’s work and past, and conclude that I am not comfortable supporting his project at this time.”
However, Greenspon’s letter omits details of the long list of accusations that have trailed Rice since at least 1989, when the artist posed with a switchblade alongside Bob Heick, the leader of the white supremacist group American Front. Outside of his affiliation with Nazi sympathizers, Rice has also been accused of being a fascist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist, and a racist. He has repeatedly denied such accusations.
Admittedly, though, Rice has done little to evade this perception of his character. In the late 1980s, he also appeared on a white supremacist television program on public access cable, called Race and Reason. Tom Metzger — founder of White Aryan Resistance and a former Ku Klux Klan “grand dragon” in California — was the show’s host. More recently, Rice attracted controversy in 2013 as the opener for a band called Cold Cave. Venues across the East Coast soon cancelled the band’s performances because Rice was drawing significant protest crowds.
Although Greenspon has claimed no knowledge of details from Rice’s past, the above artist-made flyer for the exhibition certainly displays some controversial opinions. Created by an artist who goes by the name Whale Song Partridge on Instagram, the poster attempts provocation by asking what color a field of “rape flowers” would be. The flyer’s creator posted an angry comment alongside it, saying that “the event was sadly cancelled after the gallery owner caved in to pressure from the Brown Goblins in the NYC art world.” Previously, artist Bajagić had posted the flyer on her own Instagram account. Responding to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, Greenspon says that the gallery did not commission the flyer.
The gallery first received pushback by an artist-resource listserv named Invisible Dole, which published an email chain with the subject heading, “WARNING: neo-nazi showing in nyc,” alongside videos of Rice performing. YouTube has since taken down the content, calling it “inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”
Bajagić told ARTnews that she was well-aware of Rice’s history. Saying that her work focuses on “the banality of evil,” Bajagić and Rice apparently offered to host a roundtable discussion with the gallery’s critics. “We told Amy that we were open to having a dialogue yesterday evening, but she was so scared,” she said. (Two years ago, Bajagić had some swastika-related trouble of her own.)
Rice acknowledged his critics in a statement to the publication. “The people saying these things don’t really know about me, and aren’t familiar with the stuff I’ve done,” he said. “I’m not that upset. I’ve been dealing with controversy for four decades. To me, something like this is a win-win situation. If the show happens, it draws a lot more attention to it. If it’s cancelled, I look like I’m too dangerous for New York City.”
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