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This past Saturday, a group of about 20 protesters from a coalition of community activist groups, including Solidarity House of the South, Defend Boyle Heights, Los Angeles Tenants Union, B.H.A.A.A.D., and others, gathered outside a gallery opening at Chimento Contemporary in the West Adams neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles.

The exhibition in the gallery’s primary room, View From the Cheap Seats, which features paintings from San Francisco-based artist Richard Hoblock and is curated by Kim Light, continued as planned and commenced with a dinner reception. The second on view, FEED, a group exhibition of emerging artists curated by artist Casey Kaufmann, installed in “The Curated Loo,” the gallery’s auxiliary space in the bathroom, came down after Saturday’s incidents.

At 5pm, the protesting group lawfully assembled on the sidewalk outside the storefront gallery, some wearing bandanas and eye masks, with flyers, signs, and a microphone announcing the boycott. A P.A. system blasted loud, heavy rock. According to Paul Lanctot, who serves as an organizer for Los Angeles Tenants Union in South Central, many guests respected the boycott and didn’t go in, while others were escorted to the doors by two security guards hired by the gallery. “We’re not protesting art, we don’t hate art. Many of the protestors are artists themselves and they’re actually artists from the community,” said Lanctot, over the phone. “If artists want to be serious about supporting low-income folks and people of color then they should join the movement for rent control and housing rights for all.”

This was Chimento Contemporary’s second opening since relocating from Boyle Heights to West Adams this summer and its first active protest. “Most of the people I work with on that street are all local, they’re all women-owned. And I didn’t see any of them at the protest, so I’m confused,” gallerist Eva Chimento told Hyperallergic. “I’ve met every neighbor. I’ve met them all. I understand gentrification. What I don’t understand is how it’s okay to bully people and hurt people.”

Chimento says she is being targeted, especially in online posts made by Defend Boyle Heights and others. “I’ve had empty bullet casings left on my doorstep [of the gallery],” said Chimento. “I’m pretty sure that someone has got it out for me specifically. They posted on Instagram that I will never have a business in Los Angeles without them showing up. Where are the people that I pay taxes to to help me? Where are they?”

Videos posted to Instagram show protesters holding signs which read “STOP PUSHING OUT POC” and “FUCK YOUR ART” while curator Kim Light speaks on the phone. The police were called and arrived on site with four squad cars and a helicopter. Residents who were recently evicted came to share their experience on the microphone, along with their feelings about the gallery’s presence in their neighborhood. Other neighbors from across the street yelled “Fuck Your Art!” in solidarity from their balcony.

As the protest continued, Hana Harada, one of the artists in FEED, removed her artwork from the show as an active show of support for the protesters. “I empathize with people of color who have had to assimilate and internalize elements of whiteness,” said Harada in an email. “I am hesitant to criticize them for it as I believe they are also just trying to survive under white supremacy and capitalism. However, in being complacent, they also perpetuate oppressive systems and that is discouraging. It was very emotional for me to see people of color in conflict with each other.”

In an email to the artists included in FEED, shared with Hyperallergic, curator Casey Kaufmann expressed her support for the protesters and their cause, while expressing her disappointment in the way the gallery handled the incident. Kaufmann explained that during the opening, “Chimento told everyone in the gallery that if they left and talked to the protestors they would not be let back inside.”

I was kicked out for asking the protesters questions,” said FEED artist Cade Danieli who was asked to leave immediately when Chimento had Kaufmann escort Danieli from the gallery space. Chimento later emailed Kaufmann to explain that her artists had “put her gallery in jeopardy.” Chimento later emailed Kaufmann to explain that her artists had “put her gallery in jeopardy” and would be taking down Danieli’s work. In response, Kaufmann and the artists decided to pull the show. “My issue is not with the protesters,” said Kauffmann. “It’s with [Chimento] and how she handled this and the relationship between artists and gallerists and that abuse of power. I’m not going to put up with that.” According to Kauffmann, Chimento has since apologized but the work will still be removed.

“I’ve been in many art spaces that have been protested by Defend Boyle Heights and everything the protesters are talking about is a real and present issue,” said Kauffman, whose roster for FEED included younger queer artists and artists of color. “Representing people of color and showing women in the gallery is not serving the community. It is serving herself, she is bolstering her own identity as a gallery owner. Her thinking that inclusivity is somehow serving a purpose other than a curatorial practice is unfounded.”

*     *     *

In response to this article, Richard Hoblock, the artist whose work is featured in Views from the Cheap Seats, reached out to Hyperallergic to offer his perspective and experience with the protest, reproduced in full below:

It was a gorgeous day, sunny — perfect LA temperature — I had been in LA from cold San Francisco for several days, installing and preparing what would be my first show after three solid years of working. This show was to be beautiful — vibrant colors, succinct gesture, and structured form. These paintings had been my respite from much of the human ugliness of the past few years. Good artist’s work is their life, whether monetarily successful or not, entering into the art zeitgeist or not — it is always their life’s work.

I arrive at the gallery at about 4:30 pm, everything finished and ready to go. The curator, Kimberly Light, looked up at me. We just smiled and hugged each other. Self-satisfied? No, but proud that our unusual union had somehow produced a gorgeous show (we have collectively seen hundreds of shows over many years in the art world, and we were both experiencing a rare moment — the peace of special completion, an unspoken bond of sharing an enlightened place without words.)

And then some people started arriving early, gallery members and supporters, all shapes and sizes, colors, gay and straight — I was deeply touched by this array of support, kindness and love. This was the kind of gallery, albeit extremely modest, in which I was proud to have shown my work, run by a single-mom gallery owner, Eva Chimento, who I met not that long ago. Eva exudes joy, life, and a true generosity of spirit from her soul. In my 64 years on this earth, I’ve found that this is truly a rare and very special person. This would be a wonderful night, indeed.

At 5 pm, I would guess to the moment, a hyper-amplified feedback sound filled the gallery. This was not rock music, nor folksy protest tunes. This was sharp and assaultive feedback sounds, designed to make any living creature cringe. And we all did.  I ran to the gallery door. Amplifiers are inches in front of me. Dirty paper bags stapled on sticks, with makeshift spray-painted scrawling reading “FUCK YOUR ART,” are stabbing, inches from my face. Then the chanting started … ”FUCK YOUR ART! FUCK YOUR ART!”

At first, I grimaced in disbelief — was I punked or something? Was this a bad stunt by some LA friends? Who set this up? I happen to see some eyes behind the masks. The extreme hatred is palpable; this is no prank. I try to speak to the mob … “C’mon guys, what’s this about? Who’s doing this?” NO MESSAGE, NO QUESTIONS, NO UNCOVERED FACES — EVERYONE YELLING AT ME, INCHES FROM MY FACE, IS FULLY COVERED.

The mob circles me on the sidewalk, screaming FUCK YOUR ART!!! FUCK YOUR ART!!! Their profound hatred grows stronger with their voices. My sense of time and balance change in the screaming of these faceless creatures. I think of Hitler’s SS attacking the old and vulnerable in 1930’s Germany. Of people beaten with sticks. I am very familiar with how Nazis treated artists, perhaps that was the trigger — I remember being fag-bashed in 1980’s New York City – a beer bottle strike to the back of my neck … “FUCK YOUR ART, FUCK YOU ART!” The screaming and hatred unwavering, I search their masks. I try a response — “C’mon guys, you have nothing better to do than hate a sixty-three-year-old gay guy who loves beautiful paintings?”

“FUCK YOUR ART! FUCK YOUR ART … OLD QUEEN, OLD QUEEN!! CRY WHITE TEARS!!” I hear someone scream this again through the incessant feedback noise and “FUCK YOUR ART!! FUCK YOUR ART!!”

I back myself into the door and I go in. There is no message. There are no faces to question and respond. This is a base and violent hatred. We need to call 911.

*     *     *

All the noise and hatred ended promptly at 7 pm. 2 hours, like on a time clock, they vanish. And please let me say again, this was no “protest.” I have been to many protests. And I will vehemently defend any human’s right to protest, but this was an impossible sea of vitriol and hatred, masked and faceless, with no demands — surrounding me with hideous screaming, regarding no protest laws, nor shred of human decency. No one there could possibly know what their demands were. As Martin Luther King said, “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” Let us live and grow by that tenet.  To me, this was a message of hatred toward gays and art and women with businesses. What else could it possibly be? Remember, and again to stress this, there were no signs other than “FUCK YOUR ART!” There were no leaflets with no demands nor questions. There were guests of mine, some older women, who were blocked from entering a business place, a gallery. When I was surrounded outside, I knew this mob was filled with hate. This was definitely in the vein of Hitler’s SS and Trump’s extreme far right, but at least those monsters showed their faces. I heard a KTLA reporter eventually showed up at the scene, but soon left as there was nothing concrete on what the protests even wanted.

*     *     *

On the Monday morning following my Saturday evening opening,  I filed an initial FBI report. An unfocused protest about hating art is not FBI territory, but the “old queen cry white tears” crap is. This is a hate crime. And in the honor of people like Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard, I felt it was my duty, at the very least, to report this kind of hatred.

My initial report will move up to agent examination or not. It takes some time, I imagine, and I would imagine they want to check 911 and police reports; I so appreciate the FBI’s careful and thorough work, whatever the outcome, especially in these times.

*     *     *

Richard Hoblock’s From the Cheap Seats is on view through October 27th, 2018 at Chimento Contemporary. The exhibition was curated by Kim Light. 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Eva Chimento pulled down the entire contents of FEED. This is incorrect. Chimento removed the work of the artist Cade Danieli, and, in response, the other artists pulled out from the show. This has been amended. 

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Angella d'Avignon

Angella d'Avignon is a writer in Brooklyn, by way of Los Angeles. She is a CSULB graduate.

28 replies on “Los Angeles Gallery Takes Down One of Two Exhibitions After Anti-Gentrification Protest [UPDATED]”

  1. …looks like the view from the cheap seats ain’t so pretty…lead by the invisible hand down the road of perdition…the class war is real…a collision of market rates: commodified aesthetics and rental property on the edge of where are the people I pay taxes to protect me?…I’m beginning to get that underserved feeling…the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie…Bunuel would have been proud…

  2. Everything about this article, the author, the protestors, and
    gallery response is ridiculous. The sort of language contained in this
    article serves to perpetuate stereotypes and arguments that are ignoring
    a much larger and unchangeable truth. LA is growing at light speed. And
    there is no way too justify this behavior which at times has embraced
    violet means and intimidation to meet their goals. When people put on
    masks and provoke situations as such, civility is lost from the onset
    and the argument that they are victims loses validity. These people
    bullied a woman who had a small gallery in the back of a warehouse,
    supposedly near their homes and put on some art shows, for mostly local
    LA artists. This was her crime. She and a handful of galleries, some
    much larger and richer than her moved out because art galleries
    especially now barely get visitors much less make money. Now the
    protesters feel emboldened to take their parade of anger and socialist
    banter into a new neighborhood they don’t live in.

    The approach by this group of activist is beyond ill footed, its young and
    naive and anti community. No one who actually lives in West Adams has
    organized against art galleries, this is an imported phenomena and they
    are assuming that people of similar ethnic background in west Adams
    automatically agree with them. Its quite the opposite as much of the
    community in that area is actually supportive of the spaces. Most of
    which are small independent spaces simply trying to provide opportunities
    to artists.

    Maybe nobody in the protesters think tanks noticed but every
    area in LA is going through huge rent hikes. And
    most don’t have small art galleries. Technology companies and media
    companies are merging and expanding, San Fransisco is moving to LA. New York is moving
    to LA. Wealthy people from Asia are moving to LA. There are over 1,500 people a
    day moving to LA. LA has passed critical mass and will resemble a city
    more on the scale of Tokyo or Mexico City in 20 years, this is the
    beginning of that population explosion. These protesters haven’t gone
    high enough up the food chain or projected out this very far, and are
    picking on art galleries to make a point. The weakest adversary they
    could pick on, often with budgets barely enough to pay the rent
    themselves. And now outside of Boyle heights, if it wasn’t so pathetic
    it’d be hysterical, how radical, how tough. What a joke.

    If these protesters wanted to protect there neighborhoods they should go
    after the real engines of the economy that are creating the huge growth
    boom. Go assault google or Netflix or snapchat or amazon or one of the many real estate development offices. They have boatloads of employs who make big bucks that are pushing up rents
    everywhere. Did these protestors ever think that maybe partnering with
    galleries who support artists who are some of the most vulnerable members of our
    society and business. Who add beauty and opportunists to people of all
    kinds and actually approach the legislators of out city and state. And
    try to pass laws and mange development. LA often has public development
    meetings. i wonder how many they have attended as participants or
    protesters, I wonder how many city councilmen they have bull horned with obscenity filled rants.

    I also find funny this idea that art cant cost more than a certain amount of money, which the protesters deem as affordable, or its evil. Blood money was a phase used. This is
    just dumb. And art is something that takes time and can’t always be
    cheap. sometimes it is sometimes it inst. Go ask the upholsterers who
    also populate these ares to redo your couch or make you drapes, its
    thousands of dollars, should we protest them? ‘is that blood money they
    are charging? Should artist not get paid for their time?

    Did Soho house move to Boyle heights yet? I cant wait. lets see how they deal
    with real businesses that make millions,, and cranes and construction
    crews building high rises near Boyle heights. They are coming, the
    protests didn’t win by chasing away galleries from Boyle heights, they
    just picked on the weakest members of the community and were proud to do
    it. The joke is on everyone who thinks you can hold on to yesterday by
    kicking, screaming, and threatening. Coalition building is the only
    hope. Maybe if all parties could unite and approach the law makers about
    real solutions instead of bullying small art galleries or fighting each
    other. OR if you want to go hate art galleries, and support socialism, and hide behind a mask while you scream obscenities at strangers trying to see art perhaps this is your crew.

    1. “Love over hate”? “go after the real engines of the economy”? “Go ask the upholsterers”? “picked on the weakest members of the community”?

      “Did Soho house move to Boyle heights yet? I cant wait. lets see how they deal
      with real businesses that make millions,, and cranes and construction
      crews building high rises near Boyle heights.”

      All of the above sounds like what Christopher Columbus would have said to defend the pillage of indigenous peoples and lands…

      ‘We bring better to your worlds! How ungrateful! You wouldn’t become our slaves so we just run right over you, and do as we please because we are better than you. It’s the way things are. Buck up and get with it.’

      Might-makes-right spins out false consciousness mantras 24/7/365 to keep themselves from seeing who they actually are. Irregardless of the processes which they can trot out as defensible, the totality of the capitalist commodity profitism produces only one result. Vast, corrupt and violent inequality for the bottom 90% of society. We’ve seen this repeat too many times. Capital and political power move into and evict and eviscerate paycheck to paycheck bottom 80% folks just trying to live.

      To all of you in the art world and elsewhere that fall victim to the above defensive diatribe… get a clue. The galleries, the museums and the entire art world enterprise can no longer claim cultural colonialism as their missionary quest. Museums want $25+ per visit when 40 years ago they were virtually free. Sparsed-white-walled galleries do not have customers within the bottom 95% of society. Political art is a marginalized novelty paid token notice. 95% of museum art acquisitions remain in basement vaults while these works should be on view in neighborhood galleries… they dare not consider creating because it would devalue the 1%’s entire Wall Street Art Casino. Meanwhile the utra rich swap free trade zone vaults of art commodity like so much gold bullion. People who start galleries have extra to gamble with and leave the enterprise only ego bruised. Not the commoners though, whose labor, housing, taxation and tolerance to oppression makes this 1% financial tinker toy world continue to spin profit for them.

      The world is coming to it’s inevitable transition state, post capitalist exhaustion. Bombastic might-is-right arguments like the above stick out, to any egalitarian (do you prioritize the social needs of humanity over profit?), like president Chump’s orange ass. Scarcity, preciousness and pot’s of gold are obsolete tools of tyrants on a planet over-populated and over-resourced. The 1% are a zombie cult burning every bridge trying to keep the inevitable egalitarian ecotopian movement from messing up their party. It’s over folks… and wishful followers.

      What’s next? Collective egalitarian culture where art and music are freely created and shared among a socialized society eating from local organic farms. No starving. No slaves. No war or conquest except games of play. Million dollar paintings or even thousand dollar paintings are only necessary in 1% dog-eat-dog pyramid schemes like today, defended by climber-players. It’s over folks.

    2. Completely agree with you. It is time to #WalkAway from the left. They are seriously insane and promoting ANTIFA terrorists with masks hiding their faces.

  3. “We’re not protesting art, we don’t hate art,” says a guy who was standing next to a sign saying “Fuck your art.”

    That’s a perfect synopsis of the incoherence of this protest.

  4. What a bunch of low lifes, protesting an art exhibition. Really? This is how you spend your spare time? protesting cultural enhancement? carrying signs that say Fuck Your Art? How disgusting and profane. What is your problem? I feel so bad for the gallery owner. The show looked gorgeous by the way. : )

    1. They are the new brownshirts, which references nazis. They’re frightening. Time to #WalkAway from the left.

      1. So they consider this art ( which by the way looked pretty elegant to me) to be “degenerate”? what a tiny constricted world they live in.

  5. Wished I’d known about it because I would have gone there to support the Gallery and give these crybaby protesters a piece of my mind. OUTRAGEOUS! It’s outright FASCISM. The Gallery owner has the right to price the pieces at a MILLION dollars if she chooses. If the ‘neighborhood’ doesn’t like it, they can LEAVE.

  6. @cademoga-you lose credibility as soon as you say “having a cigarette”. Cigarettes make the world worse, and the thinking process of smokers is automatically suspect

  7. Listening to the offended Liberals hating protest of their privileged empire is so revealing. Talk about wolves in sheep’s clothing…

    1. Sandy, you make great points on your other posts about Dems but, ykw? My family is from Boyle Heights. My mother went to Roosevelt HS. My grandparents lived in Boyle Heights, my ggps lived in Boyle Heights. Cities change. Being violent about this isn’t helping. Take care.

  8. It is time to #WalkAway from the left. It really is. It is past time. This is disgusting, they’re the new brownshirts. The left is nothing but brownshirts.

  9. The left is eating itself. People who only see the world through a progressive Oppressor/Oppressed axis seem to have an inability to be anything other than Victims. Words hurt them, art hurts them, other people’s success hurts them, light skin color hurts them, property and business owners hurt them, other people’s opinions hurt them, life hurts them. Ouch! And for that hurt, all those oppressors, which depending on the situation could be nearly anyone, deserve to be bullied, shouted down, shamed, flamed, verbally and sometimes physically attacked and ruined. You’re either with this mob and their righteous cause, or you’re an oppressor. And if you happen to be born the ultimate default oppressor (white, male, cis-gendered) then you’d better grovel and apologize for just being born, and hope to appease the angry mob by kowtowing to their demands. I say, no thank you to all that. I am neither oppressed or oppressor. I don’t see the world through that bitter, self-defeating, myopic lens and never will. Long live art, freedom, and self-expression for all individuals.

  10. Honestly I think it’s really unethical and high-key disgusting Hyperallergic would call themselves a “radical” publication and then even give this guy a forum to compare black and brown youth to Nazis and call this a hate crime. I’m gay and him pulling the gay card is ridiculous – complete with an MLK quote, like holyyy F, this dude is really serious? This is EXTREME ignorance, and that’s saying a lot in the Trump era.

    I’m white and reading this was triggering. The audacity of white men, a man who sells $20,000 paintings calling the FBI on black and brown youth. And then trying to justify it claiming it wasn’t a protest with any demands. Uh, the demand was that you get the fuck out.

    And please, do so. I also travel between the Bay Area and LA, Hoblock. Thinking these protests need to be taken statewide. Really want to give Anthony Meier a piece of my mind.

    I know you’ll read this because you’re a fucking narcissist, Hoblock, and I hope you know this white, gay af person thinks you’re complete fucking trash. The FBI, you psycho. What the fuck is wrong with you?

    1. Let me ask you this: why do people who are not white get a pass for acting like thugs? You say the protesters demand was “that you get the fuck out.” Get out of where? The gallery? That part of town? Why? For having art in an art gallery? Then you call the artist a “psycho” and “complete fucking trash” for telling his story in calm and measured tone. The world has gone mad. Or, the left has gone made.

      1. “thugs” take your racist rhetoric out of here, as fucking if these responsible young people who do not spend their time being “thugs” but rather, organizing for their community?? more than you do, I’m sure. The nerve of you to call them thugs. They’re politically active young people, and you just outed yourself as a racist.

        1. Brittany, first of all “thugs” is not a racist term no matter how you spin it. Second, the protesters were acting like thugs, hooligans, goons in trying to shut down an art gallery. But I can see it was easier for you to highlight that term for your hominen attack on me instead of answering my question. As a white woman you probably feel like you get cred for calling someone who is critical of protesters, or a cause, a racist. Rage on, sister!

  11. Eva Chimento, what kind of people are you working with??! This white male artist is comparing the protesters to nazis and SS troops? And files an FBI report?! Your gallery business is going down. Bad moves!

    1. No matter the color of the protesters, they acted like fascist thugs on a crusade to purify the world of those they don’t like. It was an apt comparison. You, Barbie, also act like a bully, (“Your gallery business is going down”) with your threatening words. How is this behavior and attitude any different from those of the SS troops who destroyed artists for making “degenerate” art? Read some history. Look in the mirror.

  12. Chimento Contemporary should have moved the gallery a little bit more west on Adams. Adams blvd west of La Brea seems to be more tolerant of art galleries and change. Just saying.

  13. Many of these protestor are outsiders to our community. Home owners that have a stake in the community want coffee shops, art in the community and graffiti free walls. If this protestors are truly worry about the neighborhood, go protest the gangster that murder, trash and bring down our quality of life in our streets. I’m looking forward when these folks protest and intimate gangs in our neighborhoods. Just imagine all these “brave” protestors intimidating gangsters. That might just change our neighborhoods.

    BTW, I have personally seen some of these protestors organize in hip and cool Starbucks throughout Boyle Heights. So brave!

  14. If they really cared about gentrification in West Adams, they would have protested the Band of Voices gallery show literally a mile down Adams ON THE SAME DAY.

    If they really cared about West Adams, they’d have protested the opening of Highly Likely, a high-end, trendy coffee shop not far away on Jefferson. They’d have protested the opening of Alta and Adams Coffee, a trendy restaurant and shop across the street of Band of Voices.

    They conveniently insert “black bodies” alongside “brown bodies” in their protesting message of West Adams, but where were they when Latino Boyle Heights gang members were convicted just months ago for firebombing the homes of black families to get them out of the neighborhood? As Latino citizens of Boyle Heights, their voices would be powerful in speaking out against Latino racism against black citizens. But besides a few token pro-Black Lives Matter posts on their Facebook, they do NOTHING else when it’s happening in their own community.

    But this group does NOT care about gentrification in West Adams. The only reason they were there is because they are clearly targeting this woman, following her after forcing her out of Boyle Heights. While this protest was nicely packaged as a gentrification protest, this was nothing but a personal vendetta against a single women.

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