Cox apparently understood the reaction and asked if he could submit something else.

"I think people need to understand that I have so much to consider when putting this show together," Slack told New Times just before the show. "Including the 1,000 people who are going to be here."

Cox spoke about his paintings in a long e-mail exchange with New Times on the night of Chaos Theory. He says he didn't see Slack's decision as anything personal but as something influenced by current culture and the opinions of the art community.

Eric Cox replaced the controversial piece he originally submitted with Welcome to Arizona.
Courtesy of Eric Cox
Eric Cox replaced the controversial piece he originally submitted with Welcome to Arizona.
Suzanne Falk's in heaven, everything is fine was refused for this year's Chaos Theory 13.
Courtesy of Suzanne Falk
Suzanne Falk's in heaven, everything is fine was refused for this year's Chaos Theory 13.

Location Info

Map

Legend City Studios

521 W. Van Buren St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

See also:
Art review by Kathleen Vanesian: Chaos Theory 13 -- The Good, the Bad, and the Meh

A slideshow of the Chaos Theory event.

"I consider Randy a friend and I am not offended by how he handled curating Chaos Theory," he writes. "Having my painting sent back is not a reflection of Randy's personal beliefs but rather a direct reflection of the Phoenix art culture. The Chaos Theory show, along with other galleries, have their specific agendas, whether it be to have a grand party, make a statement, or to sell art. With that being said, my agenda is to continue to create, promote, and advance my art career, but it is also to express myself. I am an artist, and I intend to create a question with my work."

Cox says he created the piece in response to being censored by another gallery in Phoenix. "I will no longer candy-coat my subject, my process, or my intentions," he writes.

But for Chaos, he provided another piece. The large portrait, titled Welcome to Arizona, featured a dazed-looking Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a sombrero. It drew large groups of Chaos Theory attendees, who laughed, discussed, and stepped up to the painting for closer looks.

Cox and Falk say they saw the decision as an act of censorship, a practice in the art world that dates back to the beginning of art and continues in the contemporary art world. Notable and controversial examples include:

• The Corcoran Gallery of Art's refusing to show Robert Mapplethorpe's 1989 traveling photography exhibition of nude males because of the obscene, homoerotic, and sadomasochistic nature of the pieces, according to the curators,

• The continuing reactions, vandalism, and refusals to show photographer Andres Serrano's work, which often include coats of bodily fluids on religious and cultural subject matter,

• And the governmental shutdown of Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who was put in jail and had his studio destroyed by the Chinese government.

Slack's actions obviously were not as dramatic, but Falk and Cox were upset nonetheless.

"When I get turned down for a show — which I was invited to — because there is a vagina present in my nude female portrait, it reflects poorly on the scene," Cox writes. "Thus, it begs the question: What's so offensive about a vagina?"

Falk agrees. "Randy says there are going to be children at the show," she said Thursday night. "And that's fine with me. But I don't paint for children. So we hit a stalemate, and we were both pretty stymied by the situation. I left really upset . . . I guess he can do what he wants. It was just very surprising."

Falk posted on her Facebook page: "my painting for chaos theory was refused — i need time to choose my words for exactly what i want to say." She blocked Randy Slack from commenting or seeing the discussion, and in 24 hours, more than 175 comments from the art community poured in.

Accusations of homophobia and hypocrisy were common, but the main discussion turned to censorship. Slack says it definitely is not censorship.

"I've never censored anyone," he says. "I'm not a homophobe. I'm not a misogynist. I'm just an artist who happens to have an art show, and I've had to make some really difficult decisions. If Suzanne wants to push the boundaries and test her limits because of what Kathleen says, I'm not preventing her from doing so — she can paint sex acts all day. But I don't have to show them."

Vanesian insists Slack's decision was curatorial — not an act of censorship.

"If a circle jerk is artfully done, then it's a piece of art," she says. "But the intention appears to be not to be creating a piece of art, but making a statement in regard to an art review Ms. Falk was not happy with during the last show. I'm a great believer in the First Amendment, but Randy is the curator, and if Randy feels that a piece is inappropriate for whatever reason — it could be a shitty piece, if it doesn't fit in to the concept — then he has every right to decide who is in and who is out. No one has a constitutional right to be in Chaos Theory."

This was not the first — or even the second — time Vanesian became the center of attention as a result of Chaos Theory. After the first Chaos Theory show in 2000, her review was so poorly received someone anonymously mailed her a Bratz doll.

Slack says he understands Falk's situation because he's been there himself as an artist. "I've painted boobs, I've made edgy paintings, and for years, I didn't understand why I couldn't get into a gallery. So eventually, I opened my own. And [Falk] can do the same if she wants."

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17 comments
fingerpainters
fingerpainters

you amateur artfags must realize that nobody outside of downtown phoenix has ever heard of you and wouldn't pay you any attention even if they had. you people should get jobs. making embarrassingly bad "art" in a cultureless city is not a job or even a worthy activity.

4letterword
4letterword

So ... let's test this non-chaos theory! Have ANY gallery owners stepped forward and offered to place this piece in an uncensored (no age restriction on admittance) gallery setting? If so MAYBE there is room to whine ... if not please shut up!

dain.gore
dain.gore

"Chaos Theory 13--Now with Less Chaos!"

carol344
carol344

It seems that all of this could have been abated if Randy had made it clear from the beginning that controversial work is subject to editing. Better yet, create an adults only section so artists can create work regardless of content. This way you can bring the kiddies and not worry. But, then we wouldn't have anything to talk about here which is all part of the fun of art/media/politics.

LetMeSeeTheColts
LetMeSeeTheColts

The reality is anyone CAN curate a show if they know what they’re doing but the first rule (especially for those not trained in the profession) is to live by the rules, the constraints, and the concept of the show. That’s the whole point of organizing a body of work in the first place, whether it’s for a solo or a group show. The mistake that was made here is that the Chaos Theory show is an invite to selected artists with work unseen until just before show time. Slack has the right to show or NOT show anything he wants, but not if the self-imposed constraints and concept of the show is that the work is unseen until the last minute. That’s curating. It’s just not fair to the artists and in this year’s example, it’s not fair to Cox and Falk. In a traditional gallery setting, Slack would have seen the work weeks beforehand and in a blue chip gallery or art institution setting, Cox and Falk may well have had contracts and could have sued for breach thereof. That’s not the situation here; it’s an artist run show in a studio space that operates as a gallery for one night a year, so all protection for the artist ceases to exist, which also then makes Slack open to valid criticism from his peers. I see both sides of the story here and I think Slack made a bad decision, but it’s easy to see why it happened and I sympathize with Slack, but only because I think he might not have thought of this and that his hand had been forced somewhat with what the show has now become and he made a rushed decision. The art of curating and dealing with the public is hard work and is often not best left to the artists themselves past a certain point. But if the show has grown and is now ‘all-ages’ or else has new rules against certain types of work, then Slack needs to spell this out in the future beforehand and the invited artists must also take this into consideration. Good lessons all around here for everyone.

 

Anonymous
Anonymous

This goes back to the pieces about whether anyone can curate a show. Randy Slack's choices here are curatorial decisions--not censorship. His gallery, his rules. The artists described in this story can still show their work anywhere else. Their art still exists. They can approach other galleries. They could get their own gallery and show them there. They could get a table and sell at garage sales. And we're able to view them on the pages of New Times (which would not have happened if they hadn't complained.)

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

So, Slack doesn't want to put porn on the walls for a show that he knows will have children in attendance.  And it seems that Slack was pretty even-handed about. (He rejected pieces depicting both  the male and female form so you can't accuse him of being homophobic in his selection; he rejected pieces by both female and male "artists" so you can't call him misogynic).  Seems like a stand-up decision to me.  I went to the show and brought my 10 year old so I very much appreciate Slack's curatorial decisions. While I know he has and will continue to receive criticism from some artists, I want to compliment his decision and compliment the show he hosted.

 

I don't know any of the artists personally, but it continues to sound like a lot of pouting by an artist who thinks her work is the cat's meow (pun intended) and can't stand a little criticism.  Your piece wasn't appropriate for this setting.  Get over yourself.  And don't be such a baby that you'r going to un-friend the gallery owner - are you still in middle school or what?

 

Oh, and I didn't realize that Pete Petrisko was supposed to be a protest piece.  It seemed poorly conceived and very sophmoric when I first saw it at the show.  Now that I know what it was supposed to represent, in retrospect it now strikes me as something you might see on a high school campus from a student who's upset that the administration won't publish his "edgy" article in the student newspaper - it now seems just that whiny.

dain.gore
dain.gore

 @carol344 I like all of these points. Problem is (as you alluded to), none of this would get your show on the cover of New Times!

LetMeSeeTheColts
LetMeSeeTheColts

'His space, his rules' begins to not hold as much weight if the rules have become flexible and subject to interpretation. The art world is just as much of a business as anything else. You cannot selectively apply one criteria (ownership of space) and not the other (running this type of art show).  

dain.gore
dain.gore

 @Anonymous and they were invited to show, and encouraged to push boundaries (read the press release).

wayne146
wayne146

 @LegitQuestions If you only knew how many "Suzy had a hissy fit" stories that are out there in the scene- this raises no eyebrows among those who know her penchant for staging drama. She's shot herself so many times in the feet in regards to her career, its amazing she isnt walking on her kneecaps.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@carol344 it has a certain "all-ages, yet-edgy" ring to it :)

anonymous
anonymous

 @LetMeSeeTheColts Good ideas here and I agree with much of what you say. Certainly the gallery owner can communicate differently if she or he wants to have a heavy hand in the section process. Regardless of the communication issues, the owner still can select the work and reject it.  It might seem unreasonable but businesses are not rarely about logic and moral obligation. The relationship between gallery owner and artist is not an equal one, though. It's heavily weighted in favor of the owner. (Just like in other businesses where the owner/boss has the power and the employee little.) Seems unfair doesn't it. I suppose the artists can join cooperative galleries where the artists assume the responsibilities of a gallery owner--that's an interesting solution. I like your comment about lessons to be learned. Plenty here on both sides.

anonymous
anonymous

 @dain.gore  @Anonymous Guess they pushed the curator's boundaries a little too much, huh! LOL.  Provocative content maybe just part of the decisions here. Perhaps the curator just didn't care for the work? His gallery, his rules. He gets to decide. Not me. Not you. Not anyone who shows up with art. He has no obligation to take any of it.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@anonymous @Anonymous agreed, but there's a serious problem if being okay with accepting art "sight unseen" up to hours before opening is an accepted format, and now we see the result.

 
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