L.A. gallery to show controversial video art censored by Smithsonian


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A gallery in downtown Los Angeles is planning to show a video by the late artist David Wojnarowicz that is currently at the center of a censorship debate at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

The CB1 Gallery said in an e-mail this week that it will display Wojnarowicz’s ‘A Fire in My Belly’ (1987) during Thursday’s downtown art walk and continuing through the weekend. The gallery, located near the corner of Spring and Fifth streets in downtown’s Gallery Row, is planning to exhibit the full 13-minute video in the entranceway to its West Gallery space so that the artwork will be available for the public to see.


Last week, ‘A Fire in My Belly’ received national attention when the Smithsonian Institution decided to remove the work from the National Portrait Gallery, where it was being shown as part of the exhibition ‘Hide/Seek.’ The Smithsonian’s decision came after criticism from several conservative members of Congress and the Catholic League. They voiced objections to the video’s depiction of an image of Jesus Christ covered in ants.

Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’ is an exhibition devoted to exploring gay identity in art and is set to run through Feb. 13 at the National Portrait Gallery.

Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote this week that the political attacks on Wojnarowicz’s video amount to a form of anti-gay bullying that has been spurred on by groups including the right-wing Cyber News Service, the Family Research Council and other organizations. Recently, the Transformer Gallery in Washington started showing the Wojnarowicz video in its window-front display. The gallery also organized a public demonstration against the Smithsonian’s decision to censor the artwork.

The CB1 Gallery is open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The gallery is open until 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

-- David Ng


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