|[L] Artist David Pulphus [R] Rep Lacy Clay|
This piece has stirred controversy as the adolescent's artwork depicts cops as pigs brutalizing blacks. It should be noted that a prominently depicted agitator is also depicted with lupine features giving the "Black Power" salute. Pulphus's piece also inserts a black man in graduation garb being crucified by the scales of justice.
Charitably this can be considered an allegory to the unrest unleashed in Ferguson, Missouri, the birth place of Black Lives Matter. But it seems more like an épater les bourgeois to defame cops as animals. It is ironic that the one business featured in the painting is a beauty shop, which was one of the businesses that black owned businesses in Ferguson that BLM rioters burned.
But Joe Patterson with spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Association noted: "[W]e are not about censorship, but good art and good taste are sometimes not the same thing.” Patterson characterized Pulphus's Untitled #1 as a "punch in the face" to law enforcement and commented: “This is an extraordinarily disrespectful piece at a minimum." There have been calls from Police Associations around the nation to take down the pig headed anti-cop artwork.
Representative Clay refused to take Pulphus' piece down since it won the contest and that he was not attempt to approve or disapprove of artistic expression, yet the Congressman also called the piece "the most creative work that he has seen in 16 years." Moreover, Rep. Clay claimed that he could not find anything offensive in the painting as: "I find it to be an expression of what one of my constituents is feeling about what he has experienced.”
The work had been exhibited since June 2016 in the tunnel that leads to the Longworth Building on Capitol Hill for several months before the controversy.
Post Scriptus 01/06/2017 15:00 EST: Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA 50th) took down "Untitled #1" on his own accord. Hunter invited his House colleague Clay to put it back up if he wanted.
Update 01/09/2016 19:00 On National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) announced their intention to rehang Pulphus' Anti-Cop acrylic artwork. The CBC stated:
“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American."
Update 01/17/2017 The Architect for the Capitol has determined that Pulphus' anti-cop art violates contest rules about depicting controversial political subjects and will be taken down for good by January 18, 2017.
UPDATE 04/18/2017 DC Federal Court Judge John Bates denied issuing a preliminary injunction to restore display of the painting while the litigation continues. Rep. Rep. Clay and artist Pulphus plan on appealing the ruling.