Loadedware: American Gangsta


Above photo by Ken Yanoviak

Loadedware: American Gangsta
12.5 x 10.5 x 23 in.
Stoneware, Glaze, Englobe, Gold and Platinum Lustre

This piece was censored from the 2008 New Faces exhibition at City Hall in Philadelphia. It was juried into the show and installed for about a week and then removed with no explanation. The curators were nice enough though to let me display some tiles instead. I was a senior in collage at the time and my professors encouraged me not to make a fuss about being censored, which they saw as a potentially huge distraction, and to focus on making more work. When I picked up my tiles after the 3 month show I was told that indeed the piece had been censored (it wasn't the first time that it's happened at City Hall) for several reasons. Foremost because the new Mayor, Michael Nutter, was hot to drop Philly's number one spot on the gun homicide chart, and he didn't want City Hall to exhibit an image of a black man holding a gun. Which leads to another reason I was told it was censored: the judges didn't realize I was white. They had assumed that I was black when the piece was juried into the show. The first reason that I was told though upon these revelations was that there was a police dinner/convention thing happening the evening after it was taken out of the display case. Interestingly, several people have told me they thought the gold hand the gangster is shaking behind his back was the police, though I prefer to think it is "the Man," an interpretation of a former professor.

What I think this teapot means:

The gangsta image/lifestyle, so popularized by the media is now being controlled. I don't think it has always been, like when B.I.G., NWA, Tupac, etc. started it, but the record companies and perhaps government-sponseored organizations now are controlling it. The handle of this teapot is a remote controller plugged into the gangsta's head. The gangsta shakes a gold hand behind his back, making a deal: get rich and play the puppet.
Promote super-materialism. Get them CEO's richer. Don't save your money to rise above your poverty. It is a form population contol.
Conspiracy theory? Maybe, but my gut thinks not, especially when you consider facts like the FBI promoted and participated in violent racism in the South. There's a pattern here.


Alex Irvine said...

What do You think?

Anonymous said...

u are a douche!

Lee Johnson said...

U are a douche! White guys with dreads are bad decision makers and have lame Utopian political views! You are a narcissist and don't even recognize it.

Alex Irvine said...

Thanks Lee, where should I send my autograph?
But seriously, you judge a book by its cover. I am more interested in comments on my work than on the way I look.

Sarah Wang said...

ur artwork is beautiful and i agree with the message! I'm teaching a ceramics lesson on ugly jugs and I'm showing your jugs as an example.

Unknown said...

The Gangsta tea pot is profound. That is why it was censored-- provokes and warrants much thought. It does appear to be that the gangsta lifestyle is sold and marketed to a vulnerable impoverished subculture, where generations have no or little hope of living any other way. I would differ with the remote, though-- I thought it would be a gun-- OK, on further thought, a remote is fitting since referring to the tv and commercialism/materialism.

Roger E said...

Thank you for sharing your art and for not being silent about its censorship. It could have provoked some constructive dialogue at the police event. Also, fact that your race was cited as a reason to censor your piece is sad. You might have hoped Phillie would take freedom of expression more seriously. Using a teapot - a symbol of Victorian gentility - for such a pointed political commentary was also clever.