Angry White Men, David Haughton
West Gallery, September 6 – 29, 2018
Does the exhibit seek to aggrandize Nazis and/or sociopaths?
No. The images are all culled from photographs on the internet and are all in the public domain. They have all been published in mainstream magazines, newspapers and on-line journals. The paintings may simplify, but they do not distort or beautify the reality that is in the photographs – the dangerous reality that faces our world right now.
The four large “Mugshot” portraits are acknowledged by the artist to be the most problematic of the exhibit: they depict the faces of four individuals, each of whom committed what the artist believes are truly evil acts. The names are intentionally not posted; visitors may ask for further information, should they wish.
Does the artist sympathize with Nazis, alt-right and/or sociopaths?
No. The full title of the exhibition is “Angry White Men: An Exploration of the Face of Evil.”
The series was created to draw attention to online global protest. The artist mourns a global “regression to tribalism, to a loyalty limited to those of similar race, culture and political viewpoint, to a world-view that sees a threat in people of different religions and cultural backgrounds.” He is concerned about hatred between people based on colour, race, ethnicity, religion and country. The artwork seeks to document their hatred at a pivotal time in history.
His mother was in Athens during WWII. During the war, over 500,000 Greeks died of starvation while the Nazis shipped olive oil and food produced in Greece north to feed their troops. The artist’s grandfather put himself and his entire family at incredible risk by secretly gathering hundreds of photographs of starving children and of the scores of bodies stacked on wooden carts that trundled through the streets each morning. The world needed to know, he believed. The Gestapo several times raided the family home. At even greater peril, he successfully smuggled the images out to the Allies.
To quote former President Obama: “We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be?”
But why paint Angry White Men? Why paint the faces of evil men?
This show seeks beyond all else to hold up a mirror for all of us to see a reflection of the world which we have created and which we perpetuate. Some may see themselves reflected directly; others not at all. But this is our reality. Our present. Our peril.
Is it right that the artist “makes a profit” from depicting bad people?
The artist will donate all proceeds from any sales of the four large “Mugshot” portraits to the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, Alabama. https://eji.org/about-eji . Prices for those works are now by request.
The artist would not, for any price, sell the works to any organization or anyone he suspected might use them to justify or glorify hatred, racism or antisemitism. Should a responsible public museum or foundation offer to purchase one or more of the works, he would have no interest in keeping the money. The artist did not expect anyone to purchase these works, at least not while he was alive.
Caving to censorship sets a poor and dangerous precedent for artists now and in future. The artist feels the works have value and he sees no reason to give in to threats of firebombs and shouted demands. There is clearly a chasm between the points of view about this project. However, people making assumptions and threatening ad hominem attacks appear to be deliberately misconstruing the work.