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Provocative Paintings Rile Neighbors on East Broadway

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Photo credit: Allegra LaViola Gallery.

A new show at the Allegra LaViola Gallery, 179 East Broadway, is not going over very well with some residents on the Lower East Side. The exhibition, “Pornucopia,” went up February 4th. ArtInfo reports this morning: “rumblings of dissatisfaction began with a visit from an irate rabbi during the… opening and have continued for the duration of the show, culminating with three visits from the police in the last two weeks.”

The show includes paintings, video and installations by Alison Blickle, Paul Brainard, and Stephen Irwin. The window display, which includes Brainard’s painting of a naked woman surrounded by pizza slices, has proved particularly controversial. ArtInfo’s Julia Halperin reports:

Before the opening, LaViola posted a sign in front of the gallery alerting parents that the exhibition was not suitable for children. But members of the Orthodox community have been particularly offended by the window display… While LaViola contends that the images are “nothing more explicit than you would see on a magazine stand,” neighbors argue they are too explicit for a gallery located just down the street from a boys’ Yeshiva. LaViola said that although many boys pass the gallery on their way to school, she had never seen anyone stop outside until Wednesday, when two boys ran up, pointed, and banged on the glass windows. The gallery has been fielding phone calls all week from angry neighbors, including the local rabbi, who asked LaViola to put up a curtain to cover the offending paintings. She then began getting visits from the police who were called on obscenity complaints, but they “have been quite supportive,” said LaViola, who added that the officers apologetically explained that they are obligated to respond to any calls they receive. The dealer declined neighbors’ requests to reorganize the exhibition, she said, because she had already intentionally hung the front with tamer works… Now, far from giving into the neighbors’ demands, LaViola has extended the show through March 18. “I have to imagine that this is not the end of it,” she said.

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  1. Art is often provocative – it is meant to offend some sensibilities. I see that as a good thing, but of course those whose sensibilities are offended have the right to speak out against it. Obscenity is a fine line, and for some artists it’s a matter of duty to explore that line. This is nothing new; art has always done this, sometimes overtly, sometimes in a more subtle manner.

    While I respect those with extremely conservative views on provocative works, they are not free to force that view on the rest of us, try as they might. We have many rights in this country, but living in a place free from all things that offend our sensibilities is not one of them.

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