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Yazmany Arboleda Headshot

The Art Offends

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In the past several weeks I have been called a racist, a sexist, and a media whore. I have been criticized, critiqued and questioned (not the least of which involved the NYPD and the United States Secret Service). I have been labeled one of the three assholes of the apocalypse and a commentator on this blog referred to my work as a hoax and cheap stunt and to me personally as a crackpot.

My name is Yazmany Arboleda and I am an artist. Most recently, my two installations, "The Assassination of Barack Obama" and "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton" made headlines when law officials detained me over the use of the word "assassination" in my exhibit. The reactions that followed have sparked numerous dialogues about politics, art and the law. My goal was to create a mirror through which we might perceive the way traditional and online media continues to preach racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia. I created The Assassinations to better understand how American society communicates and how visual codes appeal to cultural stereotypes, prejudices, desires, and fears. The result has been a maelstrom of dialogue more passionate and pervasive than I ever anticipated.

The artwork consists of the utterly familiar and the eerily vulgar. Though the pieces in the exhibits are framed like traditional fine art, the veneer of convention stops there. By vulgar, I refer to several examples of art from the shows: a 32' black penis ("Once you go Barack...") and a Hillary Clinton campaign poster that reads, "The Antidote to Niggeritis." Truth is acquired and (re)presented from fragments of information that have been printed by the press in the past year. The false is embodied by what is intentionally exaggerated from what has been re-appropriated. The tension lies in the way we perceive the balance.

We see three campaigns running parallel this past spring. All three fashioned after the philosophies of those who came before us. Hillary reassembled the team behind the "bridge to the twenty-first century." Barack replicated Dr. King's rhetoric. And I reconstructed art based on the brilliant thinking of my dear friend Richard Prince.

The Assassinations sting. The art offends. It may even hurt. But the messages I present in the work are not my own. They...

Censored, I was, on Wednesday, June 4th. The NYPD had a private discussion with the landlord of the building where I held my exhibit, and he in turn had a discussion with me.

The only way forward was for me to remove that nasty 'a' word from the title of my exhibits in the window, otherwise the exhibition would be canceled entirely. I decided to remove it and hang the rest of the show. This is perhaps the clearest example of how allegiances, both private and public, work together to preserve only the packaging of this country's First Amendment. At this juncture, I am still not certain if moving forward with an incomplete installation was the right choice.

At the end of that Wednesday, one impression left a bigger mark than the rest. I became keenly aware that, regardless of their title, no one who had inquired about my 'art' had cared enough to see it for themselves. One by one, they had swallowed the story told to them second and third hand, and one by one, they had taken the details they needed for their particular line of business.

Credibility is a hollow myth. All of us involved, including me, had been trapped within a perfectly engineered veneer. My critics, my censors, left me, surely looking for the next façade, unknowingly going from veneer to veneer.

If it was attention I wanted I would have climbed the side of the New York Times building. Instead I chose to take on some of those veneers by inspiring a dialogue, which when it stems from art, is the most effective means of questioning the truths we have come to take for granted.