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Greenspon Gallery in New York.

After Backlash, Greenspon Gallery Scraps Show by Alleged Neo-Nazi Boyd Rice

Amy Greenspon, owner of Greenspon gallery in New York City’s West Village, canceled a two-person show scheduled to open tonight after an email announcing the exhibition sparked a public outcry. According to the dealer, a number of friends and colleagues were alarmed that the exhibition was going to feature works by artist and experimental noise musician Boyd Rice, who has a reputation for being a Nazi sympathizer, and is also notorious for collaborating with white supremacists, incorporating fascist imagery into his works, and for advocating for the subjugation of women. It would also have included a series of works by New York–based artist Darja Bajagić.

After several people urged Greenspon to reconsider mounting the gallery’s first show of the season, she decided to pull it. Greenspon told artforum.com that she did not expect such an “intense reaction,” and that the idea to pair the two artists was suggested by a curator. She also noted that the controversy was centered around Rice’s persona and not the works set to be displayed. Greenspon said that the exhibition would have included abstract black-and-white works by Rice and large-scale works on canvas by Bajagić, but did not know how many pieces would be featured in total since the show was abandoned before anything was installed.

In a statement she issued on Wednesday, September 5, she wrote: “In light of this show announcement it has been brought to my attention the incendiary impact of [Rice’s] work. I have learned more about the artist’s work and past, and conclude that I am not comfortable supporting his project at this time . . . Given the issues this show and these artists raise, we will try to use this episode to consider the various meanings and histories of provocation and dissent in art. As contexts, boundaries and political realities continue to transform, so do the codes of what can and cannot be accepted.”

The growing pushback against the exhibition began with a thread of posts on an an artist-resource listserv named Invisible Dole. The email chain came with the subject line: “WARNING: neo-nazi showing in nyc” and included artists and dealers posting links to videos of Rice performing, which YouTube has since pulled and replaced with a message that calls the content “inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”

While Greenspon said that she regrets her “oversight” when planning the exhibition and thanked the local art community, “who raised awareness about this artist,” Rice has been a controversial and polarizing figure for many years. He was famously photographed with American Front leader Bob Heick for the short-lived teen magazine Sassy in 1981 and appeared on White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger’s public access cable show Race and Reason around the same time. More recently, he has made headlines when he became the opener for the group Cold Cave and venues across the country began canceling their shows in 2013.

In an interview with Artnews, Rice denied that he was a neo-Nazi and said, “the people saying these things don’t really know about me, and aren’t familiar with the stuff I’ve done.” Despite allegedly claiming that he is misunderstood, he also called the situation a “win-win” because of all the publicity that he expects to get over the show’s cancelation. 

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