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Gun sculpture silenced in trigger-happy Texas

12 May 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Rakewell’s thousand-yard stare is today directed towards Houston, where student artist Alton DuLaney has found himself in the line of fire over a recent sculpture. The work in question – a framed revolver with the word ‘ART’ printed on a flag protruding from its barrel – has reportedly been censored at an exhibition at the Blaffer Art Museum.

Courtesy Alton DuLaney

According to the Houston Press, the decision to censor DuLaney’s work was taken by officials from the University of Houston, on whose campus the Blaffer is located (it houses the university’s teaching collection). The gun has now been removed from the exhibit, presumably along with the point of the work: namely, as DuLaney says, to highlight the prevalence of guns in Texan culture.

Oddly enough, the silencing of this work coincides with the passing of the State of Texas’s new ‘campus carry’ law, which, as of August, will allow students at public universities across the Lone Star State to carry concealed guns. Among the institutions where the new law will apply is… the University of Houston! Indeed, back in February, when the law was ratified, UH prepared a slideshow warning faculty members to be ‘careful discussing sensitive topics’, ‘Not “go there” if you sense anger’ and, most astonishingly, to ‘drop certain topics from [their] curriculum’. And although UH has attempted to limit the terms of the new law – forbidding firearms in as many buildings and campus spaces as it can – one does rather marvel at the university museum’s decision to interfere with DuLaney’s work. 

As the Press reports, UH’s Office of Central Council has said that even if DuLaney had tried to exhibit his, erm, explosive work after the new measures are implemented, it would still have been suppressed – though it has as yet neglected to explain why. At this point, might Rakewell suggest that the censorious officials reconsider their priorities?

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.