On Sept 6, Gallery 110 opened a controversial show titled Angry White Men which featured portraits of white supremacists. The artist, David Haughton, is white and based in Vancouver BC. But why did a white man paint white men who hate anything that’s not like them? And some of these white men have killed people of color. Haughton responded to the expected controversy by appealing to our emotions; he is just a painter putting paint on a canvas. From this feeble response, one can only conclude that, at best, he does not know what he is doing or the kind of world he lives in. But if such is the case, there is a point when naivety becomes sinister.
On the night of the opening, a man described to me by Haughton as a “local black DJ,” entered the gallery and confronted the attendees because he found the show incredibly upsetting. Gesturing to the large portrait of Dylan Roof, the DJ questioned the artist's intentions. In response to this and the various confrontations which followed, Gallery 110 posted two commentaries: Statement on Controversy and Questions and Answers. Prior to the release of these statements I had written a review of the show, "White Artist 'Arbitrarily' Paints Portraits of White Nationalists, Some of Whom Have Murdered POC." The described local DJ of color turned out to be Adam Mohr, a 9-year resident of Capitol Hill and regular DJ at Chop Suey for Dance Yourself Clean. Mohr reached out to me and outlined what happened.
So, tell me what happened. How did you hear about the show?
I didn’t hear about it specifically, I am a frequent attendee of the Art Walk in Pioneer Square and I'll dip into any gallery. I went into Gallery 110 and saw a portrait of Dylan Roof and it just made me feel like I was going to be in a fight. I asked the people around me why was it there and everybody just shrugged like it was art and I was like well, but why?
What happened next?
I inquired as to why it was up there and then I went to a couple other galleries and I later went back because I still couldn’t believe it. You know when you see something or something just rubs you the wrong way until you fix it? I had talked to a couple people after I left the show who I ran into and one of them, Aidan Fitzgerald, who runs Cold Cube Press [in the TK artist studios, the same building Gallery 110 is located] was just like: yeah that’s not cool. When you describe something to somebody, or to a lot of people, and they all generally react the same way that you react it validates it for you. I was like man, I need to go back there, this shit can’t be real.
Did you go back that same day?
Yeah, I went back and it was the same deal, I said ‘can somebody tell me again what is the point of this.' There was a guy who basically just called me a sensitive millennial and I lost it and I was like, 'Man, fuck you, like what the fuck—sensitive millennial??? I’m fucking 36 years old I am older than you probably. It’s a portrait of Dylan Roof!' One of the interesting things that I think came out of the article, which you wrote, is that what he said to you is in line with some of the responses he gave via email to others who posted these responses on Facebook. Instead of addressing that he did something wrong, he is addressing it in a way where he becomes the person who was shouted at and I am the person putting him in some sort of danger; he victimized himself.
Haughton told me that you threatened to burn the gallery down, is that true?
I mean, I did tell this guy that the only way that that kind of art should be presented would be if he made a video of it being on fire. And whatever, as if he has never seen a video installation, he knows what I am saying!
Was that the last of your interaction with Haughton?
My first interaction with technology Friday morning was seeing a video of Obama saying, 'Now is it really that hard to say Nazis are bad?" I was like, 'Yeah dog, common… it’s not that hard.' Fuck it, this [the show] cannot be. This softening of hate, it just can't… it was as if Obama needed to tell everybody that [Nazis are bad people] so we could finally have some voice of reason saying, ‘Hey, if you were thinking that they might be ok people; they’re fucking not!’ It’s not that hard to say that Nazis are terrible.
So, you went back to confront Haughton again? Is this because you did not previously get the response you were looking for?
This is what I was always taught: When you are a person of color in America, your parents are like: 'You are going to have to stand up for yourself,' and I think that beyond me just standing up for anybody walking into that I feel that if it ain’t intersectional then it’s nothing. So, it's not just about me, but my Jewish friends, Muslim friends. They would feel the same heat of hatred for that show as I would and that’s where it was like yeah... this can't be. So I was like, I’m going to go down to this damn gallery.
What did you say to him when you saw him there on Friday?
I said why don’t you do the right thing and why don’t you at least take the price tags down off of these damn portraits. You have no system in place that even addresses who would buy this... like, who would want this? And I asked him that over and over. Who the fuck do you think is going to buy this shit? Are you going to put a proud portrait of Dylan Roof on your wall? Where? Why? Why would you ever do that and who are the people who are not allowed in your house when you do that. We live in a country where I can’t even watch HBO without seeing someone’s ass, so why couldn’t he put up one thing to safeguard people from this? Shit, Michael Jackson had to say he wasn’t part of the occult for Thriller so why don’t you have to say: 'Whatever I made doesn’t reflect me.' Is white America now so dense that such rules don’t apply to them socially?
I don’t really yell at people, but I yelled at that guy and I'll go on record with that. With these pictures or portraits it comes down to: Why do we need to see this? We have already seen it. That’s what the internet is for. That’s why all those people are on 4chan sharing all this shit anonymously? It’s because you don’t want to attach yourself to that! But now you have a person who is willing to publicly attach themselves to that? So, when I went back that was my mindset. Tell me what you think you are doing and I am going to tell you why you are wrong.
Did you see the response that the gallery put out on their website? The statement claims that the artist does not sympathize with those he paints and even quotes Obama.
No, I didn’t read it because if they aren’t responding to my email then who are they responding to! My inbox has been empty, so who else is the response to? Look, as far as actions he could take go, I told him that if he took all of these stickers down with the prices, I would literally spend the rest of the day that I have and listen and we could have talked about what this show meant. Motherfucker still said no. All he had to do was take the price stickers down.