Two major ad companies are refusing to display artist-designed billboards for a Georgia ballot campaign.
Organized by the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way (PFAW), the Georgia Art Project aimed to display artist-created imagery on digital billboards in the Atlanta metro area in the run-up to the US election. midterm in Georgia on November 8.
However, the national companies that own the billboards, Outfront Media and Lamar Advertising, rejected the designs of two participating artists: Deborah Kass and Cleon Peterson.
Against a black background, Kass’ design includes blurry portraits of Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch, the five Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in June. In large red letters in front of them is the caption “YOU KILL ME”. The word “VOTE” is written in blue below.
“The Supreme Court, along with the Republican Party, enshrines violence against women and girls in law,” said Kass, an outspoken artist-activist who has been involved in numerous politically oriented public art projects. , at Artnet News.
“They institutionalize male supremacy since men have no responsibility or accountability for their role in impregnating women and children. The conservative members of the court should all be arrested for assault, battery, murder and violation of the civil rights of all women in defiance of the Bill of Rights’ promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Freedom”, added the artist, “is only for white men”.
Peterson, meanwhile, contributed two images to PFAW’s Georgia Art Project. One shows a row of headless men in white suits gazing at the skirts of women thrown down and chained. The scene is accompanied by the statement “MAGA REPUBLICANS Want to Control YOUR BODY”. The other work depicts a horde of white-hooded men reaching for an automatic rifle. His own caption reads: “MAGA REPUBLICANS want white supremacists to have guns”.
“The personal and political chaos in our world is the direct result of violence against human beings in the name of power,” Peterson said of his designs in a statement. “The art on these billboards depicts the brutality and terror of these struggles and I hope this is enough to inspire the people of Georgia to take action in this midterm election.”
PFAW Executive Director Svante Myrick explained to Hyperallergic that Outfront Media called Kass and Peterson’s designs “incendiary,” while Lamar Advertising said its legal team rejected the artwork.
“We were really shocked and disappointed,” Myrick said. “These are high quality works of art by truly accomplished artists, but they are also not graphic or obscene. They are not as obscene as what the Republicans intend to do if they take office.
“If you’re offended by this piece of art,” the director continued, “wait and see what laws Republicans pass.”
Now, in response to corporate pushbacks, PFAW plans to feature Kass and Peterson’s works on traveling trucks sent to Atlanta. The project’s other creations, designed by artists Victoria Cassinova, Shepard Fairey, Carrie Mae Weems and Alyson Shotz, will remain displayed on Outfront and Lamar’s billboards.
Representatives for the two advertising companies did not immediately respond to Artnet’s request for comment.
With nearly every legislative post in the ballet, Georgia’s upcoming midterm elections will have a profound impact on the state’s political landscape. One Senate seat and 14 House seats are up for grabs in Georgia, as are the roles of governor, secretary of state and attorney general.
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