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Racial Stereotypes As Art (Or Not?)

Booted from edgy gallery.

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Is Jeffrey Deitch, the outrage-courting art dealer who named the “Sensation” exhibit that so upset Rudy Giuliani in 1999, more easily offended these days? Or has an artist named Wes Lang just learned that being shocking is the best way to get noticed? A show called “Mail Order Monsters” opened at Deitch’s gallery September 6, with two pieces by Lang. Both featured century-old African-American stereotypes, and the next day Deitch pulled them. Lang says the dealer told him he found them superficially incendiary and that certain of his black friends had complained to him. “Jeffrey didn’t think it was appropriate for our gallery,” says the show’s curator, Kathy Grayson, adding that Deitch made the decision so late only because he’d been out of town (in Athens, it turns out) until the day of the opening and hadn’t had a chance to see the work up close. Did Grayson agree with Deitch’s opinion of the works? “I don’t really want to make a comment on them,” she says. “I spoke to Wes privately.” Lang complains that Deitch “didn’t give me the courtesy to explain why I felt the necessity to make these.”

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