AA Bronson’s poignant wall-size color portrait of artist/colleague Felix Partz, a few hours after he died of complications from AIDS,will remain displayed in the exhibition, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” at The American National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, despite Bronson’s recent request for the portrait to be removed as a protest over the censoring of a video segment by David Wojnarowicz titled “A Fire in My Belly,.” The video contains an eleven second segment depicting ants crawling atop a crucifix and has been criticised by the powerful Catholic League, a right-wing conservative religious organization.
Martin Sullivan, director of the Portrait Gallery, and curators David C. Ward and Jonathan Katz carefully considered Bronson’s request. They also considered concerns expressed by supporters of “Hide/Seek” that the theme and impact of the overall exhibition would suffer significantly if the work were removed. Sullivan consulted with the National Gallery of Canada, which owns the work and loaned it to the Portrait Gallery for the exhibition. The show’s scheduled closing is set for 13, Feb. 2011.
“I have great empathy toward AA Bronson and his request,” said Sullivan. “However, we want visitors to the National Portrait Gallery to experience the exhibition without further alteration. Mr. Bronson’s photograph is a brilliant and sobering meditation on the human tragedy of AIDS and the power of portraiture.”
The Portrait Gallery has invited Bronson to make a formal statement of his views, which would be installed next to his work for visitors to see, together with other public comments online
Bronson has been invited to be a speaker at a symposium on “Hide/Seek” at the Portrait Gallery scheduled for Jan. 29, 2011; details of the symposium’s schedule will be announced at a later time. The question remains , Does AA Bronson as the Artist / creator of the work have any control over its continued display in the exhibition? Please comment.