Larry Rivers Painting Taken Down Sparks Dialogue Between The McWhorter Foundation and The Larry Rivers Foundation. ©The McWhorter Foundation and The Larry Rivers Foundation
PALM BEACH - Feb. 08, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a series of ongoing communications through the night of February 7, 2024 until this morning February 8, 2024 that underscore the profound impact of art & symbolisms on community dialogue and understanding, The McWhorter Foundation has engaged in meaningful discussions with The Larry Rivers Foundation regarding the interpretation and intention behind Larry Rivers' artwork, particularly those incorporating complex symbols such as the Confederate flag like “The Last Civil War Veteran”.
The dialogue, initiated by C.K. McWhorter, Chairman of The McWhorter Foundation, by reaching out to WS Development in reference to a tenant gallery exhibiting a large work by Larry Rivers depicting a Confederate flag with little context or positive insight on why, has sought to explore the thematic underpinnings of Rivers' work, with a specific focus on ensuring that art displayed in public spaces promotes inclusivity and reflects a unifying intention. Despite the rich material and extensive legacy of Rivers' art, it has been noted that there has yet to be a definitive statement from The Larry Rivers Foundation clarifying a stance of unity or denouncement of divisive ideologies associated with certain symbols used in the artwork.
This series of exchanges highlights an important legal and cultural consideration, rooted in the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, suggesting that the mention of one thing implies the exclusion of another. In this context, Section 720.304, F.S., which does not extend protections to the Confederate flag in its list of flags meriting protection from a community’s private covenants, becomes particularly relevant. This underscores the necessity for artworks, especially those in public view within communities, to align with values that promote unity and mutual respect.
Access to the conversation has been granted to key stakeholders, including WS Development and Management Company (whom assisted in the choice to have the work removed at last communication), as well as representatives from The Shiny Sheet of the Palm Beach Post, ensuring transparency and community involvement in the dialogue. The gallery within the Royal Poinciana Plaza Shopping Center, where the artwork was previously displayed, has also been involved in these discussions.
In a constructive development, it has been confirmed that the artwork in question has been taken down at last communication from the gallery. The McWhorter Foundation commends this responsive action and plans to follow up to ensure that the artwork remains off display until a clear, publicly stated commitment to unity and inclusivity is articulated by The Larry Rivers Foundation and or said gallery.
The McWhorter Foundation believes that art has the power to heal, unite, and inspire communities. As such, it remains committed to fostering dialogues that uphold these values, particularly in instances where the interpretation of artwork may diverge from intentions of unity and inclusivity.
"We are hopeful that our ongoing discussions with The Larry Rivers Foundation will lead to a resolution that honors the legacy of Larry Rivers in a manner that promotes understanding and unity," said C.K. McWhorter. "Art is a powerful medium for dialogue and change, and we believe it is imperative that it serves to bring our community together, reflecting our shared values and aspirations.”
As previously announced, The McWhorter Foundation played a pivotal role in the recent removal of a controversial painting “The Last Civil War Veteran” from a gallery on Palm Beach Island at Royal Poinciana Plaza. Through constant communication with community leaders and the WS Development Property Management team, showcasing our commitment to fostering an inclusive and respectful community dialogue. This action by the foundation under Mr. C.K. McWhorter’s guidance (after personally taking notice of the painting exhibition while visiting the gallery in question on February 2, 2024 and then again at night February 3, 2024) underscores our dedication to challenging divisive symbols and ideologies, particularly those represented by the Confederate flag depicted in the artwork. By advocating for the artwork's removal, the McWhorter Foundation and Mr. C.K. McWhorter have boldly stood for the values of unity and respect for all individuals, further cementing our legacy as beacons for disruptive positive change and social justice. Our involvement in this matter reflects a deep understanding of the impact that public symbols can have on community cohesion and the importance of curating public spaces that honor and celebrate our shared humanity.
In an unprecedented move that marks a significant moment in the dialogue between public spaces and historical representation. On Sunday February 4, 2024 a local Palm Beach Island shopping and cultural hub (Royal Poinciana Plaza) recently made the decision to remove the controversial artwork “The Last Civil War Veteran” by Larry Rivers. This decision, born out of vigorous community advocacy and thoughtful discussions, underscores a pivotal shift in how communities interact with and influence the curation of public art. Larry Rivers, a figure often celebrated for his groundbreaking approach to art that straddles the realms of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, has left an indelible mark on the American art scene. His piece, “The Last Civil War Veteran,” while artistically significant, sparked a heated debate over the representation of historical narratives within public spaces—especially those as fraught and complex as the Civil War and its lingering shadows over contemporary society.
The artwork's removal came after a series of community engagements, where voices from various sectors came together to express their concerns and aspirations for how history should be represented and engaged with in public forums. This collective action highlights the evolving relationship between art institutions and the communities they serve, emphasizing a growing expectation for sensitivity, inclusivity, and dialogue in the curation process.
This scenario transcends a simple case of art removal; it represents a community's ability to influence and reshape the cultural and historical narratives that are celebrated and displayed in shared spaces. The dialogue leading to the artwork's removal reflects a broader societal reckoning with our past, pushing for a more nuanced and inclusive approach to remembering history.
Furthermore, this event opens the floor to a much-needed conversation about the roles and responsibilities of art curators and public spaces in engaging with history. It challenges these entities to consider not just the aesthetic and historical value of artworks but also their impact on community members whose histories and experiences may render such works controversial or painful.
As the community moves forward from this historic decision, the focus shifts to the future of public art exhibitions nationwide. The incident serves as a potent reminder of the power of community advocacy in shaping public discourse and the importance of creating art spaces that reflect and respect the diverse tapestry of American society.
This moment in history serves as a call to action for communities and art institutions alike to engage in ongoing dialogue about the intersection of art, history, and public space. It underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in curating art that educates, inspires, and unites, paving the way for a more inclusive and thoughtful approach to public art curation.
As we reflect on this landmark event, it becomes clear that the path to reconciling with our collective past and shaping a more inclusive future lies in our ability to come together as a community, to listen, to debate, and to act. The removal of “The Last Civil War Veteran” is not just about one piece of art; it's about setting a precedent for how we engage with our history and each other in the shared spaces that define our public life.
The McWhorter Foundation firmly denounces all ideologies associated with the Confederate flag, a symbol that, throughout history, has often been used to represent division, inequality, and racial oppression. Our stance is unwavering in the promotion of unity, equality, and the collective advancement of all communities, irrespective of race, creed, or background. It is important to recognize that the Confederate flag, despite its complex history, has become a divisive emblem, failing to reflect the inclusive values that are essential to fostering a harmonious society. In contrast, we wholeheartedly support the American flag and its enduring representation of unity, freedom, and the pursuit of justice for all individuals within the nation. The American flag symbolizes a union built on the principles of democracy and the collective effort to create a more perfect union that respects and celebrates the diversity of its people. The McWhorter Foundation is committed to upholding these ideals, working tirelessly to bridge divides and encourage a profound sense of community solidarity that mirrors the true spirit of America.
According to the statutory construction principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, the mention of one thing implies the exclusion of another and Section 720.304, F.S., does not protect the Confederate flag in its enumerated list of flags deserving such protection from a community’s private covenants.