David Ratcliff’s “Klan Paintings” Are Suited for Storage

by Paddy Johnson and Matthew Leifheit on February 26, 2014 · 1 comment Opinion

David Ratcliff, Klan Paintings

David Ratcliff, ”Klan Paintings,” 2013.

Who are the collectors purchasing David Ratcliff’s paintings at Team Gallery? I can only assume they are the type that ship most of their art directly to warehouses, because these aren’t works an average person is going to want anywhere near their living room. They are spray-painted stencils of Klu Klux Klan robe order forms, incident reports, and meeting minutes.

It’s hard to know why these paintings exist. There’s not much said by these works that couldn’t be expressed by reproducing these forms in a book (and I assume such a book already exists). A few necessary details nonetheless:

  • At 84 x 62 inches, the paintings are all the same size. So is most office paper, so the decision to standardize seems inline with the appropriation.
  • They are painted on raw canvas covered in grease stains. When seen in person, this doesn’t look gross—it simply reads as a painterly affectation.
  • The press release describes these works as “historical paintings” in a lineage of appropriation art, which while not inaccurate, gives the impression they are significant simply for falling within a tradition.

At first glance their oversized surface and standardized sizing and staining means to expose the banality of sin as told by an emotionless administrative trail. A second glance is much the same as the first. The whole show feels like a Banksy project wrapped in artspeak. Anyone else remember “The Banality of the Banality of Evil”? Not quite the same thing—he was reworking a painting—but the concept was just as empty.

  • Boxmug

    nothing that Kara Walker or Rashid Johnson would be adverse to selling…if they could have thought of it.

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