The Blanton Museum in Austin, TX reports a purchase of a 30-foot long painting that views the KKK in an unusual way. The Guardian reported that it will hang in the Blanton Museum of Art, at the University of Texas at Austin from Tuesday. Instead of lynchings and burning crosses, you get a casual, moonlit glance at a handful of klansmen loitering by a Chevy Silverado, holding cell phones or cans of beer - not unlike a group of teenagers hanging around a street corner. But rather than biker jackets and jeans, the garb is long white robes and face masks with eye-holes. And even though there's no violence in sight, the picture is full of foreboding.

Portraying Trumpism

The title of the painting, “The City,” also makes no reference to the Klan. Artist Vincent Valdez, a Mexican-American living in San Antonio, told the Texas Observer that he created the work in reaction to the way that Trump fans the flames of white nationalism. He said his aim was to “testify to the reality of who we are versus the myth of who we think we are.” Museum director Simone Wicha got the message. On a visit to his studio with her two curators, she said, “We were struck not just by the exceptional painterly quality and artistic integrity of the work, but also the power of it and the opportunity for dialogue.”Valdez says he wanted to represent the American nightmare the way that Picasso and Goya did about the horror in their time, as seen in “Guernica” and in the “Third of May,” respectively, but in a fresher way.

Mission accomplished.

Contemporary view

Valdez' approach eliminates any sign of victims. Instead of Goya's narration of a uniformed firing squad aiming rifles at defenseless civilians in their shirtsleeves, the Texas artist would likely have depicted the soldiers standing by with their rifles at their sides on a smoke break.

And instead of describing what Picasso did in “Guernica,” he probably would have left out the screaming woman and child and all the other sufferers about to die in a German bombing raid and pictures only the pilots idling by their attack planes before takeoff.

Bird call

Valdez' “The City” stands for a murderous time in American history but in a particularly ominous way by subtracting all targets to show the moments before.

This is a little like what Michelangelo did when he recounted the Bible story of David who, armed only with a slingshot, slew Goliath by simply depicting the boy palming the stone he used. In a similar way, Alfred Hitchcock created a forbidding air with his camera direction, using long shot during a murder to show the surrounding, unaware world. Describing danger minus the specific presents something with which everyone can identify. The Texas painting is a little like Hitchcock's “The Birds before the children flee for their lives from an attack by birds. The painting is the equivalent of the high angle camera shot of a flock of crows perched on a jungle gym in a schoolyard.

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