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Artists pull out from exhibition after pro-Palestine artwork excluded

Jumaane Millette

An exhibition at the UrbanGlass studio in Brooklyn was forced to be canceled after the studio excluded one of their staff members’ artworks for containing a pro-Palestine slogan, leading most of the participating artists to pull out their artwork in solidarity. Phil Garip had been a neon technician at UrbanGlass for four years and was given little information on the board’s decision to exclude his artwork from the exhibition.

The only reasoning he was given was that the slogan on his neon sign, “from the river to the sea,” made some board members feel “threatened.”

Garip said he was confused by the comment, as his work was greenlit by the board. He was not present for the final vote of his exclusion.

According to Garip, he was told “it was not the right time for a piece like this.” The planned exhibition was titled “Fundamental Particles,” and was planned to be showcased from March 6 through April 5. After the artist shared the situation in an Instagram post, 16 of the 18  staff artists pulled out their artwork from the exhibition. 

“At its core, UrbanGlass is a dynamic ecosystem of spirited individuals who infuse it with life, community, and boundless creativity,” an advertisement for the exhibit read. “The works in this exhibition serve as an elaborate network, showcasing the interwoven narratives of artists whose paths intersect and overlap within the shared space of UrbanGlass” and yet, it excluded a message Garip wanted to call to light.

After the artists revoked their work, UrbanGlass published a statement explaining its decision and why the event was canceled. It said the slogan featured in the piece was “meaningfully understood by some as a call for Palestinian freedom and others as a call for Jewish genocide.” Garip’s artist statement, which was submitted to the board in advance, did not allude to these themes. 

UrbanGlass has since deleted its statement.

Garip said in an interview with People’s Dispatch that he was not surprised when the majority of his fellow staff members pulled out their work. He said that the artists at UrbanGlass have always been supportive of one another and each of them knew what it meant to put the most on the line, in this case, it was Garip’s platform.

His neon work also featured the words of the Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, “If I must die, you must live,” written a month before Aleer was killed by an Israeli airstrike. 

The People’s Forum offered to display the artwork and titled the showcase “Rehousing of a Censorship + boycotted show at UrbanGlass.” The exhibition remained on view until March 21.

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Jumaane Millette, Photography Editor
Jumaane Millette is the Photography Editor for The Ticker.
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