Offensive mural in the State Education Building uncovered after ten years

From the New York Times

ALBANY — For the last decade or so, one of New York’s most curious and controversial pieces of public art has been hiding, Oz-like, behind a big green curtain.

The work in question is a 19th-century mural titled “The Genius of America, a sprawling 30-foot-long fantasy at the State Education Building whose depictions include angels, babies and women in togas; Gen. George Washington and a god of war; and what seems to be a group of colonial zombies rising from the grave.

Amid that symbolic swirl, in the lower right corner, is a striking and some say unsettling image: a slave in loincloth being held under the arms by a well-dressed white man.

What a fascinating read. It’s crazy how people working in the State Education Building can be offended at a piece of artwork, which reflects on the history of the United States. Hiding the past behind a green curtain doesn’t get rid of it, but I guess it can stop many from the extreme burden of having to simply think about it for ten seconds.

Will the painting again offend or merely mystify people who will wonder what all the fuss was about? Will more explanation clarify or confuse the painting’s meaning?

It’s art. That’s the point.

You can download/see the full resolution version of the painting here.

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