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Making a Mountain . . .

January 12, 1986

U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson's removal of an artist's work from the U.S. Courthouse plaza last week was high-handed and unnecessary.

The work, "San Diego Donkey Cart" by David Avalos, had been placed on the plaza Sunday night with permission from the General Services Administration. By Monday morning, Thompson and his fellow judges had decided that it presented a grave threat to the safety of the courthouse because the wire that encased the piece made it difficult for security personnel to inspect it for bombs that could be planted overnight.

Thompson said the fact that the work, which juxtaposes the cliche of a Tijuana photographer's donkey cart with a depiction of an illegal alien being frisked by a border patrolman, might be considered political had nothing to do with the decision to have it removed. That word apparently didn't filter down to GSA officials, one of whom said she thought that, in addition to security concerns, "the judges felt also that it was inappropriate."

When looked at as a political protest, "San Diego Donkey Cart" is a modest one. It portrays an action that the government participates in hundreds of times a day. To view it as a security threat is just plain silly.

In making a mountain of this donkey cart, Thompson assured that thousands of people who never would have seen the piece downtown saw it in the news media, and--at least in the minds of many--he reinforced the message the artist was trying to convey.

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