For six months, Untitled #1 hung in a hallway of the Capitol among hundreds of other winning artworks from the high school Congressional Arts Competition without much fuss. Then came a tug-of-war. The painting by Missouri's David Pulphus—a collage of scenes, showing two police officers with what appear to be warthog heads pointing guns at a civilian with the head of a wolf—became the subject of debate between the Congressional Black Caucus and Republican lawmakers this week after Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, chose to remove it on Friday, reports NPR. Rep. Lacy Clay, a Democrat from Missouri, replaced it Tuesday, only to find it removed again that same day. It was again replaced, and again taken down, reports Politico.
Hunter and others argue the painting—also depicting a black face behind bars and a sign reading "racism kills"—is an insult to police and violates House Office Building Commission rules banning artwork with "subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature." Speaker Paul Ryan, who sits on the commission, told Republicans the painting would be permanently removed. Clay, however, says the painting was approved before it became part of a year-long installation in June 2016. He adds police shootings of black men in Pulphus' community—including that of Michael Brown in 2014—were "animalistic in nature" and the painting, along with artwork depicting slaveholders, should be allowed given the right to free expression, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.