General Demotion/General Devotion was featured in the Wall Street Journal in May, when architecture critic Michael J. Lewis published his review of the exhibition at the Valentine museum. General Demotion/General Devotion is a collaboration between middle Of broad and Storefront for Community Design that invited artists and designers from around the world to reimagine Monument Avenue and its statuary. The Valentine show, open through Dec. 1, features a selection of concepts proposed for the Richmond street.
In his review, Lewis, a professor of art and architectural history at Williams College, discussed the history of the avenue and the controversy that surrounds its monuments, as well as how the submissions on display at the Valentine respond to that legacy.
By far the most common strategy is creative mutilation. One project would melt the sculpture down and use the bronze as a “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Memorial.” Another, called “Cover in Kudzu,” would use nature itself to render the monuments invisible.
“General Disruption” suggests removing two-fifths of each statue, just as each five slaves once counted as three for purposes of allocating congressional districts. “Hybrid Strategy” issues a deadpan injunction to “Add no new elements, just rearrange what is already there,” and only when we look closely do we see that it would exchange the generals’ heads with those of their horses.