- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The House Republican tasked with looking into the display of a controversial painting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday formally requested a review of whether the artwork should have been hung with the other winners of last year’s congressional art contest.

Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington said in a letter to the Architect of the Capitol that Congress has the responsibility to ensure the painting — which has been criticized for portraying police officers with what appear to be boar heads and tusks — violated rules of the competition that barred “exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic and gruesome nature.”

Mr. Reichert said the “Untitled #1” painting from former high school student David Pulphus — which was selected as a winner by Rep. William “Lacy” Clay and inspired by the civil unrest following the shooting of a Ferguson teen by a police officer — “is in clear violation” of those guidelines.

“The artwork’s depiction of law enforcement as animals shooting citizens is both sensationalist and gruesome in nature,” Mr. Reichert said.

Mr. Clay and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, meanwhile, urged House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to rethink efforts to remove the artwork.

“We write to express our grave concern that you may follow up on an act of vigilante censorship in the House of Representatives by taking formal steps to remove a painting by St. Louis Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School Senior David Pulphus from display on a wall in the tunnel between the Cannon House Office Building and the Capitol,” the congressman wrote in a joint letter. “We believe that removing this work - which has been on display for six months as one of more than 400 winning high school entries selected from each congressional district through the annual Congressional Art Competition - would be a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.”

The painting has sparked an uproar on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have engaged in a political game of tug-of-war, with Republican lawmakers repeatedly taking the painting down, and returning it to the office of Mr. Clay, only to have it put back on display by the Missouri Democrat and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The rules of the Congressional Art Competition dictate that the winners be reviewed by the Architect of the Capitol and a panel before they were put on display, though it is unclear whether that process occurred.

The Architect of the Capitol has not responded to emails seeking clarification - though Mr. Clay and Mr. Raskin suggested there under the impression the painting had gone through the vetting process.

“Mr. Pulphus’s work was already submitted and was put on display pursuant to the rules governing the Congressional Art Competition and was displayed for six months with no objection,” they said in their letter.

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