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On the Case of Gregory Green



My Chicago gallery, Feigen Inc., whose cutting-edge program, although enthusiastically subscribed to by me, was determined by the young codirectors, Lance Kinz and Susan Reynolds, had opened a summer group exhibition on June 23, 1995. Among the 24 artists in the show, there was a young Brooklyn conceptual sculptor, Gregory Green. Green, a pacifist, makes sculptures and performances about violence. His works are not themselves violent, and although they resemble tools of violence, like pipe, letter, and suitcase bombs... they contain no explosives and are in no way dangerous. On July 21 an article about Green appeared in the Reader and one of his Suitcase Bomb pieces was reproduced. On July 25 two bomb and arson squad detectives came into the gallery, followed the next day by Commander Grubisic of the bomb and arson squad and a colleague. Kinz explained Green's work and thought he had satisfied the police on the explosives score.

In the same exhibition, however, was another piece of Gregory Green's, 10,000 Doses. This sculpture was about LSD and radical 1960s "counterculture empowerment strategies." It consisted of 12 permanently sealed laboratory bottles, filled with an amber-colored fluid, set in two rows on an industrial table. The piece was placed in the front of the gallery, and on the gallery's storefront window was printed a four-foot-high enlarged and altered recipe for LSD from The Anarchist Cookbook. You could see the sculpture through the recipe on the window.

On Thursday morning, August 10, the phone rang.... It was Susan Reynolds, in a panic. "The gallery is being raided. The place is full of police. The street is full of police cars. They've arrested Lance and confiscated 10,000 Doses." This was Chicago's Organized Crime and Narcotics Division, armed with a search warrant.

"Susan," I said, "calm down. Just get the phone numbers of the Sun-Times, the Tribune, and the four network television stations and call me back. I'll take care of it." I knew the power of the press. I also knew Chicago. The thing could boomerang and infuriate the police and the mayor's office. Susan phoned back with the numbers and I made the calls. "A drug bust is on at an art gallery, but there are no drugs." Within half an hour, Wells Street was crawling with reporters and network television trucks.

Even in his own panic, when Lance asked Susan to phone me, he had also asked her for a camera to photograph the sculpture being confiscated. One of the cops warned him. Lance asked, "Are you denying me my right to photograph this?" The cop said, "Usually we just kick the door down, push guys like you up against the wall, and tear the place apart." That, handcuffs, and a fast trip to the slammer for Lance....

On August 8 Lance had written a letter to the 42nd Ward alderman, Burton Natarus, and to the director of the Mayor's Special Events Office, protesting the closing of the 700 block of Wells Street for a street fair on August 12 and 13 without discussion with residents, largely for the benefit of a huge, glitzy new tourist trap, the Crab Shack, across the street from our gallery. I originally connected the raid to this letter, though Lance tended not to, and my suspicions were quoted in one of the papers....I thought it was too coincidental that the raid had not taken place until two and a half months after the show opened, three weeks after the Reader review, more than two weeks after the arson and bomb squad raid, and just the day before our show closed. Lance suspected the president and board members of the River North Association, who would profit from commercializing the neighborhood, and one of the arson and bomb squad detectives. He is probably right....

On August 14 Lance was informed that "test results were positive," that the bottles contained 230,000 "doses" of LSD with a "street value" of $1,200,000. The Chicago Tribune announced all this in a headlined article. Lance was arrested on a charge of "manufacturing and unlawful possession of a controlled substance," and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Gregory Green in Brooklyn....Mandatory minimum sentence: ten years in prison....

The story was picked up on the wire services and published all over the country. There were several editorials, including one by Richard Roeper in the August 17 Chicago Sun-Times--"Drug Police Could Use Dose of Reality"--that described a street corner in the nether regions of Chicago's ghetto which served as a drug dealers' supermarket, drug dealing so blatant you could watch the buying and selling as you drove by....

On August 18 the Sun-Times reporter who had been covering the case phoned and said, "Have you seen the press release?" "What press release?" "The police department's." "No, I've seen nothing." "I'll fax it to you." And through my fax machine came the Chicago Police Department release, signed by the superintendent of police and the director of news affairs. "'Police Drop Charges Against Artist and Gallery Owner'... The apparent results of that test were misrepresented by a laboratory technician....[S]ubsequent technical review... determined that the data did not support the earlier conclusion.... The artwork will be returned to the gallery."...The sculpture was returned, the necks of two bottles cut, along with amusing notes from some sympathetic cops, all of which Gregory incorporated into the reconstituted conceptual piece...I have the uneasy feeling that, but for the power of the press, Lance and Gregory might well be moldering in jail.

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