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Real-estate broker censors art show

Artist Nicholas Kalas (left) with the subject of one of his controversial artworks that once hung at the Fillmore Real Estate office on Atlantic Avenue.
The Brooklyn Paper / Graham Letorney

A Brooklyn artist whose work is most typically displayed in real-estate offices is fighting back after one firm told him to remove four paintings because they were too controversial.

Camille Logan, who co-manages a Fillmore real-estate office on Atlantic Avenue at Hoyt Street in Boerum Hill, ordered artist Leon Kalas to take down one-third of his 12-painting show, “Social Justice in America,” because she feared the “edgy” images would offend would-be clients.

Kalas has since retaliated, proclaiming, “I’m not going to show there anymore. They’re censoring our art. There’s nothing offensive here.”

After the opening night party earlier this month, Kalas made good on his promise, removing all 12 paintings from Logan’s office.

The quartet of pieces included “Slaves in America,” featuring a black man torn in three, his severed body juxtaposed on an American flag; “Witness,” which depicts a black man in toga and laurel standing in front of an American flag; “America, Land of the Free,” which shows an advertisement for a slave auction atop an American flag; and “Justice Crucified,” featuring a black man on a cross, an American flag tied around his waist.

The show went on display Jan. 12 at the real-estate office, where Kalas’s friends and art lovers mingled and traded art-world bons-mots.

Logan had recruited Kalas in April to curate shows of local artists at her office, after she discovered that Kalas had been doing the same at another Fillmore office in Fort Greene.

The arrangement worked swimmingly for a while, “but when Leon told me about this one, I told him, ‘We have to be careful,’” said Logan. “We don’t want to lose sight that we are a place of business.

“One of the paintings says, ‘Negros to be sold,’” added Logan. “It’s kind of weird to be seeing that in a real-estate office. We sell houses, not people.”

Kalas’s artist pals said they could see both sides of the controversy (well, they are artists, after all).

“I think Fillmore’s being ridiculous,” said artist Jim Porter. But then added, “Well, it’s their place.”

For his part, Kalas is not backing down.

“Art is not geraniums and petunias,” scoffed Kalas. “Art can be ugly.”

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