If you haven't seen it yet, the disturbing footage of a policeman pepper spraying UC Davis students holding a peaceful protest has gone viral and launched a probe into police tactics by the university. It has also launched a wave of internet memes in which the pepper-spraying cop, Lt. John Pike, is photoshopped into various situations; these include some of art history's most famous works, spraying the subjects of the masterpieces.
After some initial and anonymous versions, the meme developed with American artist James Alex who put the images on his Tumblr. Refusing to take any sitters lying down, Pike's image casually sprays the people sitting in Manet's 'Luncheon on the Grass,' Seurat's 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte', and more. Yet there is more than just play involved in Alex's images, as he explained to NBC:
"I started to think about the UC students using a peaceful method of protest, i.e. sitting, and how truly revolutionary such a passive event like sitting could be. Then I started to think about paintings being passive yet revolutionary especially in their own time and yes, now too."
The pepper spraying cop meme has certainly sparked a following, trackable on the Tumblr Pepper Spraying Cop.
See some of James Alex's images in the slideshow below.