1

Visual AIDS artist projects featured in Newsweek article:

Exhibit at Bronx Museum Explores the Influence of HIV/AIDS on American Art

By Stav Ziv in Newsweek, July 16, 2016

Excerpt from Newsweek's review of Art AIDS America. Read the full article here.

[re: Art AIDS America]

...Some of the works document the outward manifestations of HIV/AIDS—such as a trio of self-portraits by Mark Morrisroe showing the artist’s gaunt body slouched against a wall or on a bed, or holding an IV pole with a hospital gown hanging open around his shoulders. There is Judy Chicago’s Homosexual Holocaust, Study for Pink Triangle Torture, which incorporates the Nazi symbol for gay men in concentration camps, scenes of agony and mutual support and textbook illustrations of Kaposi’s sarcoma. In Martin Wong’s painting, Iglesia Pentecostal Mansion de Luz, a storefront church is shuttered with gates and padlocks.

The last work Keith Haring finished before his death, “Altar Piece,” is a triptych made of bronze with white gold-leaf patina, showing a mother holding a baby and crying oversized tears that fall onto a crowd of Haring’s iconic cartoon-like figures. Adam Rolston’s 1991 Trojan Boxes is a stack of cardboard boxes, reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, but the description of the latex condoms is slightly tweaked to read, “For your protection during anal and vaginal intercourse,” rather than only the latter.

Just a few steps from the stack of Trojan boxes is a vitrine full of objects from Visual AIDS, a New York-based organization that supports HIV-positive artists and uses art to fight AIDS. The display includes a tote bag, stickers, pins, broadsides and “trading cards,” which the organization packages as safer sex kits with condoms and lube. Visual AIDS commissions artists to design such items, both creative and practical, to serve as AIDS awareness materials.

“Art AIDS America” is certainly not the first exhibit to feature art related to AIDS. Visual AIDS has put on several shows throughout the years, including its 2013 anniversary exhibit at La MaMa Galleria, “NOT OVER: 25 Years of Visual AIDS.” The Whitney Museum’s “I, You, We” that same year also included a room of AIDS-related art, while “ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993” went on view at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in 2009. As early as 1991, the traveling exhibit "From Media to Metaphor: Art About AIDS" featured work from 35 artists and collaboratives. But Katz believes this the “first large, comprehensive traveling exhibition at major museums.”

The exhibit has garnered both praise and criticism, the latter sometimes coming from starkly different directions. The Seattle Times called the Tacoma version “a moving new show,” and the alt-weekly The Stranger called it “an epic and a national treasure” and a “masterpiece,” albeit “messy” and “not perfect.” But it also spurred protest and intense criticism in Seattle over how few black artists were included, especially considering the fact that “African-Americans continue to experience the greatest burden of HIV compared to other races and ethnicities,” according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Subsequent presentations have featured additional black artists. In Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the show “a powerful, harrowing survey,” while three state legislators hurled insults at it. State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said, for example, that “a fully loaded porta-potty would be better artistic expression,” and State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) called the art “trash”...

See slideshow & read the full article here.