Posts Tagged ‘ACT UP

14
Jun
19

Exhibition and auction, photographs and text: ‘The Gay Day Archive 1974-83’ – photographs by Hank O’Neal; text by Alan Ginsberg

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 20th June 2019

Auction: 20th June, 2019 at 1:30 pm

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Daddies]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“Born gay and free”

I was born in 1958 and came out as a gay man in 1975, six short years after the Stonewall uprising, the nominal (the UK had decriminalised homosexuality in 1967) but official start of Gay Liberation around the world, especially in the United States of America. I survived the plague that hit in the early 1980s. A lot of my friend’s didn’t.

These fabulous photographs and lilting prose make wonderful bedfellows, shining a light on those very early years of outness, campness, empowerment and sexual and personal freedom pre HIV/AIDS. From Gay Daddies to Gay Teachers, from being nowhere (in sight) … to being everywhere. As Ginsberg eloquently proposes, “wearing their hearts on a banner for nothing but love.” Gay youth, dignity and equality, proud of my gay son whoever he may be.

There is such a sense of joy, happiness and love contained in these photographs. The two lads in “Untitled [summery mouths]” are redolent of the era. Cute as a button: platform shoes, tight flared jeans, keys hanging, hands clasped around, small waists, tight singlets, sultry curly hair. Disco love is in the air. I could have been one of these men, memories of those days, those halcyon 70s days.

There are heroes too. Marsha P. Johnson, performance artist, drag mother, transgender, gender nonconforming survival sex worker political activist human… probably murdered by thugs after the 1992 pride parade. And Harvey Milk, that assassinated visionary who became a martyr to the cause, marching in spirit with the crowd. The man carrying a wreath with his name – head down, black armband, gay rights t-shirt – is such a poignant image of the loss of a hero. And then Ginsberg’s text, “Harvey Milk died for your sins.” (He had initially written “our” but crossed it out).

That erasure is so important. I remember working at Channel 7 as a set painter in Melbourne in the late 1980s to pay for university. It was a typical male only workplace at the time, all “blokes”, and I was confronted one day by one of them about being openly gay. My response: I’m quite happy being how I am, it’s you that obviously has the problem. Why don’t you look at yourself first before you start attacking other people.

This is why it is so important that Ginsberg crossed out “our” and wrote “your” sins. LGBTQI people have not sinned. There just are. They have nothing to forgive themselves for. It is the prejudice of others that leads them to fight for dignity and equality. As one of the posters in the photographs says, “People should love one another regardless of race, religion, age or sex.” A men to that.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

PS. The exhibition of these photographs is only on for a few days. Please see them if you can.

The photographs and text are used under “fair use” for the purposes of freedom of speech, research, education and informed comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

A festive visual compilation by the NY-based photographer and author O’Neal of the parade signifying the Gay Liberation Movement. Pictured are an array of fun-loving and politically-motivated participants, several openly displaying affection. With photographs of the transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. Silver prints, various sizes, with most of the sheets 6×7 1/2 inches, 15.2×19 cm., or the reverse; each captioned by Ginsberg, and signed and dated by O’Neal on verso. 1974-83. AND – An additional group of approximately 165 photographs by O’Neal of the NYC parades, comprising 95 silver prints, various sizes but most 11 x 14 inches, 28 x 35.6 cm., and the reverse, 5 are signed and dated by O’Neal and contain Ginsberg’s captions; and 70 smaller silver prints, various sizes to 8 x 10 inches, 20.3 x 25.4 cm., and the reverse, a few with O’Neal’s hand stamp and notations and many are dated, in pencil, on verso; with duplicates and triplicates. 1974-83.

Estimate $70,000 – 100,000

Text for the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 30/05/2019

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WE ARE EVERYWHERE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WE ARE EVERYWHERE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

We all look pretty normal,
boy next door, handsome punk,
ad man’s delight, daughters of the
American Revolution.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Hikin’ Dykes]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Hikin’ Dykes] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Black white brown boy girl what idealism! –
wearing their
hearts on a banner for nothing but love

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY YOUTH 1969-1979]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY YOUTH 1969-1979] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

They Guy in the right looks like my daddy when
he was young (and alive).

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Dominant/Submissive Love]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Allen Ginsberg

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet, philosopher and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression and was known as embodying various aspects of this counterculture, such as his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions. He was one of many influential American writers of his time who were associated with the Beat Generation, including Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, “Howl” was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. “Howl” reflected Ginsberg’s own sexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that “Howl” was not obscene, adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. He lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in downscale apartments in New York’s East Village. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa, the founder of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa’s urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics there in 1974.

Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem “September on Jessore Road”, calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg’s tireless persistence in protesting against “imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.”

His collection The Fall of America shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry in 1974. In 1979, he received the National Arts Club gold medal and was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Ginsberg was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 for his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992.

Full text “Alan Ginsberg,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Miss Rollerind]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Miss Rollerind] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Miss Rollerind, queen of late 70s
disco world universe drama, observed by
a (gay??) black man on the asphalt.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [COME! DIGNITY + EQUALITY]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [COME! DIGNITY + EQUALITY] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Come all over the sky, look up!

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ADOLPH ANITA JOE – The REAL ThREAtS to HUMANITY!]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ADOLPH ANITA JOE – The REAL ThREAtS to HUMANITY!] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What a pleasant conversation they are having under Hitler’s head,
guy with handsome bicep chest, holding the banner aloft
lightly, and the eye passed smiling inquirer.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY MEN’S HEALTH PROJECT]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY MEN’S HEALTH PROJECT] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

See anyone there you’d like to leave VD with?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Good tight dress]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Good tight dress] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Good tight dress, totally olive oil lady
from midtown, but the top’s a baseball
capped ruffian whistling at the whore

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I’m PROUD of my Gay Son]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I’m PROUD of my Gay Son] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Resolute parents that have gone thru the mill
& seen the skeleton in the closet & come out of the
gruesome fun house into the light – now they’re on their own feet
older + dignified; with house dresses + majestic walrus mustaches.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Look at her! Mad but actually handsome]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Look at her! Mad but actually handsome] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Look at her! Mad but actually handsome

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Cops with personal mustaches]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Cops with personal mustaches] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Cops with person mustaches, shun photogs, big tit guy in pancake suffering their own vision in the sun, and a thin socialist dyke

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Rights]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Rights] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

You mean all that hair + teeth is gay?

 

 

Hank O’Neal

Hank O’Neal (born June 5, 1940) is an American music producer, author and photographer.

Photography

He began taking photographs while a teenager, and began to pursue the field seriously in 1969, when he bought a professional camera and began documenting recording sessions and jazz concerts that he was producing. Long before Berenice Abbott admonished him to always have a project, he undertook his first, in rural East Texas during 1970-1973. These photographs led to his first exhibition in September 1973, at The Open Mind Gallery in New York City.

In the 1970s he associated with a diverse group of photographers, notably Walker Evans, André Kertész and most importantly, Berenice Abbott, with whom he worked for the last 19 years of her life.

From 1970 to 1999 (in addition to undertaking many photographic projects), O’Neal also published numerous books related to photography. In 1999, at the urging of gallery director Evelyn Daitz, he had a major retrospective of his work to that point at The Witkin Gallery. Since that time, he has focused his activities toward photography, and continues to mount exhibitions yearly throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2003 his photographic career was summarised in a profile in The New York Times.

Books (text and illustrations)

  • The Eddie Condon Scrapbook of Jazz (St. Martin’s Press, 1973)
  • A Vision Shared (St. Martin’s Press, 1976)
  • Berenice Abbott – American Photographer (McGraw-Hill, 1982)
  • Life Is Painful, Nasty and Short … In My Case It Has Only Been Painful and Nasty – Djuna Barnes L 1978-81 (Paragon, 1990)
  • Charlie Parker (Filipacchi, 1995)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Filipacchi, 1997) French language edition
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009) English language edition
  • Hank O’Neal Portraits 1971-2000 (Sordoni Art Gallery, 2000)
  • Billie & Lester in Oslo (A Play with Music, 2005)
  • Gay Day – The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade (Abrams, 2006)
  • Berenice Abbott (Steidl, 2008)
  • The Unknown Berenice Abbott – Steidl (October 15, 2013)
  • A Vision Shared – 40th Anniversary Edition – Steidl (December 1, 2016)
  • Berenice Abbott – The Paris Portraits – Steidl (November 22, 2016)

Books (photographs only)

  • Allegra Kent’s Water Beauty Book (St Martin’s Press, 1976)
  • All the King’s Men (Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • XCIA’s Street Art Project: The First Four Decades (Siman Media Works, 2012)

Portfolios

  • Berenice Abbott – Portraits In Palladium (Text Only, Commerce Graphics/ Lunn Limited, 1990)
  • Hank O’Neal – Photographs (Text and 12 gravure prints), Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Text and 12 photographs), Glenside Press, 2007)

Text from “Hank O’Neal,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [MY SON IS GAY AND THAT’S OK]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [MY SON IS GAY AND THAT’S OK] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

She’s an old anarchist from the
30’s. She read Marcel Proust in the
slums of Barcelona. She used to be a movie
Star in Berlin in 1923. Now she lives
in Queens in disguise as a typical american
mother.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GOD is GAY]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GOD is GAY] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

According to Barbelo Gnostic theory,
God reflected on himself (or herself) & thus shone Sophia,
the First Word-thought, who thereat made sex
with herself and birthed the first Aeon,
Laldabaoth

 

 

Barbēlō refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as ‘Mother-Father’ (hinting at her apparent androgyny), ‘First Human Being’, ‘The Triple Androgynous Name’, or ‘Eternal Aeon’. So prominent was her place amongst some Gnostics that some schools were designated as Barbeliotae, Barbēlō worshippers or Barbēlōgnostics.

Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός gnostikos, “having knowledge”, from γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. These systems believed that the material world is created by an emanation or ‘works’ of a lower god (demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the human body. This divine spark could be liberated by gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Some of the core teachings include the following:

  1. All matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
  2. There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
  3. The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit (the Demiurge).
  4. Gnosticism does not deal with “sin,” only ignorance.
  5. To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis (knowledge).

Laldabaoth is the demiurge (a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual) from Gnostic Christianity.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [a big crowd]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [a big crowd] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

a big crowd of boys + girls + …? – but
that tall girl looks worried, doesn’t she have a baloon?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [STONEWALL CHORALE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [STONEWALL CHORALE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Masculine & Feminine Sopranos!
marching on the Stone
floor on Manhattan, & pl…? Life

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WHERE IS your HUSBAND TONIGHT?]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WHERE IS your HUSBAND TONIGHT?] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What pretty wives!
are they photocopies of men?
do they smoke cigars in secret?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [singing to skyscrapers]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [singing to skyscrapers] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

They’ve been meeting in secret + public
for years, & now sing to skyscrapers.

 

 

Today, at least a million spectators line the Pride parade route along Fifth Avenue. But, in its earliest days, the celebration was a much smaller event characterised by NY-style high energy, pithy signage, raucous crowd chants, extensive cruising and great music (remember disco?). Most of O’Neal’s photographs focused on NY’s West Village or Christopher Street, the epicenter of gaydom. A range of sub-cultures associated with the LGBTQ+ community are depicted: young and longhaired post-hippies, bare-chested muscle men, drag queens, fairies, leather-ites, Gay Daddies, protestors, pastors, parents of gays and the hikin’ dykes.

Some participants hold placards, including those protesting Anita Bryant, the once popular singer, who emerged as an strident anti-gay crusader in the late 1970s and teamed up with the divisive evangelical figure Jerry Falwell. A banner for the Gay Men’s Health Project is a harbinger of the tragic era to come.

Ginsberg first saw the photographs in 1982 and, according to O’Neal, was inspired to add his distinctive captions to the backs of the prints. His brief handwritten notes, which often reflect personal or historic observations, strike a wonderful tone. A caption that accompanies a picture of a group of men holding the banner WE ARE EVERYWHERE reads, “We all look pretty normal, boy next door, handsome punk, ad man’s delight, daughters of the American Revolution.” A shot depicting two men dressed in ancient Roman costume reads, “Clark Gable and Nero on a date, smiling for the 1920s Hollywood photogs.” His lengthy caption for the Johnson print (featured on the catalog cover) reads: “If I keep dressing up like this I’ll save the world from nuclear apocalypse. But will anyone love me for it? I’ll save the world anyway I know that looks good.” And still others honour the courageous and brave: one participant holds a wreath bearing the name Harvey Milk; Ginsberg wrote, “Harvey Milk died for your sins.” (He had initially written “our” but crossed it out).

O’Neal’s photographs were reproduced in the book, Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade, 1974-1983 (Abrams, 2006), with a Preface by William Burroughs. Interestingly during this same period Ginsberg had revisited his own Beat-era photographs, which were shot in the 1950s and processed at a local drugstore. He developed a unique hybrid picture-text style, adding detailed, handwritten mini-narratives to the lower margins of the prints, which captured his vivid, visual memories.

Text for the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 30/05/2019

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [HARVEY MILK]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [HARVEY MILK] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Harvey Milk died for your sins

 

 

Harvey Milk

Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although he was the most pro-LGBT politician in the United States at the time, politics and activism were not his early interests; he was neither open about his sexuality nor civically active until he was 40, after his experiences in the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

In 1972, Milk moved from New York City to the Castro District of San Francisco amid a migration of gay and bisexual men. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighbourhood to promote his interests and unsuccessfully ran three times for political office. Milk’s theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity, and in 1977 he won a seat as a city supervisor. His election was made possible by a key component of a shift in San Francisco politics.

Milk served almost eleven months in office, during which he sponsored a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. The Supervisors passed the bill by a vote of 11-1 and was signed into law by Mayor Moscone. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, who was another city supervisor. White had recently resigned to pursue a private business enterprise, but that endeavour eventually failed and he sought to get his old job back. White was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, which was later reduced to five years. He was released in 1983 and committed suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation two years later.

Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.” Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Extract from “Harvey Milk,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Blacks are most truthful]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Blacks are most truthful] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Blacks are most truthful,
it all goes back to
african religious ?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Judy Garland]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Judy Garland] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Judy Garland’s got big-veined
fists & activist boyfriends singing

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [PEOPLE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [PEOPLE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Well I’ll take 2 of these + 3 of those.
How old did you say you were?
Does that mean I have to sleep with 90 year old girls?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [summery mouths]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [summery mouths] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Young meat Catholes (?)
appreciating each other’s
summery mouths

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA SLEEPS WITH BIG BUSINESS]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA SLEEPS WITH BIG BUSINESS] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Anita O’Day is still singing.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA DEAR SHOVE IT]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA DEAR SHOVE IT] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

I’ll bet Anita had affairs in
high school with her girlfriends.
Pretty Girl.

 

 

Anita Bryant

Anita Jane Bryant (born March 25, 1940) is an American singer and political activist. …

In the 1970s, Bryant became known as an outspoken opponent of gay rights in the US. In 1977, she ran the “Save Our Children” campaign to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Her involvement with the campaign was condemned by gay rights activists. They were assisted by many other prominent figures in music, film, and television, and retaliated by boycotting the orange juice which she had promoted. This, as well as her later divorce, damaged her financially.

Victory and defeat

On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. However, the success of Bryant’s campaign galvanised her opponents, and the gay community retaliated against her by organising a boycott of orange juice. Gay bars all over North America stopped serving screwdrivers and replaced them with the “Anita Bryant Cocktail”, which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.

In 1977, Florida legislators approved a measure prohibiting gay adoption.The ban was overturned more than 30 years later when, on November 25, 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy S. Lederman declared it unconstitutional.

Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances, including campaigns in St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and Eugene, Oregon. In 1978, her success led to the Briggs Initiative in California, which would have made pro-gay statements regarding homosexual people or homosexuality by any public school employee cause for dismissal. Grassroots liberal organisations, chiefly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, organised to defeat the initiative. Days before the election, the California Democratic Party opposed the proposed legislation. President Jimmy Carter, governor Jerry Brown, former president Gerald Ford, and former governor Ronald Reagan – then planning a run for the presidency – all voiced opposition to the initiative, and it ultimately suffered a massive defeat at the polls.

In 1998, Dade County repudiated Bryant’s successful campaign of 20 years earlier and reauthorised an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by a seven-to-six vote. In 2002, a ballot initiative to repeal the 1998 law, called Amendment 14, was voted down by 56 percent of the voters. The Florida statute forbidding gay adoption was upheld in 2004 by a federal appellate court against a constitutional challenge but was overturned by a Miami-Dade circuit court in November 2008.

Bryant became one of the first persons to be publicly “pied” as a political act (in her case, on television), in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 14, 1977. Bryant quipped “At least it’s a fruit pie,” making a pun on the derogatory term of “fruit” for a gay man. While covered in pie, she began to pray to God to forgive the activist “for his deviant lifestyle” before bursting into tears as the cameras continued rolling. Bryant’s husband said that he would not retaliate, but followed the protesters outside and threw a pie at them. By this time, gay activists ensured that the boycott on Florida orange juice had become more prominent and it was supported by many celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, Dick Clark (Bryant had made several appearances on his shows, especially his namesake television show), Vincent Price (he joked in a television interview that Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance referred to her), John Waters, Carroll O’Connor, Linda Lavin, Mary Tyler Moore, Charles Schulz, Billie Jean King, and Jane Fonda. In 1978, Bryant and Bob Green told the story of their campaign in the book At Any Cost. The gay community continued to regard Bryant’s name as synonymous with bigotry and homophobia.

Extract from “Anita Bryant,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I deserve a cute boy’s kiss]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I deserve a Cute boy’s kiss] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

I deserve a Cute
boy’s kiss for this truthful hat. And he’s
so sensitive, look at that
tiny white dog!

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [BORN GAY AND FREE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [BORN GAY AND FREE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What a pretty mother! Brave
handsome courageous + true.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Marsha P. Johnson]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Marsha P. Johnson] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

If I keep dressing up like this
I’ll save the world from
Nuclear Apocalypse. But will anyone
love me for it? I’ll save the world
anyway. I know what looks good.

 

 

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992) was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen. Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Johnson co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organisation S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside close friend Sylvia Rivera. A popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene, Johnson modelled for Andy Warhol, and performed onstage with the drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches. Known for decades as a welcoming presence in the streets of Greenwich Village, Johnson was known as the “mayor of Christopher Street”. From 1987 through 1992, Johnson was an AIDS activist with ACT UP.

 

Performance work and identity

Johnson initially called herself “Black Marsha” but later decided on “Marsha P. Johnson” as her drag queen name, getting Johnson from the restaurant Howard Johnson’s on 42nd Street. She said that the P stood for “pay it no mind” and used the phrase sarcastically when questioned about her gender, saying “it stands for pay it no mind”. She said the phrase once to a judge, who was humoured by it and released her. Johnson variably identified herself as gay, as a transvestite, and as a queen (referring to drag queen). According to Susan Stryker, a professor of human gender and sexuality studies at the University of Arizona, Johnson’s gender expression may be called gender non-conforming in absence of Johnson’s use of transgender, which was not used broadly during her lifetime.

Johnson said her style of drag was not serious (or “high drag”) because she could not afford to purchase clothing from expensive stores. She received leftover flowers after sleeping under tables used for sorting flowers in the Flower District of Manhattan, and was known for placing flowers in her hair. Johnson was tall, slender and often dressed in flowing robes and shiny dresses, red plastic high heels, and bright wigs, which tended to draw attention.

Johnson sang and performed as a member of J. Camicias’ international, NYC-based, drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches, from 1972 through to shows in the 1990s. When The Cockettes, a similar drag troupe from San Francisco, formed an East Coast troupe, The Angels of Light, Johnson was also asked to perform with them. In 1973, Johnson performed the role of “The Gypsy Queen” in the Angels’ production, “The Enchanted Miracle”, about the Comet Kohoutek. In 1975, Johnson was photographed by famed artist Andy Warhol, as part of a “Ladies and Gentlemen” series of Polaroids. In 1990, Johnson performed with The Hot Peaches in London. Now an AIDS activist, Johnson also appears in The Hot Peaches production The Heat in 1990, singing the song “Love” while wearing an ACT UP, “Silence = Death” button.

 

Stonewall uprising and other activism

Johnson said she was one of the first drag queens to go to the Stonewall Inn, after they began allowing women and drag queens inside; it was previously a bar for only gay men. On the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall uprising occurred. While the first two nights of rioting were the most intense, the clashes with police would result in a series of spontaneous demonstrations and marches through the gay neighbourhoods of Greenwich Village for roughly a week afterwards.

Johnson has been named, along with Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona, by a number of the Stonewall veterans interviewed by David Carter in his book, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, as being “three individuals known to have been in the vanguard” of the pushback against the police at the uprising. Johnson denied she had started the uprising, stating in 1987 that she had arrived at around “2:00 [that morning]”, and that “the riots had already started” when she arrived and that the Stonewall building “was on fire” after cops set it on fire. The riots reportedly started at around 1:20 that morning after Stormé DeLarverie fought back against the police officer who attempted to arrest her that night.

Carter writes that Robin Souza had reported that fellow Stonewall veterans and gay activists such as Morty Manford and Marty Robinson had told Souza that on the first night, Johnson “threw a shot glass at a mirror in the torched bar screaming, ‘I got my civil rights'”. Souza told the Gay Activists Alliance shortly afterwards that it “was the shot glass that was heard around the world”. Carter, however, concluded that Robinson had given several different accounts of the night and in none of the accounts were Johnson’s name brought up, possibly in fear that if he publicly credited the uprising to Johnson due to her well-known mental state and gender nonconforming, then Stonewall, and indirectly the gay liberation movement, “could have been used effectively by the movement’s opponents”. The alleged “shot glass” incident has also been heavily disputed. Prior to Carter’s book, it was claimed Johnson had “thrown a brick” at a police officer, an account that was never verified. Johnson also claimed herself that she was not at the Stonewall Inn when the rioting broke out but instead had heard about it and went to get Sylvia Rivera who was at a park uptown sleeping on a bench to tell her about it. However, many have corroborated that on the second night, Johnson climbed up a lamppost and dropped a bag with a brick in it down on a cop car, shattering the windshield.

Following the Stonewall uprising, Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front and participated in the first Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally on the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1970. One of Johnson’s most notable direct actions occurred in August 1970 when she and fellow GLF members staged a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall at New York University after administrators canceled a dance when they found out was sponsored by gay organisations. Shortly after that, she and close friend Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organisation (initially titled Street Transvestites Actual Revolutionaries). The two of them became a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. In 1973, Johnson and Rivera were banned from participating in the gay pride parade by the gay and lesbian committee who were administering the event stating they “weren’t gonna allow drag queens” at their marches claiming they were “giving them a bad name”. Their response was to march defiantly ahead of the parade. During a gay rights rally at New York City Hall in the early ’70s, photographed by Diana Davies, a reporter asked Johnson why the group was demonstrating, Johnson shouted into the microphone, “Darling, I want my gay rights now!”

During another incident around this time, which landed Johnson in court, she was confronted by police officers for hustling in New York, and when they went to apprehend her, she hit them with her handbag, which contained two bricks. When Johnson was asked by the judge why she was hustling, Johnson explained she was trying to secure enough money for her husband’s tombstone. During a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in the United States, the judge asked her what “happened to this alleged husband”, Johnson responded, “Pigs killed him”. Initially sentenced to 90 days in prison for the assault, Johnson’s lawyer eventually convinced the judge to send her to Bellevue instead.

With Rivera, Johnson established the STAR House, a shelter for gay and trans street kids in 1972, and paid the rent for it with money they made themselves as sex workers. While the House was not focused on performance, Marsha was a “drag mother” of STAR House, in the longstanding tradition of chosen family in the Black and Latino LGBT community. Johnson worked to provide food, clothing, emotional support and a sense of family for the young drag queens, trans women, gender nonconformists and other gay street kids living on the Christopher Street docks or in their house on the Lower East Side of New York.

In the 1980s Johnson continued her street activism as a respected organiser and marshal with ACT UP. In 1992, when George Segal’s Stonewall memorial was moved to Christopher Street from Ohio to recognise the gay liberation movement, Johnson commented, “How many people have died for these two little statues to be put in the park to recognise gay people? How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together.

Extract from “Marsha P. Johnson,” on the Wikipedia website

 

 

Swann Galleries
104 East 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
Phone: (212) 254-4710

Exhibition opening times:
Saturday, June 15 – 12 pm to 5 pm
Monday, June 17 – 10 am to 6 pm
Tuesday, June 18 – 10 am to 6 pm
Wednesday, June 19 – 10 am to 6 pm
Thursday, June 20 – 10 am to 12 pm

Swann Auction Galleries website

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20
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Art AIDS America’ at Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2015 – 10th January 2016

 

 

This is the biggest exhibition on art relating to HIV/AIDS since the seminal exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1995, which I was a part of.

I was lucky to survive the initial wave of HIV/AIDS infections. The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981… and I had my first HIV test in London in 1983. In those days, as the wall text from the exhibition spells out below, you had to wait 16 days to get the result of a blood test. I vividly remember sitting outside a doctor’s office knowing that when I went in, if he said yes you have it, it was a death sentence. In those early days, there was no treatment. You were going to die. I only survived by luck. Many of my friends and lovers didn’t.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says exhibition co-curator Rock Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

This deep understanding can be supplemented by this posting. I spent many hours securing more images than were sent to me in the press pack, because I think it is really important to have as great a cross-section as possible of work online from this exhibition, as a record of this time and space in the ongoing HIV/AIDS story. At present, there is no website for the 1995 exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS but I am hoping to correct this in the near future, with installation images, art work, interviews and videos.

In terms of the art, I find the earlier narratives are much more powerful and focused than the contemporary work. One of the most moving of these, and one that I have never seen before, is Keith Haring’s Altar Piece (1990, cast 1996, below). Can you imagine being an artist, being Haring, working on the wax mould in hospital being treated for AIDS-related illness, thinking that this could possibly be the last art work that you would ever complete. That you would never see it produced. And then to make something that is so compassionate, so beautiful that it is almost beyond belief… my heart is full of admiration and, like the crowd in the triptych, I am washed with tears.

By comparison, some of the contemporary works seem to have become mere graphic symbolism (leaves, milk and flowers) rather than engaging activism. For example, Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers (2010, below) – while referencing his Mexican heritage through skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead – is not about loss with presence but loss without presence: a febrile graphic activity that is pure decoration. Other works such as Derek Jackson’s Perfect Kiss (2007, below) or LADZ’s Eden #31 (2012, below) enact only the most tenuous link to HIV/AIDS and only when it is spelled out in text. Again, while not denying the pain of the death of her mother, her persecution when growing up or the problems with living with HIV, Kia Labeija’s 24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room) (2014, below) propositions us with a women photographed in deadpan photography style as glamorous mother with vivid pink lipstick or a Beyonce music star in sequin dress and 6 inch heels. Only in the last photograph is there any hint of vulnerability and, funnily enough, it is the only photograph that I care about and engage with.

In all of these works the key word is enact, for these works are performances of gender and sexuality conceptualised for the viewer, where living with HIV/AIDS is shown to us at a distance. Instead of ACTing up, unleashing the power of the oppressed, artists are now acting out in this (supposed) post-death HIV/AIDS climate. Look at me, I can be whoever I want to be (and still have HIV). Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and you would be completely right… if only the art commenting on this post-death resurrection of the author, was memorable.

While 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection in the USA and an estimated 47, 352 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, people are still dying by the thousands in America (an estimated 13,712 people died in 2012 of an AIDS related disease – source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website). This is not pretty pink lipstick and sequin dresses, this is 13 thousand people a year still DYING from this disease.

Just think about that for a while.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to the Tacoma Art Museum, Mark I. Chester and Steven Miller for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Did You Know?

 

Art AIDS America at Tacoma Art Museum from Tacoma Art Museum on Vimeo.

 

 

Art AIDS America aims to abolish the silence about the pervasive presence of HIV/AIDS in American art and open meaningful and respectful dialogues about our experiences with the ongoing epidemic. For too long, we have considered art about AIDS as a tragic, closed chapter in the history of American art. This exhibition demonstrates the deep and continued impact of the AIDS crisis on American art from the early 1980s and continuing to today.

For more than thirty years, artists have actively responded with exquisite sensitivity to HIV/AIDS. They have adopted a broad spectrum of styles and messages from politically activist to quietly mournful art that nonetheless thrums with political content. Through poignant portraits, some artists brought much needed attention to personal suffering and loss from the AIDS crisis. Others employed abstraction and coded imagery to reveal the social and political factors that exacerbated the spread of HIV/AIDS. Artists also widely appropriated various art historical traditions to speak about the devastating impact of the epidemic. Art AIDS America offers an overview of how these various approaches redirected the course of American art from postmodern “art for art’s sake” formulas to art practice that highlights the personal experience and expertise of the artist.

Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful. HIV and AIDS are not just past-tense problems. As we persist in the struggle with HIV/AIDS, these artworks remind us of humanity’s resilience, responsibility, and history. The legacy of the AIDS crisis and our new relationships with the virus continue to inform contemporary art and American culture.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987–1995), Let the Record Show… 1987/recreated 2015.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show…
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

In 1987, the New Museum’s curator William Olander invited ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to create a work about AIDS. ACT UP, a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots organization, responded with Let the Record Show… providing information about the crisis.

At the time, the only visual presence of AIDS activism was the Silence=Death stickers. Let the Record Show… recreated here in full for the first time, included an LED reader board with statistics about the unfolding medical and political crisis, the neon pink triangle with “Silence=Death,” a photomural from the Nuremberg trials, and photographs of contemporary public figures with their statements about AIDS.

Using the 1986 graphics from the Silence=Death Project, ACT UP appropriated the pink triangle from the badges assigned to gay prisoners in Nazi Germany during World War II. The artists combined this historic symbol of powerlessness along with the photomural of the Nuremberg courtroom to make an explicit comparison between the severity of the AIDS crisis and government inaction and the Holocaust. The complicated installation asked whether simple silence in a crisis is as culpable as actively encouraging one. The anonymous collective Gran Fury formed as a committee of ACT UP, as a result of Olander’s invitation. Gran Fury continued to make provocative and important works about the AIDS crisis.

For the installation of Let the Record Show… at the New Museum, quotes were cast in concrete under the photograph of the irresponsible speaker:

 

“The logical outcome of testing is a quarantine of those infected.”

Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator

“It is patriotic to have the AIDS test and be negative.”

Cory Servass, Presidential AIDS Commission

“We used to hate faggots on an emotional basis. Now we have a good reason.”

Anonymous Surgeon

“AIDS is God’s judgment of a society that does not live by His rules.”

Jerry Falwell, Televangelist

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to protect common needle users, and on the buttocks to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

William F. Buckley, Columnist

” …”

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995) 'Let the Record Show…' (detail) 1987/recreated 2015

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show… (detail)
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957) 'Steal This Book #2' 1991

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957)
Steal This Book #2
1991
Unique chemically altered gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Carrie Yamaoka takes inspiration from Abbie Hoffman’s iconic Steal This Book, a counterculture manual for social revolution. By photographing a page spread and then obliterating all of the words except “slaughter” and “history,” Yamaoka rejects any passive understanding of history. As an activist and artist, Yamaoka will use any means necessary to affect change. Steal This Book #2 may be considered as referring to Yamaoka’s experience as an AIDS activist and her desire to reshape our understanding of our relations with HIV.

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995) 'Bozo Fucks Death' 1988

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995)
Bozo Fucks Death
1988
Nail polish on plastic tray
Collection of Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye

 

One of Jerome Caja’s alter egos was the clown Bozo. Here Caja aggressively turns the tables on death and seeks to gain some control and power over the inevitable, even if only a transgressive, psychological fantasy.

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002) 'AIDS, you can't catch it holding hands' 1987

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002)
AIDS, you can’t catch it holding hands
1987
Book, 52 pages 8 × 10 inches
The Lapis Press, San Francisco
© 2015 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved / ARS, NY / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Working with collaborator Professor Silvio Barandun, Niki de Saint Phalle wrote and illustrated AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands for young adults. Using her characteristically colorful and joyous style, de Saint Phalle offers unusually straightforward information about the transmission of HIV from unprotected sex and unclean needles in intravenous drug use. She also uses the same frank approach to assuring her readers that casual contact from flowers, doorknobs, and toilet seats does not transmit AIDS, notions that were not widely understood in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse I' 1988

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990)
Apocalypse I
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

In their first collaboration, Keith Haring illustrated William S. Burroughs’ dystopic poem Apocalypse by mixing references to advertising, art history, and Catholic theology. Haring included his “devil sperm,” the black, horned symbol he created to give shape to HIV and its reign of death and terror.

Burroughs introduced the chaos unfolding:

“The final Apocalypse is when every man sees what he sees, feels what he feels, and hears what he hears. The creatures of all your dreams and nightmares are right here, right now, solid as they ever were or ever will be, electric vitality of careening subways faster faster faster stations flash by in a blur.”

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse III' 1988

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990)
Apocalypse III
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

Grassroots Activism

Artists provided the early warnings of the AIDS crisis with their artworks deployed at the street level. Posters, stickers, T-shirts and other projects made it impossible to ignore messages about AIDS. These activist artists were informed by earlier precedents of feminist art and artists working on issues of identity politics. Communities coalesced around the calls to action.

The most prominent group to address the AIDS crisis was the anonymous artist collective Gran Fury in New York, a committee of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The collective used techniques and ideas from advertising, marketing, and the art world to raise awareness and affect political change. Their bold graphic style and refined text continues to influence politically-themed art.

Gran Fury and other activists changed how Americans thought about AIDS. The political and social pressure instigated by their actions and artworks played important roles in changing the approval process for AIDS drugs and treatment protocols. Women’s health issues were brought to the forefront. As a result, American society positively changed their opinions about HIV/AIDS when they had correct information.

 

Memento Mori

The AIDS crisis compelled contemporary American artists to address death with urgency. Artists witnessed a plague sweep through their communities and wipe out their friends, colleagues, and lovers. They used art to express their rage and terror when AIDS had no effective treatment. Their artwork provided a vitally important way to mourn their losses and share their sorrow.

Artists looked back to European and American artistic traditions of memento mori, Latin for “Remember that you must die,” to share their experiences, feelings, and stories. They adapted symbols like skulls and flowers to depict the fragility and fleeting nature of life.

Artists in this section shifted the intent of memento mori away from concepts of death and the afterlife. They refocused on the preciousness and precariousness of life, without forgetting the political and social realities behind the massive wave of death. Nayland Blake’s clock marks the passing of so many individuals with a call to action. David Wojnarowicz rages against the senseless death of Peter Hujar. Bill Jacobson and Karen Finley give form to the fragility of memory. Latino folk traditions connect the living and the dead in the paintings of Tino Rodriguez and Thomas Woodruff.

 

Poetic Postmodernism

In the early 1980s, American art was dominated by a new, postmodern theory. It held that meaning belongs not to the artist who made the work but to their audiences who interpret the works. Called “the death of the author,” the theory was named after a 1967 essay by the French postmodernist thinker Roland Barthes.

As AIDS actually caused the death of thousands of authors and artists by the late 1980s, this metaphor became a terrifying reality. At the same time, a powerful Christian conservative movement aggressively politicized AIDS. Using homophobia and fear of the disease, these politicians passed Federal laws that made it illegal to “promote, encourage, or condone homosexual sexual activities or the intravenous use of illegal drugs” in an AIDS awareness and education bill.

The ramifications for artists and art exhibitions were equally prohibitive. Federal laws were passed that made it impossible for museums to receive government support if an exhibition included obscene content, which was understood to mean gay themes among others, including AIDS-specific art. In this climate, artists knew that overt political content would result in censorship. So they developed a new way to smuggle political meaning into art.

In his research for Art AIDS America, Jonathan David Katz named this new approach “poetic postmodernism.” Artists used the postmodern theory “death of the author” to camouflage their own personal, expressive meanings. Many of the works in this exhibition have the same title format, the word “untitled” followed by a more specific description in parentheses such as in “Untitled” (Water), Untitled (Hujar Dead), or Untitled (Corrupt HIV Activism). The first term, “untitled,” signals the prevailing postmodernist idea that all meanings come from the audience. But the phrase inside the parentheses reveals clues to the artist’s associations and intentions. Because recognition of AIDS content was a product of the viewer’s thought and not the artist’s explicit claim, such works could be shown in museums without fear of being censored under the new laws.

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950) 'Milk/Blood' 1989, printed 2015

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950)
Milk/Blood
1989, printed 2015
Chromogenic color print
Exhibition print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Milk/Blood recall the pure, flat color of hard edged abstract painters such as Ellsworth Kelly. But the simple saturated color fields in Serrano’s photograph bear the evocative title Milk/Blood, the two main body fluids that transmit HIV. Serrano appropriates the formal language of modernism for political purposes, a means of potentially slipping AIDS consciousness into a museum context without fear of exclusion or censure. As with HIV infection itself, the photograph underscores how our key sense, vision, is unreliable in the face of AIDS.

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950) 'Blood and Semen III' 1990

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950)
Blood and Semen III
1990
Chromogenic color print, edition 1 of 4
40 × 60 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Like his Milk/Blood in this exhibition, Blood and Semen III also appears to be a rigorously formal composition, this time evoking the gestural appearance of an abstract expressionist painting. Again, the title references two body fluids that transmit HIV. As examples of poetic postmodernism, Serrano activates meaning in Blood and Semen III and Milk/Blood using formal arrangements and references to earlier artistic styles to inform his photographs with personal and potentially political content.

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' 1998

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' (detail) 1998

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.) (detail)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

After an extensive period working in Europe memorializing the Holocaust, Shimon Attie returned to San Francisco in 1996 and began his series Untitled Memory. Attie projected old photographs of his friends and lovers onto places with special meaning to him, including this room of a former apartment. His photographs of these projections became personal studies of loss and melancholy.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled (Hujar Dead)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992)
Untitled (Hujar Dead)
1988-89
Black and white photograph, acrylic, text and collage on Massonite
Collect of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol
Courtesy Second Ward Foundation

 

 

Wojnarowicz was briefly lovers with and then became a close friend of the famous photographer Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1987. Untitled (Hujar Dead) incorporates still images from a film by Wojnarowicz of Hujar’s lifeless body on his hospital bed. Wojnarowicz then overprinted the text of one of his famous “rants.” In these politically-charged performances and texts, he laid blame for the AIDS crisis squarely on the conservative right-wing demagogues who politicised the disease and continually spewed homophobic rhetoric which only exacerbated the crisis.

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010 (detail)

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers (detail)
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

 

Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers incorporates aspects of his Mexican heritage, and especially the tradition of skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This family-oriented celebration of ancestors brings the living and dead into affectionate proximity. Rodriguez here exuberantly conflates familiar American oppositions such as death and life, growth and decay, and even good and evil. Inherently androgynous, the gender of the skulls remains unknown as does their cause of death. But as in the Dia de los Muertos celebration itself, Rodriguez’s image supplants horror with humor and loss with presence, offering the triumph of love and memory over death in the age of AIDS.

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992) 'Untitled (Buffalo)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992)
Untitled (Buffalo)
1988-89
Vintage gelatin silver print, signed on verso
Collection of Michael Sodomick

 

 

For Untitled (Buffalo), David Wojnarowicz simply photographed a diorama in a museum in Washington, DC. This image of buffalo being herded off a cliff served as a chilling metaphor of the politics of AIDS in the US in the late 1980s. Rather than an illustration of traditional Native American hunting techniques, Wojnarowicz eloquently expressed his rage, desperation, and helplessness through the great symbol of American identity. His shifting and layering of meaning onto this symbol is a classic example of poetic postmodernism.

One example of how artists hid their message is David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Buffalo). It’s a diorama of a buffalo fall, a traditional method of harvesting large numbers of buffalo by chasing herds off cliffs. The buffalo are made from plastic. Wojnarowicz photographed the diorama and cropped it. “This is appropriation,” Hushka said. “He used it as this extraordinarily eloquent cry about the state of American politics at the time.” Katz added, “It’s telling that even an artist of Wojnarowicz’s activist fervor engaged in a metaphor that only cohered in the mind’s eye. You needed to be attentive to what it might be saying to read it. There’s nothing specifically AIDS about it.”

 

 

Spiritual Forces

Because of the overwhelming number of deaths, the unspeakable losses, and the constant presence of disease, it should not be surprising that artists also turned to issues of spirituality. Yet, the art history of AIDS often neglects this important aspect. Across the United States, faith communities tended to the spiritual needs of people with AIDS and provided critical services for them. These communities continue to support people living with HIV.

The AIDS crisis exposed deep division within many spiritual traditions. Artists such as Jerome Caja, Robert Gober, and Barbara Kruger expressed discomfort and displeasure in how some religious ideologies oppressed gays and lesbians and worsened the AIDS crisis. Others made inspiring works within long-established traditions like Keith Haring’s altar piece. In other artworks, artists created symbols for the dignity of people suffering from AIDS, ranging from Christian saints and Biblical texts to imagery inspired by Buddhism and healing traditions from India.

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990) 'Altar Piece' 1990 (cast 1996)

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990)
Altar Piece
1990 (cast 1996)
Bronze with white gold leaf patina, edition 2 of 9
60 × 81 x 2 inches
Denver Art Museum, Gift of Yoko Ono, 1996.204A-C.
© Keith Haring Foundation
Photo © Denver Art Museum

 

 

This altar piece by Keith Haring is the last work the artist completed. He worked on the wax mold while he was hospitalized for AIDS-related illnesses. The triptych format echoes traditional Roman Catholic altar pieces. The image of the crying mother holding an infant speaks to the inconsolable losses from AIDS. The mother’s tears fall on the crowds, seeking solace and mercy from the AIDS epidemic.

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945) 'Untitled (It's our pleasure to disgust you)' 1991

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945)
Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you)
1991
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Eric and Nannette Brill

 

 

Despite provocative imagery and text, Barbara Kruger intends no specific meaning to her artworks. Rather, Kruger wants to demonstrate how the reader generates meaning each time the text is read. She activates ambiguity and political charge with the phrase “It’s our pleasure to disgust you.” Kruger underscores the gulf between and image and its possible meanings, an issue brought into high relief in the culture wars promoted by religious conservatives, during the period when this work was made.

The work may be interpreted as evidence that artists like Kruger were deliberately insensitive to cultural norms. Alternatively, it could be read as proof that artworks were deliberately manipulated for political purpose by others. Because AIDS was framed in political terms from its earliest moment, Kruger’s Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you) reflects the complexity and deliberate uses of language about AIDS.

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954) 'Drains' 1990

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954)
Drains
1990
Cast pewter Edition of 8, with 2 artist’s proofs, artist’s proof 1 of 2
Collection of the artist

 

 

Robert Gober’s Drains is meticulously handcrafted to resemble a mass-produced consumer good. Because we think about drains primarily as a tool to remove waste often associated with personal hygiene and cleaning, connections to HIV/AIDS are obvious. By placing the sculpture in an unexpected position on a gallery wall, Gober seeks to generate unanswerable, metaphorical questions about the functions of a drain and the unknown space behind it. The cruciform shape at the back of the drain recalls his childhood and his complicated relationship with Catholicism.

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955) 'Unveiling of a Modern Chastity' 1981

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955)
Unveiling of a Modern Chastity
1981
Rubber paste, latex theatrical wounds, and
printing ink on a stretched linen canvas
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Izhar Patkin painted Unveiling of a Modern Chastity one year before there was any public announcement about a new disease striking formerly healthy young men. This is the earliest work in the exhibition, and, in retrospect, one of the earliest AIDS paintings ever. Troubled by the sight of a group of such young men with similar dark purple skin lesions waiting in his dermatologist’s office, he presciently titled the work to reflect what he felt might be a forthcoming change in sexual culture. The painting’s skin-like surface erupts in what looks like Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.

Patkin’s heavily textured surface and use of artificial wounds was his effort to destroy minimalism and other traditions of pure abstraction. He wanted to expose the inability of modernist art to contain pressing social and contextual significance.

DID YOU KNOW? The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981.

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014) 'Akedah' 1995

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014)
Akedah
1995
Gelatin silver print
171/2 × 21 ¾ inches
Courtesy of Scott R. Portnoff
Photo courtesy of the Estate of Albert J. Winn

 

 

In the artist’s own words: “Every month, because of my illness, I need to undergo a blood test. During the process, a tourniquet is bound tightly about my upper arm. At times when I’ve been on a study protocol for an experimental medicine, I’ve had my blood drawn every day. Having my blood drawn has become a ritual in what sometimes seems is a new religious practice, an AIDS ritual.

“Over time, I’ve transformed this ritual in relation to my Judaism. I wonder if like Isaac, I am being sacrificed. This time to science. I pray that an angel will intercede and spare my life. When my arm is bound with a tourniquet and the veins bulge, I am reminded that I am bound to my illness. I look at the rubber strap and see tefillin. Sometimes the impression of the leather straps from the tefillin are still visible on my skin by the time the tourniquet is wrapped around my arm. The binding of the tefillin is a reminder of being bound to my heritage. The straps also make my veins bulge. Except for the needle stick the binding feels the same.”

 

 

Art AIDS America at the Tacoma Art Museum

Politics, sex, religion, loss, and beauty – all of the topics that you can’t talk about over dinner but can at a museum – are open for discussion in Art AIDS America, an exhibition that reveals for the first time how the AIDS crisis forever changed American art. Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful.

Art AIDS America is a story of resilience and beauty revealed through art, and the community that gathered to bring hope and change. While recognizing and honoring loss and grief, it refutes the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art, exploring how artists’ responses to the crisis and its legacy continue to inform contemporary American art. These artworks offer a vibrant representation of community, caring, creativity and activism. And, Art AIDS America will serve as a vivid reminder that the crisis is not over; HIV infections are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

A decade in the making, this exhibition is co-curated by TAM’s Chief Curator, Rock Hushka, and Jonathan D. Katz, PhD, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program, University at Buffalo.

“AIDS fundamentally changed American art, remaking its communicative strategies, its market, its emotional pitch and – not least – its political possibilities. But we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in the making of contemporary American culture, as we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in every other aspect of our lives. This exhibition underscores how powerfully a plague that is still with us has changed us,” says Katz. “Art AIDS America creates spaces for mourning and loss, yes, but also for anger and for joy, for political resistance and for humor, for horror, and for eroticism.”

The exhibition assembles 125 significant works in a wide range of media. The artists are diverse, including the internationally acclaimed such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Martin Wong, and those not yet as widely celebrated such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Chloe Dzubilo, Derek Jackson, Kia Labeija, and Joey Terrill. The works date from 1981 to today, and some, like Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 1986 AIDS/ARC vigil in San Francisco, will be on public view for the first time.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

Works in the exhibition will generally fall into two categories: art with a clear tie to AIDS, and art that requires the viewer to look beyond the surface to understand its connection to HIV/AIDS. Some artists addressed the AIDS crisis through activist works, community projects, graphics, and direct political statements. For example, the collective ACT UP NY/Gran Fury’s installation Let the Record Show… sears the words of public officials whose actions inflamed the crisis, including the silence of President Ronald Reagan, who would not speak publicly about AIDS until 1987. Other artists use camouflage, coding, misdirection, symbols, or other covert strategies to address the social, political, and physical impacts of HIV. An example is Robert Sherer’s beautifully rendered Sweet Williams, a basket of cut flowers, painted in HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood, about the untimely deaths of so many young men. The exhibition will be organized roughly by works created pre- and post-cocktail (in this case, ‘cocktail’ refers to the combination of drugs and therapies used to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS).

“Tacoma Art Museum is a safe space where people are able to address important and challenging issues. We are proud to present Art AIDS America. It is fitting that the exhibition debuts in Tacoma, the city that established the nation’s first government-sanctioned needle exchange program in a proactive approach toward controlling the spread of AIDS,” said Stephanie Stebich, TAM’s Executive Director. “TAM also has the scholarship to support this exhibition through our chief curator Rock Hushka and the exhibition’s co-curator Dr. Jonathan D. Katz, who also co-curated the award-winning Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which we brought to TAM in 2012.”

The Art AIDS America catalogue is a significant component of the exhibition, with 15 contributors, nearly 300 pages, and more than 200 illustrations. It is published in association with the University of Washington Press of Seattle and London and designed by Marquand Books, Seattle. Art AIDS America is organized by TAM in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts and will tour nationally. See it first at TAM, on view October 3, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition will then travel to Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA; and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY.”

Press release from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955) 'Interim Portrait #373' 1992

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955)
Interim Portrait #373
1992
Chromogenic color print
24 × 20 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947) 'Ken Meeks, PWA' 1985

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947)
Ken Meeks, PWA
1985
Archival pigment print
Courtesy of Contact Press Images, New York

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950) 'Robert Chesley - ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6' 1989, printed 2015

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950)
Robert Chesley – ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6
from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal
1989, printed 2015
Pigment print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Mark I. Chester gives us the first portrait of a sexually active person with AIDS. Robert Chesley (1943-1990) was a playwright, theater critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and music composer. Perhaps his most celebrated play was Jerker, or The Helping Hand: A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty. At a time when many gay men had come to associate their own sexuality with death, the artist showed Chesley as a vibrant, active person with AIDS, intended as a rebuke to the routine AIDS portraits of mortally ill people. With this series, Chester rewrote the late-1980s codes for representing gay male sexuality from sexlessness and death towards a renewed embrace of life and its pleasure.

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968) 'Robert' from the series 'Milky' 2004

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968)
Robert from the series Milky
2004
Inkjet print
Edition 2 of 10
Tacoma Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from Curtis Man

 

 

For his series Milky, photographer Steven Miller asked his friends if he could photograph them as he poured milk over their heads. These portraits capture the different reactions to the sensation and convey a sense of discomfort from being drenched by fluids like milk. Miller likens these two aspects to a symbolic infection of HIV. For many gay artists of his generation, HIV looms as a constant presence, and body fluids remain deeply ingrained as transmitters of the virus.

 

 

Portraiture

Artists used portraits to directly convey the devastating effects of the crisis on individuals. Even if we do not know the subject, portraits remind us that someone we know was likely affected by AIDS. Because the science about the retrovirus was new and extremely complicated and frightening, such portraits humanized the disease so it could be understood through personal stories.

Early portraits brought attention to the physical symptoms of AIDS such as the deep purple lesions of the skin cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma and the devastating weakness caused by AIDS-related wasting syndrome. Artists soon refocused on portraits of defiant individuals living with HIV. Refusing to show people as victims of an incurable disease, these portraits depicted fighters and survivors.

From pure abstract representations to straightforward photographic likenesses, portraits continue to illuminate how individuals respond to and overcome even the most complex aspects of HIV/AIDS such as stigma, racism, sexism, and poverty.

 

The Legacy of the AIDS Crisis

HIV is no longer an immediate life-or-death issue facing American artists, but one that quietly and continually persists in intriguing ways. The legacy of the AIDS crisis can be traced either through the motifs and influences of earlier artists or by understanding the psychological trauma and challenges that result from living in a world with HIV.

Artworks made after antiretroviral medicines became available in the mid-1990s beg the questions: If HIV is undetectable in a body and all but invisible in society, why should visibility in art be any different? How do you identify HIV if an artist is unwilling to speak about it but doesn’t live a moment of his or her intimate life without being aware of its near-certain presence?

Artists such as John Arsenault, Kalup Linzy, Patte Loper, and Donald Moffett bring their personal histories as activists and care givers into their artwork. They also use their art to express the discomfort and complexities of living in a world with the constant presence of HIV.

Works of art should be read with empathy and compassion to understand the fullness and richness of the artist’s experience. We need to remind ourselves of the stresses, anxieties, fears, and realities caused by the burden of HIV. To honor these artists’ experiences, we must insist that HIV inform at least part of the meaning of their work. This will ensure an understanding of their art as part of an art history of deep social engagement and connection.

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964) 'THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey's Self-Obliteration #1' 2008

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964)
THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1
2008
Chromogenic color print
Edition 1 of 5
Documentation courtesy of Leon Mostovoy
Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles

 

 

These three photographs capture moments in the archival performance of THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1.

Section 1 (left): The work begins with Athey’s solo performance of Self-Obliteration #1 while Tolentino, from a nearby platform, aims to capture his performance movements and affect (a reading of tones, gestures, and movements) as an archival action.

This work involves a long blond wig pierced onto the scalp with hidden needles. The needles are removed, causing blood to stream and pool onto two panes of glass. Ultimately, these glass pieces are positioned to encase the individual body.

Section 2 (center and right): Tolentino and Athey “repeat” his performance, a true impossibility in the live form – displaying a disrupted mirroring of the other.

Like a low current running throughout the work, THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME‘s tension opens to the spectator’s subjectivity. A range of issues are activated: Athey’s openly HIV positive status; the actions performed on a differently-gendered person of colour; and the intimate act of bleeding. This becomes entangled with Tolentino’s practice, history of activism and advocacy, caregiving and artist-to-artist relations as a living archive.

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961) 'Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)' 2000

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961)
Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)
2000
Polaroid
Private collection

 

 

This work by Catherine Opie, taken with the world’s largest polaroid camera, was made in collaboration with the performance artist Ron Athey. Athey achieved both fame and censure as an HIV positive performance artist whose work involved physical and psychic trials, along with, on occasion, blood.

Clearly a response to AIDS, the pose of Ron Athey/The Sick Man recalls the traditional iconography of the Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary supports the body of the dead Christ. Athey is held by his performance partner Darryl Carlton (a.k.a. Divinity Fudge), two heavily tattooed men in place of the holy family. The implications of self-sacrifice and transcendence through pain and suffering animate both the original scene and this more contemporary incarnation. Opie situated the figures in a beautiful, richly saturated black space. She offers a contemporary allegory of the excluded sufferer whose exile and death can be laid at the feet of those who consider themselves pious.

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961) 'Life Altering Spencer from Leaves' 2013

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961)
Life Altering Spencer from Leaves
2013
Wire and paper
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Purchased as the gift of Louis Wiley, Jr. (PA 1963) in Memory of Paul Monette (PA 1963) and his partner Roger Horwitz

 

 

Eric Rhein began The Leaf Project in 1996 to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and chose to memorialize his friends who had died of AIDS-related causes. He selected the leaf motif to honor the individuality of each person, while also evoking the countless leaves shed by trees in autumn. Life Altering Spencer honors AIDS activist Spencer Cox (1968-2012), a member of ACT UP, Treatment Action Group, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Anti-Viral Advisory Committee. In this capacity, Cox and others became experts on drug trials and approval, successfully lobbying to hasten the approval time for new HIV medications. Cox and his group thus changed the course of medicine in America – the first non-physicians to do so – and, not coincidentally, these new treatments saved the life of artist Eric Rhein.

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991) 'For the Record' 2013

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991)
For the Record
2013
Two offset prints on newsprint, two panels, installed: 22⅝ x 70 inches
Courtesy of the artists
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

The collaborative group fierce pussy created this work for the organization Visual AIDS in New York City. Playing off Gran Fury’s 1987 Let the Record Show… and evoking postmodern text based art, fierce pussy asks that we remember the thousands of people who died of HIV-related causes before antiretroviral drugs became available to control the virus. They insist that we continue the work to end HIV/AIDS despite these new drugs.

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honor of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002 (detail)

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected (detail)
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honor of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

 

The horse with no rider at the center of the composition represents individuals on the reservation who have died of AIDS-related causes. Using the 19th-century tradition of ledger drawing, with a riderless horse as symbolic of a warrior who fell in battle, Haukaas weaves together the complicated issues of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the Native American experience with the disease.

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957) 'Sweet Williams' 2013

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957)
Sweet Williams
2013
HIV- and HIV+ blood on paper
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The title Sweet Williams comes from Robert Sherer’s childhood. His grandmother, an avid gardener, often asked him to help gather flowers from her garden and instructed, “Now, honey, cut down the most beautiful ones first.” Upon reflection, Sherer realized that AIDS was deeply correlated to beauty and sexual attraction. He remembers his many handsome friends and acquaintances who died too early – the Williams, the Billys, the Wills, the Willies – memorializing them in an image drawn in HIV negative and positive blood. Of all his colleague friends, two of whom were named William, only Sherer is still alive.

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955) 'Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week's Dose of Truvada' 2012

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955)
Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week’s Dose of Truvada
2012
Mixed media on canvas
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Foundation purchase

 

 

Long-time Latino queer rights and AIDS activist Joey Terrill makes paintings that resemble the work of such well-known pop artists as Tom Wesselmann. Departing from Wesselmann’s 1960s pop still-life paintings, Terrill subverts the genre through his many queer references, not least the regular inclusion of the HIV medication Truvada. In these his appropriations of the American dream, Terrill shows himself to be a political activist – a role he has inhabited since the 1970s.

Terrill’s addition of the forget-me-nots at the center of the composition pays homage to his artistic hero David Wojnarowicz. He also alludes to the daily routine of the antiviral medicine Truvada and pointedly questions why changes in the social and political realms have allowed this to be a normal part of so many people’s lives.

 

Derek Jackson (Born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972) 'Perfect Kiss' 2007

 

Derek Jackson (Born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972)
Perfect Kiss
2007
Slideshow with found music and original still imagery
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Derek Jackson enacts a series of “hookups” in which his sexual activity should necessarily raise issues of HIV. Although not explicitly mentioned, HIV is evoked by the lyrics of his soundtrack. Jackson relies on New Order’s 1987 hit Perfect Kiss to equate unsafe sex with a suicide. The lyrics of the chorus plead with a suicidal friend, “I know, you know, you believe in a land of love.” Jackson’s hookups demonstrate how self-esteem, mutual respect, and communication are necessary to avoid becoming HIV positive.

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland) John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971 Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980 'Eden #31' 2012

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland)
John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971
Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980
Eden #31
2012
Chromogenic color print
Courtesy of the artists

 

 

LADZ coined their name after a humorous autocorrect of “ladies” while texting on their smart phones. The artist group finds virtually abandoned industrial spaces where they enact elaborate scenarios reflecting the complexities of life in Los Angeles. The heightened sexual tension combined with the boxing gloves provides a glimpse into the daily navigation of sexual activity and HIV.

 

Kalup Linzy (Born Stuckey, Florida, 1977) 'Lollypop' 2006

 

Kalup Linzy (Born Stuckey, Florida, 1977)
Lollypop
2006
Single-channel video
3 minutes, 24 seconds
Collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky

 

 

Kalup Linzy and his friend, artist Shaun Leonardo, lip sync the 1933 Hunter & Jenkins tune. Laden with the sexual innuendo of the song’s lyrics, Linzy attempts to coax treats from Leonardo. The artist playfully raises issues of gender and performance.

Given the high rates of HIV infection of men of color who have sex with men particularly in urban centers, a viewer should keep in mind that individuals like Linzy continually navigate HIV in all their sexual encounters. Unlike a generation ago, young men and women have come to have a different relationship with HIV and no longer fear the virus as a death sentence. Empathy toward their experiences is key to understanding how they cope and survive.

 

Deborah Kass (born 1952) 'Still Here' 2007

 

Deborah Kass (born 1952)
Still Here
2007
Oil and acrylic on canvas
45 × 63 inches
Private collection
© 2015 Deborah Kass / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

 

 

Deborah Kass painted Still Here as part of a group of paintings called Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times, beginning in 2006. A response to the ongoing foreign wars and domestic political issues after the second election of George W. Bush, Kass underscored the gulf between the literal and metaphorical significance of the phrases she painted. Still Here comes from the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies in which a faded film star recalls how she persevered. The song opens “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all, and, my dear, I’m still here.”

The sentiment of the song speaks to the resilience of the many people who lived through the AIDS crisis and those who continue the struggle against the virus and social injustice. Kass’s title may also recall Still/Here, a dance about perseverance, dying, and HIV by the HIV positive choreographer Bill T. Jones.

 

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

 

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990)
24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room)
2014
Inkjet prints
13 × 19 inches
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Artist and performer Kia Labeija was born HIV positive. She struggled with HIV throughout her childhood, including the side effects of the medications, the stigma associated with the disease, and the death of her mother. In her three photographs titled 24, she celebrates coming to terms with the disease and her new-found role as advocate and spokesperson for AIDS awareness. The title also commemorates her 24th birthday and her home on the 24th floor of a Manhattan apartment building.

 

 

Tacoma Art Museum
1701 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98402

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday  10 am – 5 pm
Free Third Thursday 5 pm – 8 pm

Tacoma Art Museum website

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09
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Transmissions: Archiving HIV/AIDS – Melbourne 1979 – 2014’ at George Paton Gallery, The University of Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th July – 25th July 214

Artists include: Marcus Bunyan, Juan Davila, Andrew Foster, Brent Harris, Mathew Jones, Peter Lyssiotis, Lex Middleton, Andi Nellssun, Marcus O’Donnell, Scott Redford, and Ross T Smith

Opening: Wednesday 16 July 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm

 

Another important exhibition to coincide with the 20th International AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne this July. The exhibition – which focuses on the seminal exhibition Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art In The Age Of AIDS, curated by Ted Gott at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra in 1994 – is supported by an extensive program of public events (see below) some of which I hope to get to. The community lost so many good people.

I just want to say ‘good on ya, Andi’, hope your smiling up there somewhere!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Michael Graf and The George Paton Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The exhibition will be open until 9pm on Wednesday 23 July as part of the Nite Art Walk.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'ACT UP D-Day on the steps of Flinders St. Station, 6 June 1991' 1991

 

Unknown photographer
ACT UP D-Day on the steps of Flinders St. Station, 6 June 1991
1991
Image courtesy of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

 

To coincide with the 20th International AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne in July, TRANSMISSIONS | Archiving HIV/AIDS | Melbourne 1979-2014 is an exhibition of artworks, manuscripts, and other material from private collections and public archives. It will focus on the partnership between government, health professionals, and Melbourne’s gay community, and on relations between activism, art and design.

Australia is recognised for having implemented one the world’s most successful HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns. The exhibition and conference, however, coincide with a twenty-year high in infection rates. To be able to reach a younger generation,current health promotion campaigns have become increasingly sophisticated. TRANSMISSIONS will investigate several of these campaigns in relation to others from the past thirty years.

TRANSMISSIONS will feature artworks by Marcus Bunyan, Juan Davila, Andrew Foster, Brent Harris, Mathew Jones, Peter Lyssiotis, Lex Middleton, Andi Nellsün, Marcus O’Donnell, Scott Redford, and Ross T Smith.

A publication and a comprehensive public program will accompany this two-week exhibition.

Exhibition curated by Michael Graf and Russell Walsh.

 

Andi Nellsün. 'Matr'x' 1993

 

Andi Nellsün
Matr’x
1993

 

Andi-Nellsun-Synergy-WEB

 

Andi Nellsün
Synergy
1993

 

 

Free Public program

Wednesday 16 July 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm – Exhibition Launch
(all welcome but please RSVP to transmissions-rsvp@unimelb.edu.au)

Thursday 17 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Introduction to the archives
Nick Henderson (Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives) and Katie Wood (The University of Melbourne Archives) in conversation with Russell Walsh.

Friday 18 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Activism, archives and history
Graham Willett (Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives) in conversation with Russell Walsh.

Saturday 19 July, 3 pm – 4 pm – Curator floor-talk with Michael Graf and Russell Walsh

Wednesday 23 July – exhibition open till 9pm for Nite Art Walk

Wednesday 23 July 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm – Hares and Hyenas Word is Out presents: Charles Roberts, Infected Queer – 20 years on
Melbourne writer Javant Biarujia will read from the polemical AIDS diary that he helped edit and publish in 1994.

Thursday 24 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art In The Age Of AIDS: 20 years on
Ted Gott, Curator of the seminal exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994, in conversation with Michael Graf, with several of the exhibition’s artists present for comment.

Friday 25 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – The Face of HIV/AIDS: Photographic Portraiture and HIV/AIDS 1984-1994
Susannah Seaholm-Rolan reflecting on why many of the artists featured in Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art In The Age Of AIDS worked in the medium of photographic portraiture and self-portraiture (includes exhibition closing drinks).

Please note: all events will commence sharply at advertised times owing to the early closure of the Student Union Building

 

Lex Middleton. 'Gay Beauty Myth' 1992

 

Lex Middleton
Gay Beauty Myth
1992
Gelatin silver photographs

 

Juan Davila. 'LOVE' 1988

 

Juan Davila
LOVE
1988
Oil on canvas
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

 

“The central theme of the exhibition is the response from Melbourne’s LGBT community to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It will contain artworks from this period as well as activist, government and other cultural responses – some of the works have never been exhibited before.

Michael Graf is co-curator of Transmissions, along with Russell Walsh. Both Graf and Walsh have spent the past seven months trawling through the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) and the University of Melbourne Archives, where they have discovered some of the most moving and unique stories in Melbourne’s LGBT history.

“We wanted to focus on some of the cultural responses to the crisis,” Graf says. “The main part of that has been Ted Gott’s exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994: Don’t leave me this way: art in the age of AIDS. That exhibition became an incredibly important event for a lot of people. The NGA actually thought they would get 10,000 people through the space in four or five months – they got 140,000 people.

“It became a kind of pilgrimage for people from Melbourne and Sydney and other places around Australia. They went to Canberra specifically to see that exhibition. It was the first time a national gallery anywhere in the world put on an exhibition about HIV/AIDS.”

Transmissions includes copies of the visitors books from Don’t leave me this way: art in the age of AIDS. As the exhibition became a place where people remembered those they had lost, they poured their emotions and their experiences of the exhibition into the visitors books.

“There are some extraordinary accounts,” Graf says. “They had this experience in a national gallery to actually grieve.”

Graf and Walsh also tracked down artists from this exhibition. While many concede thatDon’t leave me this way has been long forgotten, the milieu surrounding Transmissions is that it is time for this work to be considered again.

“They [the artists] have also said this is the perfect time to remember it,” Graf says. “Sometimes these things have to wait until they have receded enough back into history before they can be looked at again.” …

Graf hopes people visiting Transmissions will take away the richness of these collections. He also hopes they attract a younger audience as well as those who will remember what life was like in the gay community at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“We’re hoping people might be inspired to access places such as the Australia Lesbian and Gay Archives and for a younger generation of people in Melbourne to be exposed to this incredible important history.”

Rachel Cook. “Transmissions: Archiving HIV/AIDS – Melbourne 1979 – 2014,” on the Gay News Network website, 2nd July 2014 [Online] Cited 06/07/2014

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'How will it be when you have changed' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
How will it be when you have changed
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Tell me your face before you were born' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Tell me your face before you were born
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

George Paton Gallery
Level Two, Union House
The University of Melbourne 3010
Enquiries: +61 3 8344 5418
Email: gpg@union.unimelb.edu.au

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 12 pm – 6 pm
Saturday 2 pm – 5 pm

George Paton Gallery website

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The University of Melbourne logo Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives website
Victorian AIDS Council website Nite Art Melbourne website
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The Ian Potter Museum of Art

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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