This exhibition parallels Art AIDS America, now on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. As a deeper dive into that exhibition, it selects nine of its artists for an expanded showing. Since the onset of the plague, images of HIV/AIDS have been highly politicized. A newly empowered Christian Right, sensing an opening, sought to make AIDS a wedge issue, reinvigorating increasingly old stereotypes about homosexual sickness and contagion, infection of the young, sad lives and early deaths. By the mid-1980s, they had successfully passed legislation that caused the United States government to effectively censor the display and circulation of all AIDS-related visual material if any support came from government funds. Simultaneously, a new wind in art criticism dismissed the very prospect of artistic statement and expressivity as outmoded and theoretically unsophisticated, arguing that meaning was not the province of the artist, but of the viewer, whose act of interpretation gave all art its voice. As a result, AIDS in art was policed by two overlapping regimes, one centered in Washington and the other in the art world. To combat these twin forces, artists embraced a variety of approaches—sometimes hiding AIDS content, sometimes celebrating it—to address loss, both personal and collective, as the plague raged.
The nine artists of A Deeper Dive embody a wide range of political tactics for representing HIV/AIDS across the changing American cultural landscape from the early years of the plague to our current times. Working across a range of media, these artists reflect a multitude of social realities and speak to the various challenges faced by individuals from different communities.
These works offer up a spectrum of emotional and political responses that cannot be separated from the lives of their makers. Taken as a whole, they reflect the past and present of a disease that still haunts us, physically, ideologically, and politically.
The Leslie-Lohman Museum is a sponsor of the national tour of Art AIDS America. After the Bronx Museum, the show will travel to the Alphawood Foundation Gallery in Chicago.
“None of the funds made available under this Act… shall be used to provide AIDS education, information or prevention materials and activities that promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual sexual activities.”- Senator Jesse Helms’s amendment to a federal act supporting AIDS related programs through the Center for Disease Control, 1987
Curated by Jonathan David Katz and Andrew Barron with the assistance of Chris Borschel.
Opening Reception: 6p
Runs through 2nd October