May 1 - 31, 2008

Visual AIDS and The Body

Linear Progression / Progressive Deterioration
Curated by Steven Gordon and R. J. Supa

Sam Orwen, Lovers, 1982
El Abrazo 2005
Rodrigo Zuniga
Oil on canvas, 30" x 24"

Featuring the artwork of Archive Members Michael Borosky, Jack Brusca, Curtis Carman, Tim Greathouse, Frank Green, Max Greenberg, Carlos Gonzalez, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ken Goodman, Keith Haring, Jerry Hooten, horea, W. Benjamin Incerti, David Nelson, Richard Sawdon-Smith, Ferenc Suto, David Wojnarowicz, Tal Zargarhoff, and Rodrigo Zuniga.

In the Curatorís Statements:

Linear Progression by Steven Gordon

Something that has always fascinated me, both in my work and in my personal life, is the post 9/11 effect on the city's health, especially the topic of HIV. Have certain behaviors changed since the fall of the towers? That question may be a hard one to answer. What I can answer is that the rise of HIV infection has risen among people under the age of 25 in NYC. Rates of infection in African American women and African-American MSM have also increased in the past seven years. My selection of artworks will seek to explore what I have seen in both my personal life as a black gay man and in my career working with HIV positive people in post 9/11 New York.

In working with HIV positive folks, I have seen the full spectrum of emotion and behavior. Jack Brusca's "Beck" represents the despair on top of isolation many people feel when dealing with a stigmatized condition. Tal Zargarhof's "Chris Getting High" is the idea of escape from reality. The artworks that include HIV medications represent the gift and curse of modern medicine. The gift being a prolonged and better quality of life, while the curses are the side effects and pressure of staying adherent. Rodrigo Zuniga's "El Abrazo" speaks to the human need for intimacy, touch and sex. I chose Tim Greathouse's "Untitled" because oftentimes I think it is assumed that HIV does not mix well with romance, sex or marriage. To me this photo challenges that stereotype. Max Greenberg's "Ten Years" photo is essentially hope. The photograph of a man, who is not ashamed of his HIV and after living with it for 10 years, remains healthy. This picture represents the most important idea I want this gallery to represent: hope.

From my perspective, this gallery is a linear story that represents basic human emotions in the face of any true obstacle: fear, denial, anger, and hope. The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

Progressive Deterioration by RJ Supa

I recall my teenage obsession with Madonna as overwhelming, defining, formative, obsessive and most things in between. It was 1991, I was 15, and I had to have my aunt buy me The Advocate with Madonna on the cover from our local adult bookstore, the only place one could buy any gay magazine in upstate New York.

After voraciously reading and re-reading Madonna's "X-Rated Interview" I continued my exploration of the magazine. At this time a good portion of The Advocate was filled with sex ads, offering every bit of kink one could ask for. Those ads no longer exist, at least not in that format or in that magazine. I miss that. The end of those ads -- for me -- was the beginning of the disappearance of our Queer Identities.

The works I have chosen here all represent a vanishing act. From the haunting images of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Richard Sawdon-Smith to the nowadays non-existent ACT UP posters that I loved so much to the thousands of friends, family and amazing artists that we have lost, MY QUEER CULTURE IS VANISHING.

The pieces, in relatively chronological order, document my feelings and experiences on queer culture, HIV & AIDS and our place as a community in all of that: Where is lesbian representation among HIV/AIDS studies & statistics? Where is Peter Hujar? Why did he have to die? Why is it the further we come out of the closet the more our sex lives are shoved further back inside?

Shame was taken over by anger, which has now been replaced by complacency. Our Queer Culture MUST recognize all of this. While we may be more visible on TV and in the national zeitgeist, I ask, "At what cost?" I do not want to be either Will OR Grace. I miss being subculture; I miss people storming St. Patrick's Cathedral; I miss David Wojnarowicz and Robert Mapplethorpe! I miss New York and the gay theatres and a dirtier Times Square. I miss art that is organic and happening on the sides of buildings, on streets and in dilapidated warehouses.

In working with an LGBT youth population I have become aware that information is also disappearing; urgency and agency are disappearing; facilities, funding, resources and good, decent caregivers are fading. Interest in HIV/AIDS is at an all-time low. Practically gone are the days when we were all wearing red ribbons, buying our Red, Hot & Blue records, displaying our Safe Sex Is Hot Sex ad campaigns in our lockers, offices, dorms and bedrooms.

While I never again want to be relegated to buy a gay newsmagazine from an adult bookstore, I too do not want to be a sexual eunuch; I want my cake and I want to eat it too! To quote Larry Kramer on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of ACT UP: "We are not crumbs; we must not accept crumbs." Perhaps what I should say is, "I want my FULL piece of cake and I want to eat all of it!"

This leads me back to Madonna. She has clearly had her full piece of cake and continues to demand more (she's a queer icon for a reason). Back in 1991, during the second part of her "X-Rated Interview," she said "people are afraid to say 'I wish President Bush would spend less money on arms and more money on funding research to find a cure for AIDS.' There just aren't enough people doing that." Some things change, some things remain the same. At the very least we have the images to remind us of what was, what could have been and the things that might have happened.

b i o g r a p h i e s

Steven Gordon is currently the HIV Services Coordinator at the Ali Forney Center. He also works as a consultant for Hudson Pride Connections, an LGBT community center in Jersey City where he acts as an advisor and provides consultation in areas of staff trainings and client issues for the growing organization. Mr. Gordon started his work in HIV services with Body Positive, a historic New York City Community Based Organization and has been featured in various newspaper and magazine articles and television programs centered on HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues.

RJ Supa is a conceptual and performance artist living in Brooklyn, NY. Additionally he works at the Ali Forney Center, a homeless services agency for LGBT youth.

The Ali Forney Foundation's mission is to help homeless LGBT youth be safe and become independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood. AFC is the nation's largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. The AFC goal is to provide homeless LGBT youths, aged 16 to 24, with the support and services they need to escape the streets and begin to live healthy and independent lives.

Every month, Visual AIDS invites guest curators, drawn from both the arts and AIDS communities, to select several works from the Frank Moore Archive Project.

Founded in 1988 by arts professionals as a response to the effects of AIDS on the arts community and as a way of organizing artists, arts institutions, and arts audiences towards direct action, Visual AIDS has evolved into an arts organization with a two-pronged mission: 1) Through the Frank Moore Archive Project, the largest slide library of work by artists living with HIV and the estates of artists who have died of AIDS, Visual AIDS historicizes the contributions of visual artists with HIV while supporting their ability to continue making art and furthering their professional careers, 2) In collaboration with museums, galleries, artists, schools, and AIDS service organizations, Visual AIDS produces exhibitions, publications, and events utilizing visual art to spread the message “AIDS IS NOT OVER.”

The Body is now the most frequently visited HIV/AIDS-related site on the Web, according to the Medical Library Association and also the most frequently visited disease-specific site on the Web, according to Hot 100. The Body contains a rich collection of information on topics ranging from HIV prevention, state-of-the-art treatment issues, humor and art. An invaluable resource, The Body is used by clinicians, patients and the general public. Part of The Body's mission is to enable artistic expression to reach the Web, and to join art with other resources needed to help the public comprehend the enormity and devastation of the AIDS pandemic and to experience its human and spiritual dimensions.

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"My drawings are primarily meant for guys who may have experienced misunderstanding and oppression and feel that they have somehow failed in their lives. I want to encourage them. I want to encourage this minority group, to tell them not to give up, to think positively about their act and whole being." (1990) — Tom of Finland