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Gran Fury, The Pope and the Penis, second panel, 1990
Gran Fury, The Pope and the Penis, second panel, 1990

‘80S AIDS ACTIVISTS, GRAN FURY, GET RETRO

Jan. 30, 2012

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Gran Fury, the collective of artist-provocateurs that formed in response to the emerging AIDS crisis in the late 1980s, is getting its first-ever survey, “Gran Fury: Read My Lips,” at New York University’s 80WSE Galleries, Jan. 31-Mar. 17, 2012.

Before disbanding in 1995, Gran Fury -- named after the model of Plymouth used by the NYPD -- organized 17 projects that publicly challenged AIDS stigmatization, pressured politicians on policy issues and raised awareness. 

Among the 15 billboards, postcards, paintings and videos on view in the exhibition -- an almost complete collection of the group’s body of work -- are reproductions of well-known political artworks, such as the bus-stop sign declaring, “Women Don’t Get AIDS, They Just Die From It,” and a billboard of a baby that reads, “Welcome to America: The only industrialized country besides South Africa without national healthcare.” Also on hand is one of Gran Fury's most striking works, a projection of “Kissing Doesn’t Kill,” the anti-AIDS-alarmism PSA that shows multiple kisses between all kinds of people of various races, genders and cultures.

On the gallery’s 25-foot long windows facing Washington Square Park, Gran Fury members are installing early images of AIDS activists alongside anti-gay demonstrators, a way of “encouraging viewers to viscerally experience the polarization in America over health-care issues related to AIDS during the late 1980s,” according to the press release.

An 88-page catalogue with historic conversations between Gran Fury and Douglas Crimp, Richard Deitcher and Robert Gober, as well as more recent statements from Grand Fury, accompanies the exhibition. And, a discussion with the group’s remaining members, moderated by Andrew Ross, will be held Feb. 28, 2012, at the Einstein Auditorium.

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