This groundbreaking exhibition underscored the deep and unforgettable presence of HIV in American art. It introduced and explored the whole spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful, surveying works from the early 1980s to the present.

Art AIDS America was the first exhibition to explore how the AIDS crisis forever changed American art. Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable, though often unacknowledged, force in shaping politics, medicine, culture and society. While acknowledging and honoring the enormous anger, loss and grief generated by the epidemic, the exhibition refuted the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art. Instead, Art AIDS America offered a story of resilience and beauty revealed through the visual arts, and of the communities that gathered to bring hope and change in the face of a devastating disease.

The Chicago presentation of Art AIDS America featured 170 significant works of contemporary art in a wide range of media – from painting and photography to sculpture and video. Representing more than 100 artists, the exhibition included works by Judy Chicago, Chloe Dzubilo, Karen Finley, Robert Gober, Félix González-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Derek Jackson, Barbara Kruger, Kia Labeija, Annie Leibovitz, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marlon Riggs, Andres Serrano, Kiki Smith, Joey Terrill, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong and many others. To highlight Chicago’s own history and the powerful voices of its diverse art communities, several artists were added to the Chicago presentation, including Gregg Bordowitz, Roger Brown, Doug Ischar, Patric McCoy, Michael Qualls, Oli Rodriguez, Daniel Sotomayor and Israel Wright.

To spark crucial conversations, encourage the exchange of different perspectives and ultimately created change, public programs served as a catalyst for a citywide dialogue on the cultural impact of HIV/AIDS. Through panels, discussions, artist talks, performances and related events presented in association with local arts and advocacy community allies, topics explored included art and activism then and now, equitable representation of people of color, and the intersection of HIV/AIDS with race, gender and age.

A print publication and a digital archive for Art AIDS America Chicago are in the works. Check back for more information!

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Art AIDS America was organized by Tacoma Art Museum in partnership with The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The exhibition is co-curated by Jonathan David Katz, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program at the University at Buffalo (The State University of New York), and Rock Hushka, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum. The national tour is supported by the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and Gilead Sciences, Inc. The exhibition and catalogue have been made possible by support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.