World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1, bringing together people from all over the world, with the aim of raising awareness, informing and showing international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. During the 1970s and 1980s, discrimination in art about AIDS was immediately supported by federal laws that prohibited support for the development of works on this theme. "None of the funds made available under this law (…) shall be used to provide education or information regarding AIDS, or for prevention materials or for activities that promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual sexual activities.” It is due to this law that many of the works produced at this time on AIDS do not seem to be about that topic. As Sergio Bessa points out, the artists had two options: “learning to camouflage AIDS and queer content so that their art would continue to circulate in the arts circuit, or forget about official support and make art that was consciously activist, knowing that it would not be shown in museums or art galleries. That's why he explores this idea of camouflage”. Discover in this article the artists who risked their careers with the aim of raising awareness and informing the public about AIDS.
Trojan Boxes by Adam Rolston, riff on Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes, 1991
In an installation made up of cardboard boxes of Trojan condoms (Trojan Boxes, 1991), Adam Rolston updates the Brillo Boxes, 1964 in Andy Warhol and, through a subversive message, recreates the condom boxes, adding the word anal to the originally printed text “for your protection during vaginal intercourse”.
Untitled (Water) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 1995
One of the most emblematic pieces of this camouflage concept are the sparkling beaded curtains - Untitled (Water), 1995 by Cuban Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Water, which in this context would be the purifying element, contrasts with what the disease would represent.
Untitled (Buffalo) by David Wojnarowicz, 1988-89
An iconic image from the 1990s of a number of buffaloes jumping over a cliff is a metaphor for American policies on disease in the late 1080s. This work demonstrates the need for camouflage of this theme in American art. .
AltarPiece in Keith Haring, 1990
The bronze triptych showing a mother holding a baby and tears falling on a series of figures. After being diagnosed with AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) in 1988, the artist began intensively to promote understanding of this disease through his artistic production. He also founded the Keith Haring Foundation, as a way of educating, predicting and raising awareness about AIDS. Her career was brief due to her illness, but quite intense, continuing to this day to make history with her colourful, provocative and socially conscious images.
The Silence = Death Project
The Silence = Death Project, best known for its iconic Poster political, was the work of the New York collective: Avram Finkelstein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione and Jorge Soccarás. By rejecting any photographic image and using a more abstract language, they managed to reach multiple audiences. O Poster hit the streets in mid-March 1987, and Coletivo ended up assigning the rights to this work to ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).
Unveiling of a Modern Chastity by Israeli Izhar Patkin, 1981
Considered one of the first artistic representations of the disease, this work shows the skin opened by the wounds. It thus expresses the pain of people who have suffered from this disease.#lbgt