Past Exhibitions


ACT UP New York: Activism, Art and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993

Wed, 10/14/2009 - 20:00 -- wds
ACT UP New York: Activism, Art and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993
October 15, 2009—December 23, 2009 Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University
September 9, 2010—October 23, 2010 White Columns, New York

Silence = Death Project, AIDSgate, 1987. Poster, offset lithography. Courtesy of Avram Finkelstein.

The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museum present ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993, an exhibition of over 70 politically charged posters, stickers, and other visual media that emerged during a pivotal moment of AIDS activism in New York City. The exhibition chronicles New York's AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) through an examination of compelling graphics created by various artist collectives that populated the group, including Gran Fury, Silence = Death Project, Gang, and Fierce Pussy. The exhibition also features the premiere of the ACT UP Oral History Project, a suite of over 100 video interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York  that offer a portal on a decisive moment in the history of the gay rights movement, 20th-century visual art, our nation's discussion of universal healthcare, and the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The exhibition ACT UP New York provides an opportunity to reinvigorate a debate on the realities of HIV/AIDS today and the links between visual art, political activism, health, and human rights. Co-curated by Helen Molesworth, Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum; and Claire Grace, Agnes Mongan Curatorial Intern, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum and a PhD candidate in Harvard University's History of Art and Architecture Department. A brochure accompanies this exhibition.

ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 has been made possible by support from the Office of the Provost at Harvard University and the following endowment funds at the Harvard Art Museum: The Agnes Gund Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund; the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Fund; and the Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Exhibition Fund. Gifts and grants have also been provided by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Fund at the Boston Foundation, The Open Gate: a Fund for Gay and Lesbian Life at Harvard University, Fred P. Hochberg and Tom Healy, Kevin Jennings, the Harvard College Women’s Center, the Office for the Arts at Harvard, and Harvard Technology Services with special support from Apple Inc.

Artist Residency and Site-Specific Installations at Harvard University

Fierce Pussy is a collective of queer women dedicated to creating public art and direct action addressing issues of lesbian identity and visibility. In conjunction with the Harvard College Women's Center, four central members of the artist collective—Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka—are participating in a three-day activism and print media workshop and creating site-specific installations with Harvard College undergraduates.

Emerging in 1991 through its members’ immersion in AIDS activism during a decade of increasing political mobilization around gay rights, Fierce Pussy brought lesbian identity directly into the streets. The collective’s art production relied on modest and readily available resources: old typewriters, found photographs, its members’ own baby pictures, and the printing supplies and equipment accessible in their day jobs. Lo-tech, low budget, and ubiquitous, Fierce Pussy’s wheatpasted posters and crack-and-peel stickers peppered New York City through the early 1990s. Most active between 1991 and 1995, Fierce Pussy has reconvened in recent years to create new works that reframe the collective’s vital message for the present moment.

Fierce Pussy’s site-specific installations, open to the public in conjunction with the ACT UP exhibition beginning on October 15, are located around Harvard University in the Harvard Art Museum/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, and the Graduate School of Design.

This project is sponsored by the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard Art Museum, Harvard College Women’s Center, and the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Fund through Learning from Performers, a program of the Office for the Arts at Harvard University.