Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project  

By the Archives

June 16, 2016

Funded by the Keith Haring Foundation

Keith Haring Poster Detail
Poster (Detail), Keith Haring: Tony Shafrazi Gallery/Leo Castelli Gallery, 1985; Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

Poster, Keith Haring: Tony Shafrazi Gallery/Leo Castelli Gallery, 1985; Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

In 2015, the Archives of American Art received support from the Keith Haring Foundation to produce a series of in-depth oral history interviews with key witnesses to the AIDS epidemic and its impact on the visual art community. In selecting these narrators and their interviewers, the Archives worked with an advisory committee comprised of artists and advocates familiar with and active in the New York art community during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Subjects are primarily New York City-based.

Many who have been lost maintain an enduring presence in the art world through their work—Joe Brainard, Félix González-Torres, Keith Haring, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, and David Wojnarowicz to name only a few.  We are left to wonder how their work would have developed and how much more they might have done had they lived.  Even more artists were lost before they had the chance to make a wide-reaching mark, and they embody the undiscovered artistic potential that is one of many tragedies of the AIDS epidemic.  In an effort to preserve the stories of those who have died, subjects talk about their relationships with figures who are no longer with us, but whose stories either continue to resonate or call for inclusion in the art world. 

While there have been many documentaries, films, exhibitions, and books chronicling the AIDS epidemic, none has focused on in-depth, firsthand accounts of key figures in the visual arts—telling the larger story in their own words.  The Archives of American Art’s oral history project is the first to secure comprehensive life histories of artists and colleagues who lived through the height of the epidemic, and who understand the impact that AIDS had on visual art in America.  Important areas of focus among the larger life stories include the ways--direct and indirect--in which AIDS touched the personal life of the subject, if and how AIDS changed each subject’s work, and what is the continuing impact of the epidemic on each subject today.

For further information about this project, contact:

Liza Kirwin, Deputy Director, Archives of American Art, KirwinL@si.edu

View the Oral Histories in this project

Oral history interview with Doug Ashford, 2016 October 14-November 3

Oral history interview with Ron Athey, 2016 June 17-18

Oral history interview with Charles Atlas, 2016 May 31-June 1

Oral history interview with Julie Ault, 2017 November 14-16

Oral history interview with Nayland Blake, 2016 November 25-26

Oral history interview with Ross Bleckner, 2016 July 6-7

Oral history interview with Gregg Bordowitz, 2016 April 10-11

Oral history interview with Nancy Brooks Brody, 2018 January 12-28

Oral history interview with AA Bronson, 2017 March 3, 5, and 6

Oral history interview with Douglas Crimp, 2017 January 3-4

Oral history interview with John Dugdale, 2017 January 17-18

Oral history interview with Joy Episalla, 2016 February 23 and March 17

Oral history interview with Avram Finkelstein, 2016 April 25-May 23

Oral history interview with Lia Gangitano, 2017 February 5-6

Oral history interview with Gary Garrels, 2016 September 12

Oral history interview with Nan Goldin, 2017 April 30-May 13

Oral history interview with Sunil Gupta, 2017 May 26

Oral history interview with Lyle Ashton Harris, 2017 March 27-29

Oral history interview with Geoffrey Hendricks, 2016 August 17-18

Oral history interview with Jim Hodges, 2017 March 9-May 25

Oral history interview with Frank Holliday, 2017 January 24- 26

Oral history interview with Bill Jacobson, 2017 March 25 and 26

Oral history interview with Bill T. Jones, 2018 March 23

Oral history interview with Alexandra Juhasz, 2017 December 19-21

Oral history interview with Zoe Leonard, 2017 May 31-July 7

Oral history interview with Patrick Moore, 2017 April 15

Oral history interview with Jack Pierson, 2017 January 16-17

Oral history interview with Hunter Reynolds, 2016 August 10-September 7

Oral history interview with Eric Rhein, 2017 February 26-April 16

Oral history interview with Sur Rodney (Sur), 2016 July 12 and 15

Oral history interview with Kenny Scharf, 2017 February 22-23

Oral history interview with Rosalind Fox Solomon, 2016 October 29 and 31

Oral history interview with Joey Terrill, 2017 December 30-31

Oral history interview with Julie Tolentino, 2018 April 11-12

Oral history interview with Marguerite Van Cook, 2016 September 19-21

Oral history interview with Robert Vázquez-Pacheco, 2017 December 16-17

Oral history interview with Jack Waters, 2018 February 21-22

Oral history interview with James Wentzy, 2017 January 23-March 31

Oral history interview with Frederick Weston, 2016 August 31-September 5

Oral history interview with Carrie Yamaoka, 2016 July 26-27