Artist and activist Hunter Reynolds' site-specific installation Survival AIDS, currently on view at Participant Inc, features work from his key projects spanning the past twenty years. Reynolds, a member of ACT UP since 1989 and a co-founder of Art Positive which fights homophobia and censorship in the arts, has been HIV positive since 1984.
From 1989-1993, Reynolds cut out every HIV/AIDS and LGBT-related article printed in the New York Times (ie: stories about discrimination, Derek Jarman's last film Blue, Robert Mapplethorpe's banned 1989 Corcoran Gallery exhibition, and obituaries for people who passed away from AIDS-related causes) for series titled Dialogue Tables and Activist Media Installations which were displayed on tables, projected onto walls, or read aloud. After being kept in storage for the past 17 years, the newspaper clippings have reemerged in Reynolds' new Photo Weavings series. The artist scanned, laminated, grouped, and stitched the articles together into twenty 60 x 48 inch quilt-like works that document the early days of the HIV virus and the discrimination the LGBT community endured two decades ago. In the early 90s, Reynolds performed pieces in which he extracted his own blood, dripping it onto paper and "scanning it to create perfectly shaped spots of blood, reclaimed in his artwork ever since," (from the show's press release). Some of these Blood Spot works commingle with the newspaper articles in Reynolds' Photo Weavings.
Reynolds' Mummification performances involve enshrouding the artist in layers of plastic, tin foil, and duct tape which are carefully cut from his body and reshaped to serve as "reminders of the many re-embodiments of the artist over time." Reynolds' project Memorial Dress featured the artist posed on a spinning platform for hours a day whilst wearing a dress printed with the names of over 25,000 people who have died of HIV/AIDS.
Survival AIDS is a moving, powerful, and important exhibit. It's impossible to not want to read every single newspaper article chronicling the onset of AIDS and the hate and ignorance of conservative politicians and right wingers. It's hard to believe that people thought and behaved this way only twenty years ago. While we've made some progress, AIDS and discrimination still exist — we've still got a ways to go for acceptance and equality for the LGBT population. Bold, outspoken artists like Hunter Reynolds help lead the fight with compelling, indelible, evocative work. Learn more at participantinc.org and hunterwreynolds.com. Through June 5th.