'Art AIDS America Chicago' Showcases Diverse Array of Artists

Catherine Opie “San Francisco City Hall Candle-light March for AIDS #1” Pigment print. Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

More than 140 contemporary visual works depicting hope and resilience from a devastating disease can be seen in “Art AIDS America Chicago,” an exhibition that opened at the Alphawood Gallery on World AIDS Day and runs through April 2, 2017.

Sue Coe “Kaposi’s Sarcoma” Color Woodcut Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne.

To transform tragedy into triumph through art, the grant-writing private Alphawood Foundation has transformed a former bank into exhibition space. This is the only Midwest venue for the show, which is an extension of the national touring exhibition “Art AIDS America,” originally organized by Tacoma Art Museum in partnership with The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

“In bringing ‘Art AIDS America’ to Chicago, we have worked very hard, in concert with those who originated the exhibition, to include a wider and more inclusive representation of work by women, artists of color, and artists native to Chicago,” explains Anthony Hirschel, director of Alphawood Exhibitions.

“With the representation of several significant Chicago artists of color and the sheer scope of space that the Alphawood Gallery has committed, truly the Chicago exhibition is the definitive ‘Art AIDS America’ showcase,” adds Jonathan Katz, director of the Visual Studies Doctoral Program at the University at Buffalo, who co-curated the show with Rock Hushka, director of Curatorial Administration and curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum.

The local exhibition features art by Nan Goldin, Barbara Kruger and African American activist Howardena Pindell, as well as Midwestern natives Eric Avery, Robert Blanchon, Judy Chicago and Karen Finley. In addition to works by late Chicago artists Michael Qualls (1961-2005) and Danny Sotomayor (1958-2011), the show includes pieces by Chicago working artists Roger Brown, Doug Ischar, Patric McCoy, Oliverio Rodriguez and Israel Wright.

Rosalind Solomon “Silence Equals Death” Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York.

The show also offers work by high-profile artists such as Chloe Dzubilo, Robert Gober, Félix González-Torres, Keith Haring, Derek Jackson, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Kiki Smith, Joey Terrill, David Wojnarowicz, and Martin Wong.

“Alphawood Exhibitions is also planning to present a selection of activist materials from the height of the AIDS crisis that can deepen visitors’ understanding of the context out of which the art on view emerged,” says Hirschel. These events include tours, artist talks, panel discussions, performances and gallery conversations.

“Chicago cultural institutions and advocacy organizations have embraced the effort and offered enormous support,” Hirschel continues. “It is gratifying to be working with so many wonderful allies across the city and region.”

“Art AIDS America Chicago” is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; admission is free for those who R.S.V.P. at ArtAIDSAmericaChicago.org; limited walk-ups are available. To learn more, visit ArtAIDSAmericaChicago.org.

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Ms. Arvia is an online columnist and critic; entertainment ghostwriter reaching nine million visitors per month; award-winning artist; grant-winning filmmaker; and Janet-of-all-trades. She’s interviewed SNL’s Cecily Strong and Julia Sweeney, the travel industry’s Rick Steves and Pauline Frommer, and directors Taylor Hackford and Laurie Anderson. Press releases on Chicago cultural events can be sent to reeljanet@live.com.

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