The Conversation Continues
SECAC, September 16, 2016
Personal identity politics come into play in Cottrell and Lovett’s collecting strategies, as much of their collection was acquired either through Cottrell and Lovett’s personal relationship with artists or through AIDS fundraisers. The Basquiat was bought at the inaugural AIDS auction for Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1982, and works by Laurie Simmons, Cindy Sherman, and Vic Muniz were acquired at the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America’s annual auction. A centerpiece of the exhibition was a collection of multimedia works by Barton Benes (1942-2012), a New York-based artist and good friend of Cottrell and Lovett. When many of his friends started dying of AIDS, and Benes, himself, tested HIV-positive, he began incorporating pills, capsules, intravenous tubes, and HIV-infected blood into his art. On display were twelve of his works that combine 1950s Dick and Jane illustrations of everyday life decorated with capsules and pills of antiviral drugs used to treat HIV. At first glance these objects appear to be nostalgic reminders of childhood innocence, but the juxtaposition of Cold War-era children’s books with HIV drugs, challenges notions of childhood, safety, and American exceptionalism. Benes’s small images mix media and styles to evoke a biting critique of stereotypical gender norms and contemporary culture.
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