On Gran Fury On The Art of Protest

For the second month in a row, Artforum is looking back at the 80's. Douglas Crimp talks with surviving members of Gran Fury, the art collective which grew out of ACTUP and the early days of the AIDS crisis. Other participants included: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Todd Haynes, and Tim Rollins. [update: these guys were in Group Material, a different collective. My bad. Thanks, Andrea.]

Gran Fury members at the 1990 Venice Bienale, image:artforum.com
Gran Fury with The Pope and The Penis at the 1990 Venice Bienale, image:artforum.com L to R: John Lindell, Donald Moffett, Mark Simpson, Marlene McCarty, and Loring McAlpin.

Some relevant excerpts:

Tom Kalin: We went from being wheat-pasting hooligans to suddenly having real resources and opportunities and a platform from which to speak. This brought about a crisis of conscience in discussing how to articulate the group because the stakes had been raised...

Loring McAlpin: We also had a long discussion about whether we should be in the Venice Biennale at all. We had wanted to hang banners in the street, remember? And they said, 'No, you can't do that.' And there was a moment when we wondered whether it was enough for us to just be inside an art institution, but we decided it was a public enough venue to merit doing it...

Marlene McCarty: I want to go to bat for Venice. We cannot forget how much press came out of that piece, which was far more public than a billboard would have been. That work got AIDS on the cover of Express.

Robert Vazquez: But we're being disingenuous when we say that we planned to send a huge photograph of an erection to Venice, intended as a provocation to the Pope, and worried that no one would notice. We knew very well what we were doing...

Donald Moffett: What I hear now is a rhetorical neglect coming out of the White House that is very similar to where we were fifteen years ago...

That legacy (the Gran Fury Collection at the NY Public Library) is an educational resource for another generation. After all, we didn't come out of nowhere. We dragged the history of this kind of art into the '80s and the early '90s. And it will be reinvented again..

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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