featured gallery for December 2004

Eleven Artists

As visitors to this web exhibition may already know, The Frank Moore Archive Project is a slide resource containing works by visual artists whose lives are or were affected by HIV/AIDS. The archive was established in 1994 and the slides are arranged by artist in the chronological order in which the artist became a member of the archive.

Viewing the archive, one is reminded of the enormous and premature loss of so many fine artists, both established and promising; viewing the works, one sees a visual representation of destruction that is almost unbearable to watch unfold. Before completing just one section of the archive, the toll of significant artists, many of whom I'd had the pleasure of knowing and, in some cases, working with, overwhelmed me.

My selection includes those artists represented in the archive whose absence remains a source of personal regret and sorrow. The archive reminds us not only just how great the losses have been, but also of the ongoing scourge of a disease, which much of the mainstream, and some factions of the communities most affected, wrongly consider solved, manageable, or something no longer to be feared. Ten years down the road, the Archive's accumulation of images demands we consider these haunting and important works in a historical context. All eleven artists in this exhibition became members of the Archive Project between 1994 and 1998, nine of them as estates.

Jimmy DeSana's (1950-1990) early shows at 57th Street's Steffanoti Gallery remain as unforgettable as his Astroturf carpeted studio near Bryant Park: The hallucinatory quality of his work began as soon as one crossed either threshold.

Ken Goodman's (1950-1995) self-portraits in archetypical roles and wry still lives presaged his mysterious demise. He left us guessing as to where he went and what his work intended. House of Cards, 1986, suggests imminent changes ahead.

Bronze Chair, 1975, by Scott Burton (1939-1989) can be seen as a post-minimal descendent of Duchamp's Fountain. Burton came to "making" this idealized object by way of performance art, unexpectedly bridging the way to several current attitudes. His 1989 Brancusi exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, remains one of the finest and most original artist-curated museum projects.

David Wojnarowicz's (1954-1992) images will forever haunt our dreams. On walls, on paper, morphing out of decrepit docks or supermarket posters, they quietly screamed of horrors both past and future.

The two Paul Thek (1933-1988) works represent early and late successes. The jewel-like beauty of wax meat breeding butterflies is matched in intensity by one of his very last works, While There Is Time, Let's Go Out and Feel Everything, 1987, a painting that succinctly suggests the intensity of one's potentially final days.

Martin Wong (1946-1999) was our visual Genet. His kissing firemen and humpy jailhouse thugs took us to places high art had missed. Wong's work transcends cultural categories and barriers with astounding verve, grace, and intensity.

Much has been said and written about the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996). The image included here continues to reverberate anew: Has a portrait of a lost loved one ever been as felt as this one, his weight in candy?

Arnold Fern's (1952-1993) memento mori of beautiful men and fading flowers gave romance and sentimentality the edge of a knife. A Byronic figure in the era of Act Up.

Frank Moore's (1953-2002) exemplary gifts as a painter and activist will forever be missed. The wit and humanity of his paintings and the magnitude of his social accomplishments remain with us.

David Knudsvig's (1947-1993) complex and extraordinary carvings suggest a fierce but calm quest to immortalize a brief and fragile life.

Joe Brainard (1942-1994) stopped exhibiting his art in 1980. The fine body of work he made during his fifteen active years suggests a lifetime lived before it was too late.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Joe Fawbush (1956-1995).