80WSE is proud to announce the opening of “Gran Fury: Read My Lips,” the first comprehensive survey documenting the important AIDS activist art collective’s work from 1987-1995. The exhibition, curated by Gran Fury and 80WSE Assistant Director Michael Cohen will run from January 31st – March 17th, 2012. The exhibition consists of 15 pieces including give-away reproductions. Gran Fury has reconstituted all but two of the works from archival documentation for this survey with the assistance of the 80WSE staff.
Naming itself after the model of Plymouth automobile used by the New York City Police Department, Gran Fury made public projects that were simultaneously scathing, provocative, stylish and often quite funny. This exhibition conveys the collective’s unique voice across a wide variety of media including billboards, postcards, video, posters andpainting. Photographs and records from the period help convey the urgency of the early AIDS crisis that lead many into the streets to demand reforms that changed public policy and saved lives.
Gran Fury’s work raised public awareness of AIDS and put pressure on politicians, while sparking debate in sites ranging from the Illinois Senate to the tabloid press of Italy. Bridging the gap between Situationist site-specific art strategies, post-modern appropriation and the Queer activist movement, Gran Fury has been influential to later practitioners. Their work opens up a broader spectrum of understanding about the political and collective art practices that flourished in downtown New York during the Eighties and Nineties.
An 88 page full-color catalogue designed by Gran Fury with mirroring double page cover reproductions will be published by 80WSE press in conjunction with the exhibition; it is the first major publication solely dedicated to their output. As a summary of its productive career, the book reprints historical interviews between Gran Fury and Robert Gober, David Deitcher and Douglas Crimp, as well as three never-before published conversations by Gran Fury from late 2010.
Reproductions of all the major works are included as well as documentation of ACT UP demonstrations and shots of Gran Fury’s works installed site-specifically. In addition, images of the site-specific works’ defacement by those responding to it, and rare archival images from high points in the collective’s career such as the 1991 Venice Biennial controversy are included.
In the 80WSE Windows Gallery, Gran Fury will present a 25-foot window installation, facing Washington Square Park, produced specifically for this exhibition. The installation juxtaposes images of AIDS activist and anti-Gay protestors, encouraging viewers to viscerally experience the polarization in America over health-care issues related to AIDS during the late 1980s and providing historical context necessary for understanding how and why the images in this exhibition were produced.