From Media to Metaphor

  • Duane Micheal, Dream of Flowers, 1986. Courtesy of the artist and Sidney Janis Gallery.

  • Rudy Lemke, Garden, 1988. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Nicholas and Bebe Nixon, Laverne Colebut, 1988-1989. Courtesy of the artist and Zabriskie Gallery.

  • Kathy Vargas, Valentine's Day/day of the Dead, , 189-1990. Courtesy of the artist.

Curated by Robert Atkins, Thomas Sokolowski

Since Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first named in 1982 the representations of AIDS in art have been diverse. The first portrayals of AIDS that appeared in the mid-1980s were usually documentary in their approach and attempted to combat the horrific representations of people with AIDS (PWAs) produced by mainstream photojournalists and presented by the electronic media. More recently, artists have responded to AIDS with militance, remembrance, and wit. The artworks in From Media to Metaphor: Art About AIDS refer to the complicated range of emotions—horror, rage, hatred, fear, disbelief, anger, grief, defiance, and confusion—that surround the syndrome. The 60 paintings, mixed-media works, photographs, drawings, architectural models, sculpture, prints, projections, and videotape programs presented in this exhibition are sympathetic, confrontational, celebratory, and elegiac.

Accompanying this exhibition is the catalogue From Media to Metaphor: Art About Aids, edited by Robert Atkins and Tom Sokolowski, and published by Independent Curators International (ICI). Please visit our shop for more information.



Robert Atkins

Robert Atkins is an art historian and writer who earned his BA at the University of California, Riverside, and MA at the University of California, Berkeley.  A former columnist for the Village Voice, he has written for more than 100 publications throughout the world ranging from The New York Times to Wired (Japan) and is a regular contributor to Art in America and MODERN. He is the author of books including ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, which was recently published in a new 25th anniversary edition edition, its modern-art prequel ArtSpoke, which covers art from 1848-1944, and, most recently, Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression. He’s lectured widely about the intersections of art, politics, queer culture and technology and held teaching positions at the University of Michigan, Rhode Island School of Design and San Francisco State University, among.

He has organized exhibitions at far flung venues from the Sao Paulo Bienal (Entre Cienca y Ficao) to New York’s New Museum (David Ireland). A Research Associate at Carnegie Mellon’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, he is a pioneering online developer whose productions include TalkBack: A Forum for Critical Discourse (1995), Artery: The AIDS-Arts Forum (1999), and, in 2011, ArtSpeak, the first bilingual wiki devoted to contemporary Chinese art and culture. He is currently at work on a volume of his collected writings and a book for teenagers called So You Want To Be An Artist? A Primer for Prospective Picassos and Their Parents.

An AIDS activist, in 1989 he helped found Visual AIDS, creators of Day With(out) Art and the Red Ribbon. He is a former board member of the American branch of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) and the recipient of grants for writing from the Penny McCall Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently lives in Pacifica, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thomas Sokolowski

Thomas Sokolowski is a museum director, curator and art historian. He has held positions as the Director of Grey Art Gallery at NYU, curator at the Chrysler museum,  and director of the Andy Warhol Museum. As a curator, he worked on shows such as Against Nature: Japanese art in the Eighties with Kathy Halbreich in 1990, which showed at Grey Art Gallery, From Media to Metaphor with Robert Atkins from 1991-1994, and Morality Tales: History Painting in the 1980s.

Thomas Sokolowski holds a BA from the University of Chicago and a MA from New York University.


touring schedule

Sharadin Art Gallery
Kutztown, Pennsylvania, United States
September 8, 1992 - October 6, 1992

Center For Contemporary Art
Seattle, Washington, United States
June 21, 1992 - August 1, 1992

Emerson Galleries
New York, New York, United States
January 20, 1992 - March 15, 1992

Grey Art Gallery and Study Center
New York, NY, United States
September 14, 1987 - October 24, 1987

NEW YORK, NY 10013
T: +1 212 254 8200 F: +1 212 477 4781
E: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)