Seminar: Art of the AIDS crisis

This course aims to create a nuanced and multifaceted understanding of artists’ response to the AIDS crisis, and thereby more generally the art of the 1980s, by exposing students to a wide array of artists, and tracing the legacy of the AIDS crisis in their works.The past decade has show an increased art historical interest in the AIDS crisis, which has resulted in various books, exhibitions, and films, and most recently, the delayed "discovery" of transgender artist Lorenza Böttner at Documenta 14 (2017). While the AIDS crisis affected the entire queer community, those who don't fit into the dominant narratives of male artists (such as Felix-Gonzalez Torres, Keith Haring, and David Wojnarowicz, who have largely come to define the period), are often overlooked. When considering the AIDS crisis not merely as a medical condition, but as a cultural phenomenon and a pivotal moment in human history, a more inclusive art history needs to be practiced. This course will therefore examine not only the work of well known artists such as those mentioned above, but also explore the work of those who have fallen outside the dominant narrative, most notably queer women artists such as Marlene McCarty, Monica Majoli, and Julie Tolentino. We will closely analyze the representative strategies of these artists and consider how the AIDS crisis functioned as a decisive moment in their artistic careers. Furthermore, we will consider how a queer lens can make us rethink art history, and more generally address the question of “what is queer art?”

Credits: 2.00

Course Code: HTA 313 M

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.