Whitney Museum of American Art


Today is World AIDS Day/Day With(out) Art. During the 1980s and 1990s, AIDS and complications from it killed nearly half a million people in the U.S., a disproportionate number of them gay men and people of color. The artist community lost thousands; still more friends, lovers, and family members faced lives transformed by grief, fear, indignation, and illness. Many artists made activist work that criticized government inaction, promoted awareness and treatment, and expressed support for people fighting and living with the virus. Here are two of those works from the Whitney’s collection, on view now in An Incomplete History of Protest

If you think about why any story moves us, it’s because of a quaking moment of recognition. It’s never the shock of the new, it’s the shock of the familiar.
—  Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of the Oscar-nominated film The Look of Silence (2014), speaks about his practice as a documentary filmmaker. 

Hélio Oiticica believed that leisure was essential to creativity—so take a break, and curl up with a good book today! For Eden (1969), Oiticica created an open-ended work that was an “instrument for reflection” and a “proposition for behavior.” Visitors enter a sand garden punctuated by places for rest, contemplation, reading, and listening to music; these structures, called Nests, Penetrables, and Bólides, reappear throughout Oiticica’s career. 

A Valentines Day sentiment that transcends the decades: this 1988 painting by Andrew Masullo is made on a found panel and features an excerpt from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why” written in 1920. 

[Andrew Masullo (b. 1957), 1918, 1988. Oil on found wood, 17 7/8 × 15 1/16in. (45.4 × 38.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner P.2014.23. © Andrew Masullo]