80 Washington Square East, NYU

Gran Fury

Read My Lips

January 31 – March 17, 2012


"Gran Fury: Read My Lips," was 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 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 and painting. 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.

A photo of a giant baby covers the corner of two walls. Behind the baby a text reads: welcome to America, the only industrialized country besides South Africa without national healthcare. Dollar bills are scattered on the floor.
Overhead shot of dollar bills scattered across the floor.
A neon green stack of paper that says "men use condoms or beat it."
A projector displaying a small projection of two women kissing on the wall in black and white.
A stack of New York Times Newspapers
Small black text on a wall that reads the phrases: "do you resent people with AIDS? Do you trust HIV negatives? Have you given up hope for a cure? When was the last time you cried?"