Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
87 North Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074


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The Body, the Host: HIV/AIDS and Christianity

January 20 - December 15, 2024
In Ellen Johnson Gallery

The Body, the Host: HIV/AIDS and Christianity

January 20 - December 15, 2024
In Ellen Johnson Gallery

Virtual Tour

This exhibition is organized as a venn diagram. Adjacent presentations addressing Christianity and HIV/AIDS allow the artworks to be taken on their own terms—and also to shed new light on one another. Christian iconography surfaced conspicuously amid the HIV/AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, as visual art became one of the most vital means of promoting awareness and coping with grief. The overlap at the heart of the exhibition is a group of works by queer Christian artists whose religious backgrounds and exposure to the ravages of AIDS provided a unique set of tools to express loss as well as resilience.

AIDS is a topic broader than the exhibition’s artist roster, which is primarily gay, cis-male, and U.S.-based. Yet these artists offered some of the most prominent responses to the media’s damaging introduction of AIDS as a “gay cancer.” Likewise, artists who make use of Christian images and narratives are not all Christian and do not speak on behalf of the Church. Along with the AIDS-related works, they respond to a specific set of affects and motifs: judgment, shame, guilt, suffering, martyrdom, plague, death, redemption, resurrection, the sacredness of wounded bodies, charity, the culture wars, and salvation through blood.

The exhibition includes works by Emma Amos, Audrey Flack, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Graciela Iturbide, Robert Mapplethorpe, Michael Boyd Roman, Andy Warhol, Charles Wilbert White, David Wojnarowicz, and others. These artists offer enduring models for turning pain and anger into love.

Audrey Flack (American, b. 1931), Macarena Esperanza, 1972, Fund for Contemporary Art, 1973.39.
Keith Haring (American, 1958–1990), Untitled, 1982–83, Gift of Rick Kantor (OC 1975) in honor of Minerva Durham's Drawing Class, 2021.31.2.

Organized by

Sam Adams

Ellen Johnson ’33 Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art


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