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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

Contemporary artists have adopted Christian motifs in a wide range of contexts explored here, from civil rights to global trade. Amid the HIV/AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, artists drew upon the emotional impact and recognizability of Christian imagery to promote awareness of the crisis and cope with grief in its wake. The adjacent presentations concerning Christianity and HIV/AIDS seen here may be experienced individually and in conversation with one another.

The overlap among these two subjects is a selection of works by queer Christian artists whose religious backgrounds and exposure to the ravages of AIDS provided a unique set of tools to express resilience and loss. Although each work confronts unique concerns, the works also respond to shared themes, including judgment, shame, guilt, suffering, martyrdom, plague, death, redemption, resurrection, salvation through blood, and the sacredness of wounded bodies.

AIDS is a topic broader and more global than the largely gay-male and U.S.-based roster of artists presented here would indicate. Yet these artists offered some of the most prominent responses to the damaging introduction of AIDS as a “gay cancer.” Likewise, artists who make use of Christian narratives are not all Christian and do not speak on behalf of the Church. Taken together, however, these works offer enduring models for turning pain and anger into love.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of William “Bill” Olander (1950–1989), curator and acting director of the Allen from 1979–1984, and co-founder of the artist-activist organization Visual AIDS.

Images:
Installation views, The Body, the Host: HIV/AIDS and Christianity. January 20–December 15, 2024.
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.
Jess T. Dugan (American, b. 1986), Dee Dee Ngozi, 55, Atlanta, GA 2016, from the portfolio To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults, 2018. Archival pigment print. Richard Lee Ripin Art Purchase Fund, 2019.7.11A.

Organized by

Sam Adams

Ellen Johnson ’33 Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

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Allen Memorial Art Museum Closed for the Summer

Starting May 27, the Allen Memorial Art Museum will close for the summer in the lead up to the completion of Oberlin College and Conservatory's Sustainable Infrastructure Program (SIP). Learn More