Jan 11, 2014

Why We Fight: AIDS and ACT UP Posters of the 1980s and 90s

Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism is a powerful exhibit currently on display at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. The Library has a huge collection of AIDS activism graphics, and this show draws on that archive as well as including a series of movie and video screenings and panel discussions. Much of the exhibit centers on the work of ACT UP in the 1980s and 90s. It was an incredibly fruitful period for political graphics, posters, and flyers. Some of the most memorable posters were designed by the Gran Fury collective, but there were many other people creating passionate graphics that were wheat-pasted and stapled on walls throughout New York City. I remember in the late 80s and early 90s seeing new posters and flyers every day as I walked the streets, ranging from slick printed and silkscreen posters to funky xeroxed collages. Be sure to check out the NYPL digital collection of hundreds of ACT UP and AIDS graphics, which was the source for all of the images in this gallery of posters. Why We Fight is on display in New York City through April 6 (and it’s free!).

(Above: Illustration by Keith Haring, 1989)

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Design by Gran Fury, 1986. Designer Avram Finkelstein discusses the history and creation of this poster here.

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Design by Gran Fury, 1988. Designer Avram Finkelstein discusses the history and creation of this poster here.

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Design by Gran Fury, 1987

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Pictured: New York City Mayor Ed Koch

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Pictured: Cardinal John O’Connor

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Pictured: New York State Governor Mario Cuomo

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Pictured: President Bill Clinton

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Peel-off sticker