Two top downtown arts organizations will close their doors Saturday and send staff members and associated artists into the streets to pass out AIDS information and bleach kits for cleaning drug needles to the homeless.
A local artist has sent out a national mailing of 3,500 specially designed “objects” containing two dozen brightly colored condoms packaged in wording such as “We will not tolerate government censorship” and “We will not tolerate forced morality.”
A number of local galleries and museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and Newport Harbor Art Museum, will have free admission Saturday, and instead will solicit donations for such groups as AIDS Project Los Angeles while passing out educational information about the disease. Other galleries and museums will present free AIDS-related videos, performance art and dance shows, or darken their galleries in mourning for artists and others who have died from AIDS.
These and other efforts are part of “Day Without Art 1990--A Day of Action and Mourning in Response to the AIDS Crisis.” More than 30 local arts centers and groups, including performance spaces, commercial galleries and arts magazines, will join about 3,000 similar organizations nationwide in the second annual observance of Worldwide AIDS Awareness Day.
“It’s a ‘Day Without Art.’ We figured that meant a day for arts organizations to stop their normal activities and work within their community,” said Roberto Bedoya, executive director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, referring to what the arts community fears will happen if its members continue to die from AIDS.
Bedoya’s organization, along with the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies, will work with the Homeless Outreach Program to distribute information and bleach kits in an attempt to curb the increase of infection among i.v. drug users. Both spaces will be closed for the day, but will present AIDS-related installations outside their galleries.
“We felt that this was a positive action we could do,” said Bedoya, a coordinator of local “Day Without Art” activities. “For a long time the arts community has responded artistically to the AIDS crisis, but this is a situation where we can respond actively as citizens.”
Also attempting to take the message outside its galleries is Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, which has commissioned four special installations for its outside windows in what curator Linda Brownridge called trying “to reach those who might not . . . be sensitive to the impact AIDS has had on the arts community and to the fact that down the line there won’t be a generation of artists because AIDS has so strongly impacted that community.”
Creating the “Windows on AIDS” installations are four locally based artists--Kim Abeles, Elsa Flores, Mark Niblock and Alfredo de Batuk. For Flores, who lost her husband, artist Carlos Almaraz, to the disease, and Niblock, who has tested HIV-positive, the installations are especially personal.
“All of the arts disciplines have been deeply hurt and affected by the AIDS crisis, and this day is so important because it brings an awareness and visibility of that,” said Niblock. The artist’s installation deals with what he feels is misinformation about AIDS and HIV being disseminated to the public.
Normally socially active arts groups aren’t the only ones to participate in “A Day Without Art,” however. Amid the perfectly trimmed gardens of the J. Paul Getty Museum, for instance, visitors will be handed flyers explaining “A Day Without Art” and listing the name of artists, museum staff and other arts professionals who have died of AIDS. Blank forms will be attached for visitors to complete and add names to “The Witness Project: A Census of AIDS in the Arts,” a growing memorial of AIDS victims. In addition, the museum bookstore will sell the catalogue, “The Indomitable Spirit: Photographers and Artists Respond to the Time of AIDS,” with all proceeds going to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
But while several of Los Angeles’ major arts institutions are joining the nationwide effort, the majority of participants are still clustered in the East, where Visual AIDS, a group of visual-arts professionals organizing the activities, is based. More than 450 events have been scheduled in New York City alone, including “A Night Without Art,” in which the outside lights of most major businesses, churches and public structures will be turned off from 7:45 to 8 p.m.
In addition, local efforts this year are slightly down from last year, which Bedoya and Tom Rhoads, director of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, attribute to “burnout” because of economic difficulties and struggles with the National Endowment for the Arts. Still, arts leaders say, the day is significant in uniting the arts community behind a single goal, and in making more of the public aware of the toll taken by the deadly disease.
A sampling of other Southern California “A Day Without Art” activities:
* Two free AIDS-related theater pieces on Saturday at the Newport Harbor Art Museum. Michael Kearns and Dale Raoul will perform “Forget Me Not: A Collection of AIDS Letters” at 11 a.m., and Artists Confronting AIDS will perform “AIDS / US II” at 1 p.m.
* The Peter Norton Foundation has funded a mailing of 3,500 of multimedia artist Daniel J. Martinez’s “Obscene Is?” a $45,000 project that sends out brightly colored condoms packaged with provocative wording “to challenge current attitudes toward sexuality.”
* A group reading of Susan Sontag’s “The Way We Live Now” will be presented Saturday at 6 p.m. at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory Theatre. Admission is a donation of any size to AIDS groups.
* Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica is holding an all-night participatory performance ritual and vigil from 12:01 a.m. Saturday until sunrise. Arts activists such as Tim Miller, George Peimer and Wendell Jones will lead the free event, which Miller says will be “a way to mark the passage through a really dark night together.” At the L.A. County Museum of Art, a gallery in the Anderson Building will be darkened, the lights left to shine only on Christian Boltanski’s symbolic mixed-media piece “Reliquary.”
* “Shell of Flesh,” a free dance performance by L.A.-based choreographer and AIDS activist Antony Balcena will begin at noon today in the pedestrian mall in front of Riverside’s California Museum of Photography. On Saturday, the museum will darken its galleries and disseminate AIDS information.
* UCLA’s Wight Art Gallery will show two free AIDS-related videos, Edgar Bravo’s “Mi Hermano” and Lourdes Portillo’s “Vida,” continuously Saturday in the lobby of the “Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation” exhibition.
* Large banners depicting the AIDS slogans “Silence=Death” and “Action=Life” will be hung outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Inside, the museum will drape its walls with names of AIDS victims and continuously screen the AIDS documentary “Common Threads.”
* The San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts and Museum of Art will donate their regular admission proceeds to AIDS groups. In addition, the latter institution will play a continuous taped recording of more than 500 names of arts-community members who have died of AIDS. Visitors will be asked to wear a special pair of vision-reducing glasses, designed by Italian artist Maurizio Pellegrin, while touring the galleries.
* The Santa Monica Museum of Art will be closed and staff members will have a table outside presenting information and taking donations.
* The University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach will darken its galleries and display two Cibachrome photographs from its permanent collection by artist and AIDS victim Kenneth McGowan.
* Two hundred artist-designed “A Day Without Art” posters will be hung outside in the streets of Laguna Beach’s main business district.
* Santa Barbara’s Contemporary Arts Forum on Saturday is holding “No New Work,” a one-day exhibition honoring a list of artists and arts professionals who died from AIDS. The galleries will be darkened and proceeds from the regular donation box will go to AIDS education.