This postcard, produced for a nine-day nationwide protest in May 1988, was one of Gran Fury’s earliest designs. The nationally-based AIDS Coalition to Network, Organize, and Win called for the demonstrations, but left decisions about the focus of the protests to local AIDS groups. One of the events organized by ACT UP was a same-sex kiss-in, meant as a challenge to homophobia. Gran Fury made a number of different posters, postcards, and T-shirts to publicize the spring action, including this photograph of two females kissing. A year later, the same image would be paired with the text: “Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do.” (1137.2000)
Gran Fury, New York Crimes, 1989 (2014.31.1)
Media Critique:…Finally, groups such as Gran Fury created Media that mimicked the form and language of conventional advertising, which was placed in recognizable ad spaces, inserting an activist message in a supposedly apolitical “market”. ACT UP and Gran Fury’s skill in appropriating strategies from art and media worlds and bringing them into the arena of direct action politics were among the most distinctive – and arguably, effective – features of the movement. (2014.31.1)
On June 6, 1990, Marlene McCarty, Donald Moffett, Robert Vazquez, three of the eleven members of Gran Fury, spoke at ICP. Essential listening.
Gran Fury was an artists’ collective devoted to AIDS activism through agitprop art. Named after the Plymouth automobile favored by the [undercover] New York City police department, Gran Fury drew its membership from the ranks of ACT UP/NY (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, New York).
The artists’ collective arose out of ACT UP/NY’s involvement with the art installation “Let the Record Show . . .” at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in December 1987. Bill Olander, curator for The New Museum, offered the Broadway window of the museum to ACT UP, where a group of members “let the record show” that some artists and their art chose not to be silent regarding AIDS… After producing this installation, some members of ACT UP wanted to continue voicing their opinion and formed Gran Fury in January 1988.
Gran Fury purposefully intervened into public and advertising spaces to disrupt the flow of normal thoughts with their own agenda. Notably, most of their work was directly exhibited to the public outside of traditional art spaces through fliers, posters, and billboards…
Laura Slezak Karas, February 2008, “Guide to the Gran Fury Collection (1987-1995)” at NYPL, (PDF)