Critics’ Picks

Fiona Clark, Jenny and Me she doesn't mind that I'm HIV, 1988, annotated cibachrome photograph from a suite of four albums, each 24 x 26”.


“Implicated and Immune”

Michael Lett
312 Karangahape Road Newton
January 28–February 28

In 1981, the New York Times ran a story with the headline “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” Over ten years later—the year that drug-therapy “cocktails” became an effective treatment in slowing down the disease—the first exhibition to respond to the epidemic in Auckland, “Implicated and Immune: Artists’ Responses to AIDS,” opened in 1992 at the Fisher Gallery. That milestone featured work from artists including Jack Body, Fiona Clark, L. Budd, and Fiona Pardington. Carrying forward the discourses that have shaped the social and cultural impact of HIV/AIDS in New Zealand, this reprise of that exhibition powerfully comingles historical documents, a selection of work by artists included in the original show, and additional work by contemporary New Zealand artists offering deliberations on desire and loss.

Fiona Clark’s four large albums titled Living with AIDS, 1988–89, combining tipped-in color photographs with handwritten notations, are the most intimate works in the show. One poignant spread reveals a young man sitting on a sofa giving a kiss to a yellow cockatiel perched on his hand, with “Who’s a pretty girl” written in cursive just to the side of the image. Ava Seymour’s ornate collages from 1995 also depict domestic scenes, but their posh interiors are populated with kinky, vinyl-clad figures and coiffed white dogs. Elsewhere, the inclusion of Russ Flatt’s untitled color photographs from 2014 of men encountering men in lush green landscapes offers a welcome air of renewal, especially in juxtaposition with Phillip Kelly’s graphic 1992–2015 timeline papering the gallery entrance with a mix of preventative slogans produced by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and a compilation of distressing statistics, including “BETWEEN 1984 and 1992, 245 PEOPLE WITH AIDS HAVE DIED IN NEW ZEALAND.”