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“ACT UP New York”

Silence = Death Project, AIDSGATE, 1987, offset lithograph, 34 x 22".

ACT UP DID POLITICS with an urgent Pop splash. Comic-book chromatics and rage tweaked Reagan’s eyes pink and his face bright green; AZT, the first effective (and massively overpriced) AIDS drug to land on the market, got a Coca-Cola treatment in a red poster that urged us cheerily to ENJOY it. In the recent exhibition “ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993” at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, one’s eyes grazed over an entire wall of posters—most in bold caps—full of information and accusations directed both to the half-awake people in the street and at a rogue’s gallery of powerful men whose crimes of omission caused ACT UP to declare them “Deadlier than the Virus.” Ed Koch, mayor of New York; Mario Cuomo, governor; Stephen Joseph, NYC Commissioner of Health; Cardinal O’Connor, one of ACT UP’s prime targets: All fell down on the

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