san-francisco

General Idea

Artspace

The prospect that General Idea’s AIDS poster, 1987, modeled on Robert Indiana’s mid-’60s LOVE image, might achieve a cultural visibility like that of its predecessor is discomforting but maybe inevitable. LOVE started out as a painting (1966) and proliferated as prints, sculpture, trinkets, and eventually an 8-cent stamp. Despite a four-square hardiness and glints of Op-ish rapture, it always exuded a locked-in anerotic somnolence. A commentary on either image’s verbal component would be negligible, although AIDS, unlike “love,” doesn’t shift much in its connotations. General Idea’s metonymic hook seems obvious: the horrors of the AIDS pandemic in the ’80s cancel, or anyhow overlay, the wishful love ethos of the ’60s.

At best, the dryly crafted logo, which is neither profound nor crassly cynical as a piece of image management, may be serviceable as a blanket public-service reminder. General

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