Formed in Toronto in the late 1960s by AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal, General Idea was a pioneer of Conceptual art. The collective used a wide variety of mediums, including theatrical performance, pageants, mail art, posters, television shows, and magazines to explore issues of authorship, identity, gender, and sexuality, combining humor with incisive critique.
AIDS (Wallpaper) is one aspect of the collective’s activism around the AIDS epidemic. The wallpaper’s repeated logo is based on the artist Robert Indiana’s well-known LOVE motif of the mid-1960s, which General Idea appropriated beginning in 1987, exploiting the icon’s familiarity to communicate a message relevant to a new historical moment, as AIDS was becoming a national crisis.
“Our idea was that this was a kind of advertising campaign for a disease that nobody wanted to talk about at the time,” Bronson has recalled. “It was being kind of hushed up.” The logo was widely reproduced, plastered, for example, on streets, subways, magazines, stamps, lottery tickets, and postcards, creating a ubiquity that, the collective hoped, would normalize the word and, by extension, the disease itself.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)