Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster


University Gallery presents a satellite exhibition in collaboration with Memorial Art Gallery’s “Up Against the Wall” main exhibition, March 6 - June 19, 2022. The 42 HIV/AIDS posters in the RIT exhibition showcase a range of public health communication strategies employed in countries around the world from 1987-2011. Many of the posters counter AIDS stigma and encourage compassion for those living with HIV/AIDS; other posters use scare tactics to discourage viewers from participating in risky behaviors. Some posters utilize humor and sexually explicit images to encourage safer sex practices such as condom use, while other posters reinforce negative racial stereotypes. The exhibition includes some of the most iconic HIV/AIDS posters, including those featuring artwork by pop artist Keith Haring, as well as rare posters, such as the Braille poster produced by the French AIDS organization, CRIPS.  The RIT exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Tamar Carroll of the RIT Department of History and Melissa Warp of New Media Design, with the assistance of SOIS student Circle Cole.

The 42 posters in this exhibition come from the collection of Dr. Edward C. Atwater, who donated them to the University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, beginning in 2007. The AIDS Education Posters collection consists of more than 8,000 posters from 130 countries, in at least 76 languages. The collection also includes a broad range of AIDS-related ephemera, and is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. The AIDS Education Poster Collection has been made fully available online and is key word searchable here.

Related programming for the exhibition will take place at RIT, the University of Rochester River campus, and Memorial Art Gallery.

March 6, 2-3 pm, in person at Memorial Art Gallery and via Zoom, curator Donald Albrecht, “Attention Must Be Paid: AIDS Posters in Action.” Registration here

March 17, 3:30-4:45 in person at RIT’s University Gallery, historian Dr. Jennie Brier and designer Matt Wizinsky will speak about their collaboration, “I’m Still Surviving,” a living women’s history of HIV/AIDS.

March 17, 7-8 pm, in person at the Hawkins-Carlson Room in Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester River Campus, artist and designer Avram Finkelstein, “After Silence: A History of AIDS Through Its Images,” registration here

March 18, 9 am-5pm in person at Memorial Art Gallery, Speaking Through Silence: A Public Conference on HIV/AIDS Histories, program and registration.

March 19, 9 am – 5pm in person at Memorial Art Gallery, 5th Annual Rainbow Dialogues: The AIDS Crisis in Rochester: A Community Responses, program and registration.

The RIT Press publication 'Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism and the AIDS Poster' found here.

Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster
Lecture poster - I am Still Surviving - March 17, 3:30 PM