- Museum number
- Object: 1984 AIDS
Large skull with the acronym 'AIDS' beneath, printed in black on wrapping paper with an orange and pink floral design. 2010
Woodcut on Mexican wrapping paper
- Production date
Height: 874 millimetres (block)
Height: 890 millimetres (sheet)
Width: 563 millimetres
Width: 609 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Eric Avery created this image in 1984 at a time when the death toll from AIDS was rising at an alarming rate, although he did not cut the block until 1990. The image of the skull is based on a 17th century French woodcut that Avery had seen in the ARS MEDICA collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (accession number 82-118-1). According to Avery, the earlier print is of a type that was displayed on the outside of houses whose inhabitants were affected by plague. As a doctor working in Texas, Avery has treated many patients with HIV/AIDS and much of his work as a printmaker relates to his experiences in this area.
Avery first printed the block in 1990 in an edition of 4 (although numbered out of 20). One impression from this first printing is in the ARS MEDICA collection in Philadelphia and one is in the collection at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The BM impression is from a second printing in 2010. It was printed by the artist and his assistant at the time, Nobue Urushihara Urvil, in Avery's studio in Galveston, Texas in an edition of 10.
Text from Coppel, Daunt and Tallman, 'The American Dream: pop to the present', London: Thames and Hudson in association with the British Museum, 2017, cat. no. 155:
Avery made the preparatory drawing for this woodcut in 1984 when the death toll from AIDS was rising at an alarming rate. As a gay man, he was living in fear of a positive diagnosis. It is based on a 17th-century French woodcut that Avery had seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is of a type that was commonly pasted onto the doors of plague victims. (Philadelphia Museum of Art (ARS MEDICA Collection), accession no. 1982-118-1.) He turned the uncut block to the wall, as it was a reminder of a frightening time, and felt unable to make the print until 1990. In that year he printed four versions in preparation for his final exhibition with Bill Graham, his Houston dealer, who died of AIDS in 1992. This impression is from a later edition that was printed in Avery’s Galveston studio with the assistance of Nobue Urushihara Urvil, a Japanese medical humanities PhD student. The orange-pink floral wrapping paper on which it is printed brings to mind associations of the rose with disease, death and mourning. For the artist, who has for many years been based on the Texas-Mexico border, it also has associations with the Mexican Day of the Dead.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017 9 Mar-18 Jun, London, BM, G30, The American Dream
2020-21 8 Oct-31 Jan, Madrid, La Caixa Forum, The American Dream: pop to the present
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number