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Indepth Arts News:

"General Idea Editions"
2005-10-08 until 2005-12-31
Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

The Andy Warhol Museum announces that it will present the retrospective exhibition, General Idea Editions, October 8 through December 31, 2005. Organized by the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, the internationally-touring exhibition features more than 200 mass produced objects - including prints, postcards, posters, photo-based projects, multiples, serial publications, flags, and crests - produced from 1968 to 1994 by Canadian-based art collective General Idea. The Warhol will be the only East Coast U.S. venue to host the exhibition. Exclusively at The Warhol, the exhibition will include several additional unique works, selected by The Warhol’s John Smith and sole surviving member of General Idea, AA Bronson.

“Andy Warhol was a significant influence on the work that General Idea produced, and seeing this important survey of their work in the context of The Warhol will be a rich and resonant experience,” says John Smith, Assistant Director for Collections and Research at The Warhol. “The complexity and continuing relevancy of General Idea’s work allows for a multitude of topical discussions. Art and activism, the nature of artistic collaboration, and questions of originality and authenticity in contemporary art are just a few of the issues we will explore with this exhibition.”

General Idea was formed by Jorge Zontal, Felix Partz and AA Bronson in 1969 in Toronto and came to international attention for their incisive interventions into the media environment of the late 1960s and early 1970s. As Bronson explains in the catalogue General Idea Editions 1967-1995, the collective “emerged in the aftermath of the Paris riots, from the detritus of hippie communes, underground newspapers, radical education, Happenings, love-ins, Marshall McLuhan, and the International Situationists. We believed in free economy, in the abolition of copyright, and in a grassroots horizontal structure that prefigured the Internet.”

Pioneers of conceptual and media-based practices in Canada, General Idea’s work involved everyday promotional culture (postcards, press releases, magazines) and evolved into high gloss advertising forms (posters, balloons, pins.) General Idea editions were not just a commercial product however; they formed a discourse that established the group’s broader artistic concepts, such as the role of the media, the dissemination of marginalized identities, and the devaluation of originality and artistic genius. Masters of appropriation, General Idea bent popular icons to their own needs, transforming bastions of Americana such as LIFE Magazine and the Miss America Pageant, into vehicles for subverting the culture’s reigning values.

In 1987, General Idea realized one of its most famous pieces, AIDS, a screenprint logo appropriated from the Pop artist Robert Indiana’s famous “Love” painting from 1966. The resulting project was General Idea’s most intensive media campaign. In the height of the AIDS epidemic, the image was disseminated by the group and eventually others on a massive scale, becoming an international logo that instantly and poignantly brought home to the general public a crisis from which many had remained detached. In the form of paintings, wallpaper, posters, stamps, and magazine covers, the AIDS logo became the means to counter the silence surrounding the disease which eventually ended the General Idea collaboration when it took the lives of Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz in 1994.

In addition to the works in the General Idea Editions exhibition, The Warhol will also present two major installation works by General Idea in the fourth floor gallery: A Day of AZT (1991) and A Year of AZT (1991.) The first piece represents the daily dose of AZT taken by people living with AIDS as part of their treatment. The five coffin-sized pills that make up the work are a monument to those who have succumbed to AIDS. The second piece, A Year of AZT expands the AZT representation into a room-size installation of hundreds of pills.

To this day, General Idea’s work remains acutely relevant for younger artists, not only as a model for collaboration, but also for the articulations of queer identity and the imaginative formation of alternative communities. In connection with the exhibition, The Warhol will present several education programs that will focus on collaborations with local artists and organizations and explore contemporary notions of social activism.

In conjunction with the General Idea exhibition, AA Bronson will present his current project, “AA Bonson*Healer.” Prior to the opening of General Idea Editions, Bronson, who has worked under his own name since 1997, will conduct several one-on-one “healing sessions” with the public. For more information on the nature of the healing session go to www.aabronson.com

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