Integrative Seminar + Studio: Whitney Museum Research

On Monday April 9th, we visited Whitney Museum’s “historic case studies” section, and we were asked to find an artwork related to our own research topic.

2a: The artwork is composed by two posters that are exactly the same. The color is red, blue and green (primary colors). The four letters are connected and fill mostly the entire image. The background color (blue and green) are relatively dark, which makes the red text stand out.

2b: Printed fabrication – the images are printed big, which can catch people’s attention quickly with their fresh color. It definitely serves its function as posters.

3a: The poster is not multi-media. The wall text is posted close to the poster on the right. Since there is only one artwork on the wall, there is no confusion that the wall text belongs to the piece AIDS. The text mainly explains why the work is made and how it is exhibited in public. In the section which AIDS belongs to, the artworks are related to sexual abuse and diseases.

3b: The actual work is produced in 1988 to raise people’s attention to AIDS. NYC was more affected by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s than any other American city. The work altered Robert Indiana’s piece called LOVE; since LOVE was iconic to NYC, the artists of AIDS borrowed the ideas to make their piece stronger.


How does the artwork related to my research topic?

  • The disease AIDS can be spread by not disposing condoms/needles/drugs properly. It can also be considered as littering. From additional research, AIDS was and is a problem in NYC, so it can be related to my research topic (littering in NYC)  in a specific way. In another word, it enables me to think how littering a certain type of garbage may affect the environment/group.

Why does the exhibition duplicate the poster and post them horizontally?

  •  The middle of the images are a bit above my eye level. Since I am used to read from left up corner, I focus on the A on the left poster and read towards right side. Since they are printed in a large size, it reminds me of the posters on bus stop/subway station without reading the text. Duplicating the poster is probably because it is another way to catch people’s attention, to tell people that the issue should be raised more attention. However, what I don’t get is: the posters appeared near public transportation are mostly rectangular, why don’t the artists make four of them and divide them vertically?

How does the color contribute to the work?

  • The colors include red, blue and green. However, the green and blue have low saturation (mixed with grey). Even though the three colors have strong contrast, they general tone/atmosphere is dark and depressing. I cannot find evidence on why Robert Indiana or the artists of AIDS choose the colors, but the green and blue reminds me virus I saw on textbook. The red letters are sanguinary, which may relate to death.


As my professor’s suggestion, I found a monograph of Robert Indiana, the artist who created LOVE where AIDS took reference from.

One piece Indiana was working before (in the monograph) is “Love is God” in 1964. He made”LOVE” in 1966, and a piece after that is named “Love Cross” in 1968. I found that Indiana made a series of works related to LOVE, by duplicating LOVE in different ways with different colors; he also made a sculptor based on LOVE.

Indiana created a series of artworks based on Love and spirits in the late 1960s, which includes LOVE. LOVE is recognized as the most decorative artwork Indiana has done, and he carried it through many variations of design, color, medium and scales. In the monograph, the author described why LOVE was created using red on blue and green – the color is strong and intense, which shocks the viewers. Even though the color in other artworks are more comfortable to watch, LOVE is still stronger than any of them.

4c :

  1. The artwork can be seen once out of the elevator, which is on the left side of the exhibition. Since the content is very easy to read, most people don’t pay attention to it. Entering the exhibition “Mourning and Militancy”, 95% of the viewers start observing from the photos on the left. About 80% of viewers just take a quick glance as they walk to the next part of the exhibition, even though the work sits oppositely to the entrance. A few people stopped by the wall text and read for 15 to 35 seconds and left. When I did the interview, the first two people told me that they had nothing to say about this piece. In a word, the piece is not informative enough to read deeply.
  2. Questions: interview to Thomas, a viewer

-What does the artwork reminds you of from first glance?

  • The work reminds me Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”, and stamps.

-What do you feel when you look at it?

-How do you think it can relate to littering?

-Why do you think two pieces are exhibited here? Do you think there is a better way to show it?

  • (Putting two pieces together can) capture more.
  • The juxtaposition within colors provides a contrast between sorrow and lively.

-How does the work relate to your daily life?

  • It doesn’t relate to my life as much, it reminds me health wise things.

3. The experience was interesting. At the beginning I didn’t know what to do because none of the artwork was directly related to littering. After following the instructions from my professors, I finally found this work which was indirectly related to my research topic. I tried to think about how disease could be relative to littering, and it gradually made sense. The thinking process was long and complicated, but it gave me an interesting approach to how littering a specific type of garbage will impact the environment or groups. Despite the fact that the piece is less informative than other pieces, I don’t get much valuable information during the interview. Overall, even though it was interesting to try so, the process was too abundant and cumbersome, and I may not try it again if I have other choices.

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