Gran Fury, “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” (1989, Chicago City Transit), “Welcome to America” (1989): There are artists that tend to stay apolitical and wish to completely divorce aesthetics from the political, and on the other extreme are artists with a patent political agenda, who blur the lines between art and political propaganda. Gran Fury falls into the latter category, and it’s obvious which political party they align themselves with. I’m honestly not even sure if I would consider their projects “art,” though they’re undeniably an influential force in the art world, so I don’t think it really matters. Now, since I’m so lazy at writing my own descriptions, let me steal from good ol’ Wikipedia:
Gran Fury was an activist/artist collective that came together in 1988. They took the name Gran Fury as it was the specific Plymouth model used by the New York Police Department, for unmarked police cars. The name was also meant to reference their anger about the AIDS pandemic. Gran Fury acted as ACT UP’s (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) unofficial propaganda ministry, creating work that used the same strategies as advertising to reach a wider audience.
Gran Fury did a number of works representing their outrage towards the AIDS pandemic, as well as to point out the governments lack of action towards finding a cure or informing the public. Formed as an affinity group within ACT UP to create the New Museum installation, “LET THE RECORD SHOW”, founding members continued working together as an art collective. The installation included a neon version of the Silence=Death Project’s already existing symbol, SILENCE=DEATH, however, underneath the pink triangle there are silhouettes of what Douglas Crimp refers to as “AIDS criminals” - people who were perpetuating silence surrounding or misrepresentations of AIDS. At the foot of each silhouette is a quote from each person impressed on a block of cement that shows their view on AIDS.
They also aimed to push various individuals such as Ronald Reagan, New York Mayor at the time Ed Koch, and John Cardinal O’Connor to address the AIDS pandemic in what they considered to be a more practical, open way, as well as to inform the public on the importance of safer sex and clean needles. When asked about their approach of their work, Gran Fury said: “We want the art world to recognize that collective direct action will bring an end to the AIDS crisis… . Whenever we can, we steer the art world projects into public spaces so that we can address audiences other than museum-going audiences or the readership of art magazines.” By the early and mid-1990s the group had found it hard to make simple works surrounding the AIDS issue, and had starting using more text which had made it hard for the group to shock and relay their messages as effectively as before. They also found the issue much more complex and finally, in 1994, after the death of member and close friend Mark Simpson, the group disbanded. Mark died of AIDS on November 10, 1996. (link)