featured project

Avram Finkelstein, Dedications

Project Team Members (Powerhouse Arts Staff): Nellie Davis, Dennis Hrehowsik, Jeremy Gender, Jacob Olmedo, Daniel Quinn, Cuba, Luther Davis, Zaire Anderson, Dana Zinsser, Devon Petrovits, Chris Albert Lee, Brittni Collins, Michael Wiernick

Commissioner/Funder/Presenter(s) : New York City AIDS Memorial

project overview

In 2023, artist Avram Finkelstein collaborated with Powerhouse Arts to create an installation above the New York City AIDS Memorial. In a collaboration between Powerhouse Arts Public Art and Print, the teams crafted five digital latex prints with hand-pulled silkscreen on polyester voile ranging from 21 to 37 feet wide. Additional materials: Steel cable rigging and aluminum stiffeners.

Over the past four decades, the cultural production of Avram Finkelstein has been devoted to articulating political and social justice concerns, in particular in relation to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and in public space. Widely recognized for his early agitprop postering with the Silence=Death Collective and Gran Fury, of which he was a founding member, his more recent endeavors in drawing and sculpture examine the distinctions between the parallel acts of memory and witnessing.

In this newly-commissioned installation, Finkelstein has designed six translucent panels to form a conceptual “sky” of memory and witnessing that floats above the “earth” of the New York City AIDS Memorial’s granite pavers and the reflective waters of the fountain below. These panels layer loosely rendered, hand-drawn clouds—a new style emerging for the artist which documents a reacquaintance with his own “disobedient body” after a stroke several years ago—and text that has been taken from the 1982 poem Bashert, by Irena Klepfisz: “These words are dedicated to those who died,” and “These words are dedicated to those who survived.” Seen through one another, these panels constitute a dialogue with the Memorial site, its emotional intentionality, and its uses of shadow and light.

The artist writes: “AIDS was my first pandemic,” and these recent works are “an attempt to come to grips with my second—COVID-19—stated as a skirmish between fact and frailty, corporeality and memory, commerce and survival, promise and cruelty. As a Jewish gay man, the shadow of the Holocaust has provided a framework that connects the inequities which undergird our cultural responses to many forms of social marginalization, as is masterfully articulated in Bashert.”

artist biography

Avram Finkelstein is an artist, activist, and writer living in Brooklyn, and a founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives. He is featured in the American Artist oral history project at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. His book, After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images was nominated for an International Center of Photography’ 2018 Infinity Award in Critical Writing and Research, and a 30th Annual Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Nonfiction. He has work in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney, the Metropolitan Museum, the New Museum, the Smithsonian, the Brooklyn Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the New York Public Library, and his work has been shown at the Whitney Museum, The Shed, the Metropolitan Museum, the New Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Hirschhorn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, Grey Art Gallery, the Migros Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Leslie Lohman Museum. He has had numerous public commissions, and residencies at Pioneer Works and The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics.

His practice also includes an experiment in political art-making, the “Flash Collective,” a workshop centered on the creation of a one-day collective to produce a single art intervention in a public space. Finkelstein has been invited to conduct dozens of Flash Collectives by institutions including Yale, New York University, Concordia University, The New York Public Library, The New School, Visual AIDS, GMHC, Broadway Cares, and The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and has spoken about them at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yale, The New School, SUNY and Visual AIDS. The work of multiple flash collectives has been shown at the Migros Museum in Zurich, Kunsthal KAdE in Amersfoort, NL, the New York AIDS Memorial, and La MaMA Galleria.

Photos by Celeste Godoy