The Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) and the River Campus Libraries (RCL) at the University of Rochester will host three days of public events centered around the HIV/AIDS epidemic in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster. On view from March 6–June 19 at MAG, Up Against the Wall is the first major exhibition devoted to the University of Rochester’s vast collection of HIV/AIDS-related posters. The events taking place March 17 through 19will feature free lectures and conferences centered around the AIDS crisis and offer attendees the opportunity to view the exhibition.


What: Neilly Author Series lecture featuring Avram Finkelstein

When: Thursday, March 17 l 7-8 PM in-person and via Zoom l REGISTER HERE
Where: Rush Rhees Library, 755 Library Rd

Avram Finkelstein’s lecture, Locating AIDS on the 21st Century Image Landscape, is centered around his award-winning book, After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images, and his experiences as an artist, activist, and author. The story of HIV/AIDS is likely the most cogent corporeal metaphor for the turn of the 21st century, a story of gender, race, class, identity, access, and institutional power. It’s the story of the truths of the soul and the lies of the mind. But where does this story sit on the current digital landscape—an intricate ecosystem of power narratives representing fantasias of egalitarianism, where machine-learning has torqued social meaning into information conduits of Möbius non-orientability? How do we re-locate one of our most defining and ongoing societal struggles in the present? 

Avram Finkelstein is a Brooklyn-based artist, activist and writer, and a founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury artistic 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 (University of California Press), 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 worked 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

The Neilly Author Series was established in 2001 to invite a diverse range of authors to discuss their recent publications, their writing processes and the ideas presented in their work. This series is made possible by the River Campus Libraries through the endowed fund provided by University Life Trustee Andrew H. Neilly and his wife Janet.

What: Speaking Through Silence: A Public Conference on HIV/AIDS Histories

When: Friday, March 18 l 9 AM-5:30 PM in-person and via Zoom l REGISTER HERE
Where: Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave

This conference features scholars of HIV/AIDS history alongside medical practitioners and activists from the Central New York region sharing their knowledge and experience of HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, care, representation, and memory. Historian Jennie Brier and graphic designer Matthew Wizinsky will give the keynote, “I’m Still Surviving: Towards a Women’s History of HIV/AIDS in the United States.” Artist, writer, and activist Avram Finklestein will offer a response to the keynote. Panels include “HIV in Black and Brown Communities: What’s Going On?;” “HIV at the Intersection of Art and Activism;” and “Public Health Harm Reduction: Lessons from the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.”

Sponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor from an award by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by the University of Rochester Humanities Center. Additional support provided by the Memorial Art Gallery, RIT College of Liberal Arts, and the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries.

Free admission to the Memorial Art Gallery for conference attendees made possible in part by the LGBT+ Fund for Greater Rochester at Rochester Area Community Foundation.

What: 5th Annual Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues

When: Saturday, March 19 l 9 AM-5 PM l REGISTER HERE
Where: Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave

The 2022 Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues will explore Rochester’s response to the AIDS crisis from its beginning in 1981 to the present through both local and global lenses. Tufts University Post Doctorate fellow Jackson Davidow will give the keynote “Viral Visions: Art, Activism, and Epidemiology in the Global AIDS Pandemic.” Panels and talks include “Living with HIV” and an overview of the Up Against the Wall exhibition, in addition to guided tours and film screenings taking place throughout the day.

Established in 2018, the Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues is an annual series of community building conversations that place local contemporary LGBTQ+ issues in historical context through reference to archival resources. The dialogues are presented by the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County and the Out Alliance in partnership with the Memorial Art Gallery and River Campus Libraries. Sponsored by Shoulders to Stand On, Humanities New York, and the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library.

Free admission to the Memorial Art Gallery for Rainbow Dialogue attendees made possible in part by the LGBT+ Fund for Greater Rochester at Rochester Area Community Foundation.

About the Exhibition

Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster is the first major exhibition devoted to the University of Rochester’s vast collection of HIV/AIDS-related posters. The exhibition features 200 of the most visually arresting and thought-provoking posters from the over 8000 donated by collector, physician, and medical historian Dr. Edward C. Atwater, one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Illustrating the wide range of strategies used to educate and inform about this devastating global pandemic, the exhibition underscores how beauty and creativity have grown out of the tragedy and destruction of the deadly virus.

This collaborative exhibition and all related activities are made possible through the vision and generosity of donor, collector, physician, and medical historian Dr. Edward C. Atwater, and his family, whose AIDS Education Posters Collection is part of the River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation at the University of Rochester.

The exhibition is sponsored by Vicki and Richard Schwartz, the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Lloyd E. Klos Fund, Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries, DKT International, the Gleason Family Foundation, Trillium Health, and Dr. Bill Valenti and James Wolk. Additional support has been provided by Janet S. Reed, Rochester Picture Framing, the Family of Dr. Edward C. Atwater, Helen H. Berkeley, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust, the Gallery Council of the Memorial Art Gallery, the Anthony J. Mascioli Trust, Suzanne M. Spencer, Rochester Victory Alliance, Dr. Stephen Dewhurst, Dr. Michael S. Gottlieb, Tamar Carroll and Lars Schumann, and two anonymous donors.

Funding is also provided by the Thomas and Marion Hawks Memorial Fund, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Fund, and the Nancy R. Turner Fund for Special Exhibitions.

The exhibition is supported in part by awards from the New York State Education Department made possible by Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA-245369-OMS-20. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The book that complements the exhibition is published by RIT Press and made possible by William M. Valenti, M.D.

Community Sponsor: WXXI | Little Theater | CITY magazine

About the Curator

Guest curator Donald Albrecht has curated numerous major exhibitions that explore cultural trends, including Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York for the Museum of the City of New York, as well as shows focusing on major designers and design houses, such as The Work of Charles and Ray Eames for the Library of Congress and Vitra Design Museum, and Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future for the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, National Building Museum, and Yale University.

Mr. Albrecht also develops and edits exhibition catalogs, contributing major essays and working with other writers to provide fresh critical perspectives. His catalogs have garnered numerous awards, including the Society of Architectural Historians’ Best Exhibition Catalogue for the Eero Saarinen and the Eames catalogs. Mr. Albrecht lectures frequently about architecture and design. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

About River Campus Libraries

With more than 3.5 million volumes, extensive digital resources, and world-renowned collections of rare and unique materials, River Campus Libraries forms the intellectual foundation of learning and research at the University of Rochester. The Libraries’ strategic plan for 2018–2025 focuses on making its collections accessible for all, designing spaces that serve their users’ needs, enriching educational experiences, supporting scholarly research at the University, and engaging communities on and off campus.