Hunter Reynolds

b.1959

Hunter Reynolds is a visual artist and AIDS activist, and he is a Visual AIDS artist member. He was a an early member of ACT UP, and in 1989 co-founded Art Positive, an affinity group of ACT-UP to fight homophobia and censorship in the arts. For over 25 years, Reynolds has been using performance, photography, and installations to express his experience as an HIV-positive gay man living in the age of AIDS. Reynolds’s works address issues of gender identity, political, social, and sexual histories, mourning and loss, survival, hope and healing. Some of his best-known performance projects are The Patina du Prey’s Memorial Dress, The Drag Pose Series, Blood Spot Series and Mummification Series.  He has collaborated on major performance projects including The Banquet with Chrysanne Stathacos and I-Dea The Goddess with Maxine Heneryson.

Hunter Reynolds has been the recipient of many grants and residencies, including several Pollock Krasner awards. He has had numerous solo exhibitions including: PPOW Gallery, Participant Inc., Hallwalls, Buffalo, NY; White Columns, New York, NY; Artist Space, New York, NY; Simon Watson Gallery, New York, NY; Creative Time, New York, NY; New York, NY; Momenta, Brooklyn, NY; Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MA; ICA Boston, Boston, MA; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; NGBK Berlin, Germany; and DOCUMENTA, Kassel, Germany. His work is numerous public and private collections including The Chicago Art Institute, Yale, and the Addison Andover. The Fales Library and Special Collections/New York University recently acquired the archives of Hunter Reynolds for its Downtown Collection. He is represented by PPOW Gallery.

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I am a visual artist and AIDS activist. For over thirty years I have been using photography, performances, and installations to express my experience as an HIV positive gay man living in the age of AIDS. My work addresses issues of gender identity, political, social, sexual and personal histories, mourning and loss, survival, hope and healing. I work in a variety of mediums, installation, performance, photography, video, fire ritual, sculpture. With my work I present personal and social histories, performance narratives in public and private settings and in combination with sculptural and photographic installations. I have been creating art that tracks and reflects my experience as a person with AIDS and the effects it has had on my body, life and art. In the words of Barbra Kruger’s, “Your Body is a Battlefield”: My body has been literally a battlefield in a warthat I have been fighting in order to stay alive. Every project and every exhibition, every performance has been created as an act of defiance in the face of AIDS. Medication Reminder my most recent project, tracking and documenting my medical history has been an important part of my practice for over 25 years. By collecting and archiving this personal, social and political history that reflects the current state of my body, I am able to confront my self and the viewer with the struggle anyone must endure to survive a life threatening disease. Through my art I am able to heal others and myself, give a sense of hope. These battles can be won. This has resulted in several signifying bodies of works.  My Dialogue Activist Tables(1988-1994);  The Blood Spot Series, (1989-1993);  Patina du Prey’s Memorial Dress, a black dress printed with the names of 40,000 people who have died of AIDS, (1993-2007); and Survival AIDS, (1989-2011).  In 1996 when I contacted PCP Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, I almost died but the new HIV cocktails brought me and thousands of others back to life. Since then, I have had to deal with 16 years of a roller coaster ride of side effects, medical conditions of the drugs them selves, such as the stage three liver damage the HIV drugs have caused and the four HIV strokes that I had in 2005, resistance and compliance issues. Since 1996, I have saved the hundreds of empty or half full monthly bottles ofmedications I have had to take. Compliance to the daily activity of taking pills has been a daunting and difficult task. Taking them on time, with and without food,success of these treatments have been up and down because of my inability toadhere to the strict guidelines of the daily routines. It is, for me, almost impossible to accomplish. A year and a half ago I was told that I had built up resistance to all the drugs except one cocktail, this was the last chance. I went to compliance class everyweek. A very close friend who also struggles with these issues said the she would call me every day to remind me to take my medications. You can imagine what a child I felt like. Whatever works, right?  In the first six months, my friend called every day to remind me that I could take my medication. She would say lovingly: “Hi, its Kathleen, Medication Reminder”.  Sometimes, I would answer and we would chat. But, most of the time, I let it go to voicemail.  My voice mail would fill up and I would delete them.  But, as I deleted them I listened to them and it occurred to me that this was art.  Every two weeks, as I filled my medication pill boxes, I would set up 3 cameras recording myself as I listened to her messages, conversing to myself out loud, recordingmy thoughts, and talking at her messages. This process has continued for almost two years. It has resulted in a video dairy that is sometimes poignantly human and other times ridiculously humorous.  Medication Reminder Video Installation I would like to complete this project for my upcoming exhibition at PPOW Gallery in the fall of 2015. The exhibition would be a multi-channel four-wall projection formed as agrid of video images from the Medication Reminder Video Dialogue Diaries. I would make an installation of Dialogue Tables on which hundreds of empty bottles of pills would be placed. In addition, I would create related inter active performances. Recent Related Projects“Survival AIDS” Participant INC May 2011 NYC Survival AIDS is a series of works that combine 25 years of my image-makingconstructed around my experience as a gay man living in the age of AIDS. Survival AIDS combined elements from earlier bodies of work. In the early 90’s, I did a series of performances called the “The Blood Spot Series”, in which I extract my own HIVPositive blood and drop it onto paper, creating an abstract image from my diseased blood.Between 1989 and 1993, I collected and clipped over 2000 HIV/AIDS and LGBT-relatedarticles I could find in the New York Times as part of a series of art works called DialogueTables. I spent the year of 2010 methodically scanning the articles, arranging, and altering them to produce a series of photo weavings—a signature technique I developed to put photos together—for Survival AIDS. There are thirty-seven pieces in the series, each one 60’ x 48’ inches, each composed of 120 individual photographs sewn together to resemble quilts or tapestries, frame the exhibition. The photographs themselves represent large-scale collages of newspaper articles, at times overlaid with images from the BloodSpot series.  In the process of scanning the articles, I reread them and organized them into themes of content based on the headlines, with the intent of recreating a two-page NewYork Times newspaper page. This process of reading and confronting the social, political,and personal histories contained within this archive led me to dig through my own history by going through my archives, weaving my personal, artistic, and AIDS activist histories into the new version of this story 22 years later. Hunter Reynolds

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