Shandaken Projects is pleased to announce the exhibition of Affluence=Denial by Joe Mama-Nitzberg, at the corner of Eldridge and East Broadway, Manhattan. This billboard can be seen from the street looking south from Eldridge or Forsyth. The closest vantage is the bike lane of the Manhattan Bridge, and it can also easily be viewed from the first fifty yards of the bridge's Brooklyn-bound roadway. It will remain on view through December 8.
This project is an homage to the iconic “Silence=Death” initiative, created in 1987 by the collective Gran Fury to help destigmatize AIDS and encourage communities affected by the disease to cohere. Text in the original, also printed in white against a black void, is offset with a pink triangle, referencing Nazi persecution of homosexuals. Mama-Nitzberg continues Gran Fury’s strategy of appropriation, retooling the original message for a contemporary context by changing the text and replacing the pink triangle with the “Eye of Providence” symbol found on American dollar bills. The symbol is skewed perspectively, exactly as it appears on currency—but without its original context to illustrate forced perspective it appears off-kilter, broadening the message that specific class positions offer opportunities to deny or delegate attention to crises of all kinds.
Sarah Schulman writes about Gran Fury in Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987–1993, that “the collective thought politically about how to build a campaign and how to develop consciousness; it was a conversation with an imagined constituency, not just a one-shot deal. It was more about connection than simply expression.” (pp. 321-22) Similarly, Affluence=Denial is a call to action around recent currents in American perspectives of the AIDS crisis, which is not over despite the advent of management and prophylactic strategies available to individuals of means. In 2021, over 1.5 million people became newly infected with HIV, and more than 650,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
The message of this project was identified as political in nature by Lamar Outdoor, the company that owns the billboard on which it appears. As such, it was required to contain the “paid for” attribution seen toward the bottom of the frame, printed at its minimum possible scale.
The exhibition of Affluence = Denial is part of Shandaken: 14x48, an annual open call request for proposals by emerging and mid-career artists to exhibit artwork on billboards throughout New York City. The program was inaugurated in 2021 with 1776 by Josh Kline, and continued in 2022 with works by Jonathan Lyndon Chase and Acacia Marable. To be notified when the request for proposals for the 2022-23 season opens, please sign up for Shandaken's mailing list.
This program is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Joe Mama-Nitzberg lives and works in Catskill, New York. He received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He works in various forms and media including photography, collage and video. His work has been featured in exhibitions at Grant Wahlquist Gallery, Gallerie Catherine Bastide, Regina Rex, David Zwirner, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the Seattle Museum of Art, the Salzburger Kunstverein, the Renaissance Society, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Basilica Hudson, and White Columns. His work is in the collection of the Walker Art Center and MOCA Los Angeles. He is a recipient of an Art Matters Grant.