I finally found the original slide! When I was editing the book [Fading Ads of New York City, History Press 2011] I had to use an old scan from 2000 because the slide was being elusive. Recently, a very popular TV show [suspense intended] requested the rights to use this image for a set in their Fall 2012 season and I finally put my finger on this slide – well actually I was very careful not to put my finger on the slide.
From 1997 – 2000, when I was furiously combing the streets of NYC to document as many fading ads as I could, the view from the street of Dr. Tucker’s 59 For All Pain was not good enough. I had to get it from the train rider’s perspective as it was meant to be seen. That image proved to be unimpressive. So I climbed down to the train walkway and walked towards the sign. The oncoming train stopped and the train operator stuck his head out of the window and told me to get my “F*#@ing ass on the train.” So I snapped this shot in a hurry and ran back to the platform and down the stairs to avoid getting arrested. Fourteen years later, the book finally gets published and Amy Sadao (VisualAIDS) wrote a wonderful essay for it and chose to speak about this particular image.
Days with Art
Lingering in Frank Jump’s Images
The poignancy in Frank Jump’s chosen subject matter, his disappearing ads, transforms the language of advertising into a poetics of signs. And there is nothing forgettable about either the images or Frank’s inspired pursuit of art, and of living. One thinks of Atget’s photographs of the façades and storefronts in a disappearing Paris, but Jump’s compositions are decidedly less formal. Or perhaps it can be said that there is still room to breathe in Jump’s images, as Atget’s are sealed off (if brilliantly so).
Much has been made of the connections between Jump’s photographs and his own biography. Both elucidate the culture of a specific moment. Both survive, beautifully so, even surrounded by loss. Both are deeply inspiring. One work that continues to hold me is the triptych Confrontation (Dr. Tucker’s 59 for All Pain). It documents an advertisement painted in white text on brown, forming a banner running the length of a windowless brick building. Read left to right, the three photographs shift from sunlight-heightened contrast to an overcast, slow fadedness and ultimately include the elevated subway track, underscoring the proximity of the building (and photographer) to the approaching train. In the last, Jump has shifted the color of the clouds and the sign to an impossible luminosity. In each, the presence of 59 and PAIN and the sometimes legible FOR ALL form an unshakeable chant, not unlike the raps and beat poetry Jump composed for the early days of ACT UP.
With the generosity and leadership of artists, Visual AIDS utilizes visual art to promote dialogue about HIV. We document the work of HIV-positive artists and pay tribute to the creative contributions of AIDS activism—and we are proud to honor the extraordinary photography of Frank Jump.
After almost a decade of attempting to fathom and alter the human devastation, in 1989, Visual AIDS inaugurated a Day Without Art. Early exhibitions of Jump’s Fading Ad Campaign were part of a shift in this landmark art action that coincided with the World Health Organization’s AIDS Awareness Day on December 1. Originally, the day was to be a cultural intervention: shrouding works of art and darkening the galleries in the face of the AIDS crisis. The gestures were resonant. Tom Sokolowski, a founding member of Visual AIDS, described the event’s importance to the New York Times: “The language of art speaks in different ways from normal discourse. Perhaps those of us who are engaged in the making and displaying of works of art can in some way use the medium to dispel ignorance and bigotry that have surrounded what began simply as a medical problem.” After the advent of drug therapies that extended the lives of those who had access, it became more urgent to share the creative contributions of HIV-positive artists. Jump’s show at the Gershwin Gallery in 1997 and his 2000 exhibition at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center were leading examples of a new Day With[out] Art.
Like the Visual AIDS Archive Project, in which he is a long-standing artist member, Frank Jump’s art practice creates a record of ephemeral histories. Even without the awareness of his roots in formative New York gay and AIDS activism, it’s impossible not to characterize Frank as innately collaborative. At the height of publicity and interest in Fading Ad, Frank took the opportunity to speak about HIV. He has always been open about his longtime survivor status and was instrumental in linking his photographs with the message that “AIDS is not over.”
It’s worth mentioning that Jump’s early adoption of the web to share his photographs challenged an individualized idea of art and the singular, marketable, finite work of the artist. When Frank opened the Fading Ad Gallery in Brooklyn in the mid-2000s, he programmed exhibitions of various Visual AIDS Archive Project members, and not just on Day With[out] Art but year round. And through it all, there are the photographs. Like a private moment in a public space, the image of 59 for All Pain sometimes lingers on with me for days. Holding this image is an active experience. It is one of the things art can do, and particularly in Frank Jump’s hands, as he does it so lovingly and so well.
Executive Director, Visual AIDS
August 1, 2011, New York