The word AIDS is painted in blue on a square red-orange canvas hanging on the back wall of a ceiling-lit room. On the left and right walls are two paintings of the word in other colours. Wallpaper with the same design in different colours covers the walls and part of the ceiling.

General Idea

(AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, 1969-1994)




Acrylic on canvas and screen print on wallpaper

244 x 244 cm (each canvas), installation : variable dimensions

Gift of Robert and Lynn Simpson, 1997

Art Gallery of Ontario, 98/48.1-3 

© General Idea. Photo: photo of the installation at the exhibition General Idea’s Fin de siècle, held at Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart) in 1992.

The General Idea collective created their original AIDS logo in 1987, patterned on the design of the American artist Robert Indiana’s (b. 1928) famous LOVE (1966). While Indiana evoked the 1960s spirit of free love, General Idea marked the paradigm shift caused by the advent of AIDS in the early 1980s. The collective’s AIDS design was widely used in poster campaigns in 1987 and rendered in different colours in twelve paintings in 1988. Aiming to raise awareness by making the logo spread like the virus itself, General Idea produced it in numerous iterations, including wallpapers, sculptures, stamps, multiples and animated videos.

Formed in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, General Idea was a conceptual collective working in photography, sculpture, painting, mail art, performance, video and more. Early on, the group tackled subjects like glamour, consumerism, the media, power and the role of the artist. But beginning in 1987, the majority of their works addressed the social and political consequences of AIDS. Mixing humour and provocation, General Idea’s work is recognized internationally and continues to be widely exhibited. They also founded the artist-run space Art Metropole, in Toronto, and published the satirical FILE Megazine from 1972 to 1989.


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