Visual AIDS Gallery Highlights Beauty, Hedonism, and Dark Desires

The online gallery, curated by Puerto Rican artists José Luis Cortés, features HIV-positive artists of the 1980s and 1990s.

BY Katie Wurtzel

July 08 2013 4:48 PM ET

José Luis Cortés

José Luis Cortés says he felt the need to curate an online art gallery for Visual AIDS to speak to his experiences, likes, and wants: "Hedonism, drugs, sex for money, love, outlaws, prisons, BDSM, machismo, humiliation, skanks, unsafe sex and young men."

Cortés' latest exhibition, It Feels Like Love But It’s the Drugs, can be found online at Visual AIDS, a mulitfaced organization designed to fight AIDS through HIV-positive artists and art that helps to promote dialogue, awareness, and activism. The digital exhibit showcases art from, among others, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, Hugh Steers, and Jimmy de Sana.

Cortés is a Puerto Rican artist whose work was first inspired by New York City's gay scene in the 1990s, and has been featured internationally in London, Amsterdam, and Vienna. He is also an AIDS activist and a founding member of The Archive Project.

"The way he discusses beauty, desire, drugs, and life is something I am glad we have had the chance to share," said Visual AIDS programs manager Ted Kerr. "He is a great artist with an interesting life and we were proud to help share that with the world."

"While living in Berlin, I met this skinhead who looked like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver," writes Cortés in his curator notes. "We did some ecstasy and went to his apartment where we began kissing passionately. As I was falling for him, he whispered to my ear 'it feels like love, but it's the drugs.' Ouch! I couldn't believe what I heard, but it was true. Hedonism, drugs, sex for money, love, outlaws, prisons, BDSM, machismo, humiliation, skanks, unsafe sex and young men—my experiences, my likes and my wants compelled me to put together this web gallery. I couldn't resist the opportunity to express them through the artwork of some of my peers."

Tags: Activism

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