The Blue Bath, from Damn It! (1986-87)
62 cm x 87 cm (24 7/16 in. x 34 1/4 in.)
(Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1948 - )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Woodcut and color lithograph
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1988
With this series on the AIDS crisis, Avery intended to direct attention toward universal themes such as love and the inevitability of death. The narrative unfolds in a cycle of four images that present an initial encounter between lovers, the infection of the disease, the giving of last rights, and, finally, an autopsy. As an artist and physician, Avery often appropriates familiar images from art history for subjects with personal and political relevance. For example, in The Blue Bath, Avery quotes Albrecht Dürer's famous woodcut of the Men's Bath, although he created a scene with more explicit homoerotic content. Avery was inspired by Ferdinand Hodler's Night when he created Summer Boogie-Woogie, which fuses eros, sleep, and death in one composition. With these references to art history, the artist places the AIDS epidemic in the context of plagues in history. Avery's series forces a viewer to look beyond the thickness of contemporary issues and consider the illness in terms of the continuing physical and spiritual struggles in human existence.