It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful

How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic


By Jack Lowery

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Shortlisted for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize

The story of art collective Gran Fury—which fought back during the AIDS crisis through direct action and community-made propaganda—offers lessons in love and grief.

In the late 1980s, the AIDS pandemic was annihilating queer people, intravenous drug users, and communities of color in America, and disinformation about the disease ran rampant. Out of the activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), an art collective that called itself Gran Fury formed to campaign against corporate greed, government inaction, stigma, and public indifference to the epidemic.

Writer Jack Lowery examines Gran Fury’s art and activism from iconic images like the “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” poster to the act of dropping piles of fake bills onto the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Lowery offers a complex, moving portrait of a collective and its members, who built essential solidarities with each other and whose lives evidenced the profound trauma of enduring the AIDS crisis.

Gran Fury and ACT UP’s strategies are still used frequently by the activists leading contemporary movements. In an era when structural violence and the devastation of COVID-19 continue to target the most vulnerable, this belief in the power of public art and action persists.





Just before trading began on September 14, 1989, seven AIDS activists snuck into the New York Stock Exchange. They walked in through the Broad Street entrance, having falsified Bear Stearns badges, and filed in with the crush of brokers and traders. Underneath their two-piece suit business drag, they concealed everything needed for the morning’s action: marine airhorns, two cameras loaded with high ASA film, a handwritten banner, metal chains, handcuffs without keys and wads of fake paper cash.

As those seven activists walked into the New York Stock Exchange, the AIDS crisis was entering its ninth year and showed no signs of abating. The United States would soon pass ninety thousand AIDS deaths, and without a single safer-sex initiative from the federal government, infections continued to climb. There was but one approved medication to stem the HIV virus, AZT. Though AZT sometimes provided short-term benefits, its debilitating side effects deterred many from taking it, and the drug had no long-term efficacy. There were no promising treatments on the horizon, much less a cure or a vaccine.

Inside the exchange, two of the seven peeled off and stood on the floor, readying their cameras. The other five ducked underneath a rope and climbed a staircase that led to a balcony, which overlooked the exchange’s storied floor. Then they threaded their metal chains through the balcony’s spindles and locked themselves into place, in the hopes of delaying their inevitable arrests.

Then they lowered their banner, which read “Sell Wellcome,” an imperative to ditch the stocks of Burroughs Wellcome, the pharmaceutical company that manufactured AZT. At the time, AZT was the most expensive pharmaceutical ever brought to market, and it was one of Burroughs Wellcome’s biggest profit makers.

Seconds before the opening bell commenced trading, they pulled out their airhorns.

That day, nobody inside the exchange heard the ringing of the opening bell. If those on the trading floor didn’t immediately understand the demonstration’s purpose, it soon became clear. Fake ten-, twenty- and hundred-dollar bills began raining over the floor. The back of each denomination respectively read,

White Heterosexual Men Can’t Get AIDS…



Because your malignant neglect KILLS.


People are dying while you play business.

The front of each bill was unaltered, save for the treasury signature, which had been replaced with a cursive script logo, that of the artist collective Gran Fury.

Producing images, branding and rhetoric, Gran Fury’s ten members described themselves as a “band of individuals united in anger and dedicated to exploiting the power of art to end the AIDS crisis.” It was a collective born out of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a grassroots group dedicated to ending AIDS, which had begun in New York City before blossoming into a worldwide movement with almost 150 chapters.

This demonstration at the New York Stock Exchange epitomizes how Gran Fury was integral to ACT UP’s efforts. Though ACT UP identified the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome as a target, and organized the demonstration itself, Gran Fury supplied much of the action’s messaging, and ACT UP’s successes often relied upon the sloganeering of Gran Fury’s posters, stickers, T-shirts, pins and billboards. The stock exchange demonstration also shows the effectiveness of these combined efforts. Just days later, Burroughs Wellcome reduced AZT’s price by 20 percent.

ACT UP is perhaps the most well-branded protest movement ever, and that’s largely due to Gran Fury, whose members often thought about their work in relation to the field of advertising. To aid ACT UP’s efforts, Gran Fury employed marketing concepts traditionally reserved for selling products, but to much different ends. Gran Fury’s bloody handprint graphic, for example, branded one of ACT UP’s most successful demonstrations, Seize Control of the FDA, which demanded the FDA overhaul its approval process for HIV and AIDS medications. Through posters and T-shirts worn by ACT UP’s members, Gran Fury’s bloody handprint became ubiquitous that day, and through the day’s press coverage, millions of people ultimately saw it.

Though Gran Fury was rarely credited in these sorts of photo ops, the collective’s work constantly appeared in news coverage of the crisis and became a conduit by which ideas germinating in ACT UP permeated the world. Ideas that many of us now take for granted, like nationalized healthcare being a human right, were popularized through the work of Gran Fury before assuming a more widespread acceptance.

Initially, Gran Fury relied upon the press, and particularly photojournalists, to disseminate their work to a wider audience, as they did with the bloody handprint at the FDA action. But after their initial successes, Gran Fury began to place their work in spaces reserved for more traditional advertisements: billboards at Manhattan’s busiest intersections, advertisements in New York City subways, buses in America’s major cities, television commercials and magazines. During its years-long campaign lobbying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recognize HIV in women, ACT UP even purchased a full-page ad in the New York Times, proclaiming one of Gran Fury’s best-known slogans: Women don’t get AIDS, they just die from it.

Advertising was a visual language that Gran Fury could easily mimic, as several of its members worked in advertising or as art directors. Kissing Doesn’t Kill, one of Gran Fury’s signature projects, is perhaps the best example of this, as it was frequently mistaken for an actual Benetton advertisement, the clothing company whose work Gran Fury had purposefully copied.

But Gran Fury also borrowed from advertising’s motives. Rather than making work to sell a product, Gran Fury hawked ideas, swayed minds and shifted perceptions about AIDS. Though Gran Fury officially called itself an art collective, its members more often described their work as propaganda, a form that shares many of advertising’s methods and goals. I suspect that they publicly characterized their work as art, in part, because Gran Fury eventually began to court the financial support of museums and arts institutions, to place their work in these more commercial spaces, and it’s hard to imagine the Whitney Museum funding a group of self-avowed propagandists.

Of course, propaganda has an insidious connotation because of its association with authoritarian regimes, and there is an understandable aversion to making or celebrating it. But the story of Gran Fury invites us to reconsider this, as not all propaganda is alike. In his book How Propaganda Works, the philosopher Jason Stanley argues that there is a kind of propaganda that can even repair democracy, what he calls “civic rhetoric.” When a marginalized or disenfranchised group of citizens does not have an equal say in their government and the creation of its laws, Stanley argues, civic rhetoric is one of the few ways in which they can reclaim power.

I promise you that this is not an academic book on civic rhetoric, and that Stanley is the last philosopher I will quote in these pages. Rather, this book tells a story that elucidates this concept, a story that I think will be more useful (and hopefully more fun) than studying civic rhetoric in the abstract, as Gran Fury is a live example of what civic rhetoric looks like, how it’s made and what it can do. This is also a story of civic rhetoric’s limitations. Gran Fury embodies that too.

Any kind of propaganda requires believers to carry its message, and in the case of Gran Fury, this was often done by ACT UP’s members. Gran Fury often received the information for their posters from other groups within ACT UP, and Gran Fury similarly relied upon thousands of other ACT UP members to disseminate their work. What often made Gran Fury so effective was that scores of people would hold the same sign, wear the same pin or don identical T-shirts. Gran Fury’s Read My Lips, a T-shirt of two kissing sailors produced to combat homophobia, is such an iconic image only because ACT UP’s membership made it so ubiquitous. Shirts like this visually identified ACT UP and gave ACT UP a visual cohesion. What an army gains from its uniform, ACT UP drew from Gran Fury.

But propaganda also assumes that there are people who need to be swayed, whose minds need to be changed, and this was often Gran Fury’s audience. Gran Fury sometimes worked to elicit outrage, or to coerce its viewers into action. But just as often, Gran Fury’s work advocated that you adopt or dismantle a particular mindset, perspective, assumption or worldview. Instead of thinking X, we want you to think Y. Often, Gran Fury tried to dispel notions that were a hindrance to ACT UP’s efforts or bolster ideas that underpinned ACT UP’s demands. An example of this is Gran Fury’s All People with AIDS Are Innocent, which first appeared as a poster and was later repurposed as a banner that was hung in the United States and Europe. At the time, hemophiliacs and children with HIV were often described as the “innocent victims” or “most innocent victims” of AIDS. Those delineations suggest that some people are more deserving of AIDS than others, which was anathema to ACT UP’s notion that people with AIDS deserve healthcare, not blame. The only demand of All People with AIDS Are Innocent is that you think differently about people with AIDS: instead of assuming that there is a hierarchy of guilt predicated on how someone contracted HIV, think of someone’s HIV status without any moral implication, that no one is more deserving of this disease than another.

Both art and propaganda force ideas onto their viewers (or listeners, or readers). But the distinction between art and propaganda, or at least, how I delineate between those terms here, is that propaganda has a more predetermined outcome that it tries to elicit. The overarching goal of Gran Fury’s propaganda was to actualize a better world for queer people and people with AIDS. Often, their work addressed the federal government, but that wasn’t always the case. For example, they produced a fake front page of the New York Times, which they wrapped around actual copies of the Times that had been distributed throughout Manhattan. It showed what more informed and comprehensive news coverage of AIDS would look like, but just as importantly, it imagined a world where the media reflected the lives of queer people and people with AIDS, rather than ignoring them.

Making this kind of work was not without risk or consequence. At the 1990 Venice Biennale, Gran Fury provoked outrage over their criticism of the pope’s reluctance to admit that condoms and clean needles prevent the spread of HIV. Seven of Gran Fury’s members were almost arrested and charged with “blasphemy,” an actual crime that still carries a hefty prison sentence in Italy.

Aided by Gran Fury, the cumulative efforts of ACT UP brought about one of the most staggering shifts in the history of medicine, in part by lobbying the federal government to expand its budget for AIDS research. At multiple points in the pre–ACT UP years of the crisis, the Reagan administration actually tried to reduce the budget for AIDS research, despite the fact that the number of Americans dying of AIDS was doubling or tripling every year. Those kinds of cuts were unthinkable once ACT UP became a constant presence in American life. In the pre–ACT UP years of the crisis, 1981 through 1986, the federal government cumulatively spent a quarter of a billion dollars on AIDS research, and that was spread over six years. By 1991, at the height of ACT UP’s influence, the federal government was spending almost a billion dollars on AIDS research every single year. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) quadrupled its budget for AIDS research in the first three years of ACT UP’s existence. And those in power understood that there was a direct correlation between ACT UP’s efforts and this increase in spending. “The more you’re demonstrating,” Anthony Fauci once told an ACT UP member, “the more money I’m going to get to work with.”

That kind of shift didn’t come from a single demonstration or group within ACT UP. It came from years of cumulative work, though it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that these efforts fully came to fruition.

That increase in spending helped bring about a new wave of treatments called protease inhibitors, which make it possible to live a full life with HIV. Back in 1987, when ACT UP formed, people who tested HIV-positive were often told that they had two years to live. Because of protease inhibitors, the life expectancy for an HIV-positive American is now just two years short of an HIV-negative counterpart. By the time protease inhibitors came to market, fifty thousand Americans were dying of AIDS every single year, a number that surely would have continued to rise without this intervention. When protease inhibitors came to market, the number of American AIDS deaths decreased for the first time in the history of the epidemic, and it has continued to decrease ever since. Worldwide, over twenty million people now take this lifesaving HIV drug that ACT UP’s efforts helped bring to market.

ACT UP undeniably changed the world. And yet, it was a relatively small group. ACT UP’s largest demonstration fielded around five thousand people, a number that pales in comparison to other movements in American history. Demonstrations for enacting civil rights and ending the Vietnam War drove hundreds of thousands of Americans to Washington, DC. The Climate Strike, March for Our Lives, iterations of the Women’s March and the protests to oust Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló all had over a million attendees. Up to twenty-six million Americans participated in demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd and the slew of other Black lives lost.

Any book about ACT UP must then try to explain how such a small group of people so drastically shaped the world in which we now live. And one undeniable factor is the work of Gran Fury.

This book tells a story that has been constructed through archival research, interviews and the writing of others. Of Gran Fury’s ten members, nine outlived the worst years of the AIDS crisis, and all nine agreed to be interviewed for the purposes of this book. Mark Simpson, who died in 1996, was the only core member of Gran Fury who wasn’t interviewed, but in the last years of his life, Simpson began work on a memoir, mostly of his childhood and young adult years in Texas. His memoir was unfinished at the time of his death and has not been published, but his sister, who is the executor of his estate, allowed me to draw from it. Another of Gran Fury’s members, Avram Finkelstein, has also written about his own life and activism, most extensively in his book After Silence. I also interviewed about fifty living ACT UP members and relied upon interviews conducted by other individuals, most notably the ACT UP Oral History Project, organized by Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard. Gran Fury’s archive is held by the New York Public Library (NYPL), and both the Lesbian Herstory Archives and the NYPL have archived ACT UP’s materials and ephemera, including transcripts of meetings with government officials, internal memos, financial statements and meeting minutes.

This book’s title actually came out of one of my interviews. One of Gran Fury’s members, Donald Moffett, and I were talking about other depictions of ACT UP—what other books and documentaries had either captured or misrepresented. I had expressed my dissatisfaction with other depictions of ACT UP, that too often we’ve received a PG-13’d version of the actual movement, and suggested that “what made ACT UP so effective was that it was kinda vulgar and raunchy.” Moffett agreed, with one qualification. “I think the only thing that you’re misstating is the ‘kinda,’” he replied. “It was vulgar. It was all those things. It was vulgar and beautiful.”

In these pages, the first member of Gran Fury you will meet is Finkelstein, whose journey toward AIDS activism began after he lost the person who he thought would be his soulmate. Finkelstein’s story, though harrowing, was also common. Half of Gran Fury’s members lost their partners to AIDS, and all of them lost close friends. Seeing all of this, most of Gran Fury’s members lived with the constant dread that they too would die of AIDS. This was felt most acutely by the members who knew or suspected that they were HIV-positive, but much of Gran Fury, regardless of their status, experienced this dread on some level.

Beyond the loss of those individuals, all of them experienced the wider loss of an entire community. Though it was painful to lose a partner or a best friend, it was often just as traumatizing to watch the constant deterioration of colleagues, coworkers, fellow activists, artistic collaborators, friends and people they saw around their neighborhoods but whose names they didn’t know—the guy at the coffee shop or the person at the pharmacy. Like much of their generation, the members of Gran Fury spent their twenties and thirties going to funerals, often weekly but sometimes more.

This is a book about how ten people confronted that reality. The first act chronicles Finkelstein’s attempts at working with a collective predating Gran Fury, the beginnings of ACT UP and the opportunity that launched Gran Fury. Act two, the book’s longest, begins with Gran Fury’s first poster and ends with the last projects to which all of its core members contributed. Their first poster wasn’t very good, and much of their work wasn’t successful. In their oeuvre, there are as many duds as there are smash hits. This is a story about both, about the work that has become iconic and the work that is largely forgotten, because both are integral to understanding how Gran Fury effected change. Gran Fury dissolved before the advent of protease inhibitors, but their work outlived the collective itself, and many of its members continued their AIDS activism. The book’s final act traces Gran Fury’s slow dissolution, how a few of its members completed one final poster and how the advent of protease inhibitors both did and did not change the AIDS crisis and the lives of Gran Fury’s members.


During the height of Gran Fury’s output, its members often lamented that they had no way of knowing whether their work was having any effect. Marketers often confront a similar predicament: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted,” goes the old marketing maxim. “The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

But from the vantage of today, it’s clear that Gran Fury’s work has had an incredible impact. Underpinning all of ACT UP’s efforts was a belief that public policy and personal health are inextricable, a perspective that’s now largely taken for granted. While this attitude may no longer seem novel, it once was. During the AIDS crisis, politicians like Senator Jesse Helms would vehemently oppose federally funded safe-sex campaigns but claim that people living with AIDS “got sick as a result of deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct.” This statement not only characterizes the period’s blatant homophobia but also embodies an attitude that divorces government policy from the public’s well-being. Personal health is a matter of political consequence, not just individual habits: that perspective, which was integral to ACT UP’s efforts, filtered into the world, in no small part through the work of Gran Fury.

ACT UP and Gran Fury did not invent the idea that our government plays a significant role in the health of its citizens. While the mantra “healthcare is a human right” originated in ACT UP, and was popularized as a chant at ACT UP’s demonstrations, ACT UP was not the first to argue something in this vein.

But Gran Fury did manage to give these ideas a more public platform in American life, thus encouraging a more widespread acceptance. To accomplish this, Gran Fury afforded no ambivalence in its messaging: “The government has blood on its hands,” reads one of their posters. Another rhetorically asks, “When a government turns its back on its people, is it civil war?” Now thirty years old, these posters could easily be commenting upon one of America’s growing public health crises. Indeed, during the 2018 midterm elections, Gran Fury’s original Welcome to America billboard was resurrected in Norfolk, Virginia, a city straddling two congressional districts, one of which Democrats wrestled from Republican control in that election. When Gran Fury first mounted the billboard in 1989 it read, “Welcome to America, the only industrialized country besides South Africa without national healthcare.” To update the billboard for 2018, Gran Fury only had to omit the qualifier reading “besides South Africa.”

Welcome to America, Gran Fury, 2018. Photograph courtesy of Gran Fury.

Like Welcome to America, much of Gran Fury’s work would require little alteration to comment on one of our growing health crises, as the collective’s work prefigures many of our current attitudes toward public health. Looking at online versions of Gran Fury’s Kissing Doesn’t Kill, across the bottom of the poster, you’ll see the phrase “Corporate greed, government inaction and public indifference make AIDS a political crisis.” But this was not how it first appeared, as the project’s funder censored this rejoinder text, worried it might upset their corporate sponsors.

If you doubt the consequence of Gran Fury’s work, take the rejoinder text of Kissing Doesn’t Kill and replace the word “AIDS” with one of America’s other public health crises, like the opioid crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic. If that statement sounds obvious or intuitive, it’s in part because of the groundwork laid by Gran Fury. To examine their work is to follow the choices that got us here.


The past success of Gran Fury’s work, along with its current influence, inevitably raises a question about how their work might serve as a model in the future. This was something that often arose in my conversations with Gran Fury’s members, the most memorable example being my second interview with Moffett, who brought up the writing of author and activist Naomi Klein. Toward the end of her book On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, Klein puts forward a seemingly counterintuitive proposition: that art could be integral in bringing about the kind of radical change necessary to avert a climate catastrophe. Ambivalent about the proposition, Moffett gave it a “maybe” but was interested nonetheless. “Art Is Not Enough,” reads one Gran Fury poster, and it’s true: paintings cannot repair the irreparable damage done to the Great Barrier Reef, nor can songs halt rising sea levels.

Climatologists have concluded that we need to embrace “rapid foundational changes to transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, and more” in order to preserve the planet. What inhibits this from happening, Klein argues, is that too many people doubt that such change is possible or worthwhile. “The biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change that the Green New Deal envisions is not that people fail to understand what is being proposed,” she writes. “It’s that so many are convinced that humanity could never pull off something at this scale and speed.” The pessimism of some who believe in climate change is just as detrimental as those who deny it outright. A mass shift in public opinion is necessary if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe, and Klein notes that these sorts of changes have often begun in art.

Klein points to the original New Deal to convey how art has previously been used to sway public opinion. The New Deal envisioned well-paying construction jobs that could repair the country’s infrastructure while boosting the economy and ending the Great Depression. These sorts of “hand up, not hand out” programs were coupled with increased banking regulations, in the hopes of avoiding another depression spurred by the financial sector. In retrospect, these sorts of solutions may seem obvious and necessary. But at the time, Republicans dismissed these programs as fascist or tyrannical, and Klein notes that centrists cautioned about moving too quickly. Visual art, literature and music thus became an integral part of convincing the public that these sorts of programs were, in fact, essential and urgent.

In addition to infrastructure jobs, affordable housing and banking regulations, the original New Deal also included public arts programs, such as the Federal Art Project, the Federal Writers’ Project and the Federal Music Project. Not all of the artwork funded by these programs was explicitly political. Some of it simply provided a respite from the dismal realities of the Depression. But much of this publicly funded art demonstrated the need for the kinds of government relief programs envisioned in the New Deal, and that this kind of relief was necessary and urgent, possible and humane. As Klein notes, “The power of art to inspire transformation is one of the original New Deal’s most lasting legacies,” and she concludes that, in the same way, art could now be used to convince the public that avoiding a climate catastrophe is both necessary and possible.

Part of the problem, as Klein sees it, is that this kind of shift, precipitated by art, “is not something for which most of us have any living reference,” and that we have to look back to the New Deal for precedent. But I don’t think we need to look so far back. What I hope this book demonstrates is that Gran Fury could serve as a model for the kind of change that Klein is describing, one in which art (or propaganda) made by ordinary citizens precipitates a mass shift in public opinion.


  • “Lowery painstakingly reconstructs conversations and negotiations that compel a reader to feel the era’s anguish and urgency… An important contribution to the annals of AIDS, and, in hewing close to but fanning out from a narrow cast of characters, a sturdy template for chroniclers of complex sociopolitical movements.”—Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times
  • “An unsparing account… Lowery tenderly reconstructs the tedious planning, overwhelming sadness and occasional joys of the era to create an accessible history of the AIDS crisis and the activists who fought to make a difference.”—NPR
  • “[A] thoughtful, cogent new history.”—New York Times Book Review
  • “Jack Lowery's compelling exploration of [Gran Fury] and their work is more timely now than ever, when activism is a necessary and vital part of our lives….Educational and entertaining, this look at queer history has a lot to tell us about what's going on today.”—Buzzfeed
  • “Lowery debuts with a fascinating study of how art galvanized AIDS activism in the 1980s and ’90s…[He] provides crucial context about the history of the AIDS epidemic and draws vivid sketches of key players in Gran Fury. The result is a captivating look at the power of art as a political tool.”—Publishers Weekly, *starred review*
  • “Lowery lovingly portrays the strength, effort, happy victories, and overwhelming sadness of [ACT UP’s] historic efforts… Art had a major role in the movement, and as this testimonial lays out, the people behind the art stand as pillars of beautiful humanity. This is a rich and necessary documentation.”—Booklist, *starred review*
  • “Lowery’s raw emotion strikes deep into the reader’s conscience. The context of how the art was incubated makes this narrative essential to the history of the AIDS epidemic…Recommended for all interested in how art can change the world.”—Library Journal, *starred review*
  • “As much as the book is about how art fits into activism, it’s also about how friendships and love affairs fit into a time of fear, grief, illness, and death amid a very closely knit social circle. It’s a fun, fascinating read that’s also a moving and personal one.”—TheBody
  • “Lowery’s incisive book functions as a catalogue raisonné of the collective’s oeuvre over the eight years of its existence… It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful makes a compelling case for the significance of Gran Fury’s imagery to the efficacy of ACT UP.”—The Gay & Lesbian Review
  • “A lively depiction of how graphic art can bring political activism to life.”—Kirkus
  • “I picked up Jack Lowery’s It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful and didn’t stop reading it for the next three days. Lowery’s plainspoken, patient, and probing approach to his dramatic subject matter is totally compelling, and his focus on Gran Fury fills in a critical piece of aesthetic and political history. Anyone and everyone interested in still-urgent questions about the relations between art, activism, living, and dying should immediately read this book.”—Maggie Nelson, author of THE ARGONAUTS
  • “Jack Lowery has written an engaging, provocative, and moving book about one of the most successful political movements in American history, a painstakingly researched narrative about how activism and art saved untold lives. At a time when the lessons of Gran Fury and ACT UP are more crucial than ever, this is essential reading.”—Alex Halberstadt, author of YOUNG HEROES OF THE SOVIET UNION
  • “Repackaging the collective’s travails for a mass-market audience, Lowery deftly untangles the lives and contributions of Gran Fury’s eleven core members while cementing the group’s importance within the larger saga of ACT UP.” —Artforum
  • “Lowery cinematically captures the artists… This is a book for its subjects, a gift toward their legacy.”—The Baffler
  • “Lowery writes with passion and purpose in his essential new non-fiction book—OutWord Magazine
  • “Jack Lowery has written an eminently readable and ultimately inspiring story about the intersection of politics and art.”—Powell’s Books Blog
  • “This riveting new perspective on AIDS activism is an emotional portrait of anger, grief, loss and love—and a testament to art’s power to transform.”—Spectrum Culture

On Sale
Apr 5, 2022
Page Count
432 pages
Bold Type Books

Jack Lowery

About the Author

Jack Lowery is a writer and teacher, whose writing has appeared in The AtlanticThe Times Literary Supplement and The Awl. He completed his MFA in Nonfiction Writing at Columbia University, and has taught in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University. As an editor, he has published the poetry of David Wojnarowicz. He lives in Brooklyn.

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