Richard Prince Untitled (cowboy)

  • Richard Prince Untitled (cowboy)

As I was riding the Chicago bus the other day, I noticed a reflection of the advertisement along the bus’s side. “Kissing Doesn’t Kill. Greed and Indifference Do.” At first glance, the image looked current—three hipster couples who have overzealously reclaimed the 1980s aesthetic. And the “greed and indifference” rang true, but I couldn’t pinpoint the kissing reference.

Turns out the ad is an extension of a current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, “This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s,” curated by Helen Molesworth. The “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” campaign was originally a political art action orchestrated by artist and activist collective Gran Fury. Gran Fury used a strategy similar to advertising to spread information about AIDS. They called the campaign “Act Up.” The graphics appeared all over the country and came to Chicago in 1990 on more than 60 CTA buses and in 25 el stations throughout the city. When the campaign first launched, there was a large adverse reaction from the city bureaucracy. This time around, when the MCA proposed the relaunch, the CTA board approved the images but with the stipulation that the posters credited the MCA as the sponsor.