Reception for Safe Sex Bang: The Buzz Bense Collection of Safe Sex Posters
Friday, November 8, 7-10 pm
Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
The Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco is thrilled to announce its exhibition SAFE SEX BANG: The Buzz Bense Collection of Safe Sex Posters, featuring a selection of nearly 100 posters donated to the Center for Sex & Culture (CSC) by graphic designer and safe sex activist Buzz Bense. Co-organized by CSC gallery curator Dorian Katz and New York-based writer and curator Alex Fialho, in close collaboration with Bense, the exhibition opens November 8, 2013 from 7-10 pm and runs through January 31, 2014.
These posters do more than chart the tragedy of an epidemic, of an outsider community reeling from grief, loss, and the decimation of a blooming culture of sexual liberation. The history of these posters is a story of a fight against stigma, hatred and ignorance; of a community stepping up to take care of its own; of finding a way to extinguish fear and build pride and self-esteem; and of devoted efforts of committed activists to communicate a path to health and survival.
~Buzz Bense, donor of CSC’s safe sex poster collection.
Buzz Bense has collected and produced safe sex posters aimed at members of the queer community since the mid-1980s. In March 2012, Bense donated his collection to CSC of over 150 unique posters, accumulated primarily during his time as a graphic designer with various safe sex advocacy groups and as founder of the San Francisco safe sex club EROS. Circulated at a moment when the queer community experienced the initial ravages brought on by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, these posters comprise a striking aesthetic collection of graphically innovative design that explicitly visualizes diverse LGBT communities and safe sex activism.
SAFE SEX BANG: The Buzz Bense Collection of Safe Sex Posters spans from 1982 into the 2000s, from San Francisco to New York City stateside and internationally to Australia, Germany, Denmark, and Canada. Highlights of the exhibition include the “Play Fair!” brochure produced by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in 1982, considered “the first queer positive, safer-sex pamphlet” (on loan from the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco); six bus shelter posters produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation –including an example of the well-known Bleachman campaign– and STOP AIDS Project that demand attention through their large-scale format; four powerful posters from the Brothers Network, a San Francisco based organization aimed at empowering and educating gay and transgender members of the African-American community; five seductively colorful posters designed by the Australian artist David McDiarmid, other examples of which are included in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and multiple posters and condom packaging designs produced by Bense himself, including campaigns for National Condom Week and Mayer Laboratories.
The double entendre of the SAFE SEX BANG exhibition title speaks to the means through which many of the posters impart their message of prevention: as sex-positive images of queer sexuality that have both an advertising immediacy and an informative sense of impact. The living history of this archive presents the visual means through which the LGBT community has attempted to educate itself about safer sex practices during the height of an ongoing health epidemic that continues to affect all of us today.