Artist's Conception: Miss General Idea 1971
Screenprint on buff paper, edition of 8
40 by 26 in. 101.5 by 66 cm.
P is for Poodle
Lacquer on vinyl
78 3/4 by 63 in. 200 by 160 cm.
Virgo: The Artist's Conception of Miss General Idea
Latex and gold leaf on canvas
96 by 72 in. 243.8 by 182.9 cm.
Mondo Cane Kama Sutra
Set of ten, fluorescent acrylic on canvas
Each: 97 by 114 1/2 by 4 in. 246.4 by 290.8 by 10.2 cm.
Study for the Firewall (Phoenix with a P)
Gouache, metal leaf, felt pen and colored ink on paper
23 1/2 by 23 1/2 in. 59.7 by 59.7 cm.
1968 General Idea #1
Fluorescent acrylic, acrylic and latex on unprimed canvas
63 by 63 by 4 in. 160 by 160 by 10.2 cm.
31 1/16 by 21 11/16 in. 78.9 by 55.1 cm.
Great AIDS (Ultramarine Blue)
Acrylic on linen, in four panels
Overall: 118 1/8 by 118 1/8 in. 300 by 300 cm.
Each panel: 59 by 59 in. 150 by 150 cm.
Active 1969 - 1994
b. 1946, Vancouver
b. 1945, Winnipeg
d. June 5, 1994, Toronto
b. 1944, Parma, Italy
d. February 3, 1994, Toronto
Formed in Toronto in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, General Idea is internationally recognized for work that tackled such subjects as the myth of the artist, the role of mass media, the relationship between the body and the identity, issues of gender and sexual repression, and famously HIV/AIDS activism at a time when talking about the disease was a taboo. The members of General Idea were key figures in the 1970-80s conceptual art scenes and, with equal parts humor and criticality, created work across a variety of mediums and platforms. Performances and fictionalized, self-referential mythologies played a large role in their work – the group staged beauty pageants, boutiques, television talk shows, trade fair pavilions, and more, and their work often took on unconventional forms of media such as prints, magazines, posters, crests, and postcards.
General Idea has been the subject of several major traveling museum exhibitions: The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, Kunsthalle Basel; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Musée d'art contemporain, Montreal (1984-85); The Armoury of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; 49th Parallel, New York; University Art Gallery, California State University, Long Beach; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; and the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo (1968-87); Fin de siècle, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart; Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Barcelona; Kunstverein, Hamburg; The Power Plant, Toronto; Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (1992-1993); One Day of AZT / One Year of AZT, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1994); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1996); General Idea Editions: 1967–1995, The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville; Kunstverein Munich; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Kunsthalle Zürich; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; and Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga (2003-2007); Haute Culture: General Idea | Une rétrospective, 1969–1994, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011); Broken Time/Tiempo Partido, Fondation Jumex, Mexico City (2016); and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Buenos Aires (2017).
Additionally, General Idea has exhibited in the Canadian Pavilion at the 40th Venice Biennale (1980) and at Documenta 7, Kassel (1982).
General Idea’s work is included in the collections of important institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich; and the Tate, London, among others.
All images © General Idea, Inc.
General Idea is subject of a solo exhibition that marks fifty years since AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal first met in 1968, initiating their collaboration as the Canadian collective General Idea the following year.
For Art Basel Unlimited 2018, Mai 36 Galerie, Mitchell Innes & Nash, Maureen Paley, and Esther Schipper present General Idea’s Complete Set Of Five Self Portraits. The work consists of five portraits, which Canadian artists group General Idea (1969-1994) produced between 1983 and 1992. All five works are executed in lacquer on vinyl and installed on a special test pattern wallpaper.
Organized by Gianni Jetzer, the Hirshhorn’s curator-at-large, Brand New examines the origins and rise of the key group of artists in New York City’s East Village who first used the language and objects of commerce as a radical new approach to art making.
Continuing the storylines from the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, this special exhibition invites visitors to experience more than 150 works in all media, including sculpture, painting, video art, installation, drawing and photography. From the feminist art movement of the 1970s to present-day Inuit art, the richness of the national Canadian and Indigenous contemporary art collections is on full display.
Please join Art Metropole for a book launch and signing with AA Bronson of The Estate of General Idea on Wednesday, March 28 from 7 to 9 pm at the Gladstone Hotel, Toronto.
Gladstone Hotel, 2nd Floor Gallery, 1214 Queen Street W, Toronto
Please join us for a special talk and book signing with AA Bronson of The Estate of General Idea on Saturday, March 10 at 4 pm. Kindly RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org as space is limited.
Printed Matter | 231 Eleventh Avenue, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Fondation Louis Vuitton announce the first exhibition in France to present MoMA's unparalleled collection. A selection of rarely shown documentary material from MoMA's archives will be incorporated in the galleries, tracing the history of the Museum and contextualizing the works.
The year 2017 marked 100 years of De Stijl. This renowned modern art movement has been presented and celebrated in a series of exhibitions across the country, and Centraal Museum is presenting a final exhibition to round off this nation-wide manifestation. This exhibition is devoted to works by contemporary artists, from the 1990s until today, for whom the iconic works by Rietveld and Mondriaan are something to mock or to emulate, to interpret or to elaborate on.
General Idea, Mary Kelly and Martha Rosler are included in the Whitney Museum's An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017.
General Idea is the subject of a major retrospective at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires. The exhibition travelled from the Museo Jumex in Mexico City.
On September 20th at Art Basel Unlimited, Mitchell-Innes & Nash (New York), Mai 36 Galerie (Zurich), Maureen Paley (London) and Esther Schipper (Berlin) will jointly present AIDS Cross (1991/2021), the most recent of General Idea’s history of AIDS works in various media. All four galleries will additionally present works by General Idea in their respective fair booths, alongside a suite of works by their other represented artist.
AA Bronson: We moved here eight years ago, on Valentine's Day 2013. I was invited to participate in something called the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program (German: Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD), which is a fellowship program by which they invite artists to come and live and work in Berlin for a year. They give you a studio and allow you to bring your family, whoever that might be. It's an amazing program.
After more than a year without art fairs, Frieze New York is back. But this highly anticipated pandemic-era edition looked a little different. Rather than setting up shop in the usual sprawling tent on Randall’s Island, some 60 international galleries occupied the Shed, the multidisciplinary performing arts space in Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side.
Founded in 1969 by the artists AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, the collective General Idea made heady but playful work that dealt with sex, art, money, and the AIDS crisis. This solo presentation offers a scattershot but substantive introduction to the group’s oeuvre. Their signature poodles appear both in cheerfully self-aware drawings with mounds of pasta-like curls and on canvas in a discreet ménage-à-trois.
The cross-Atlantic partnership between New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash and Berlin’s Esther Schipper has resulted in an excellent booth devoted to the output of
General Idea, the collective formed in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal. The presentation features some of their most distinctive works, like their paintings and drawings of frollicking, frilly poodles (priced between $15,000 and $168,000), and their darkly comic 1992 group self-portrait Playing Doctor (priced at $150,000). The work was created at the height of the AIDS crisis that would ultimately claim Partz’s and Zontal’s lives. The booth’s centerpiece is the set of nine abstract panels El Dorado Series (1992), an abstracted interpretation of 18th-century Spanish caste paintings that sought to establish a hierarchy among ethnic groups in South America.
Thomas J. Lax: AA, Thank you for speaking with Christophe and me. Can you tell us where you are—and, perhaps a more complex question—how are you?
AA Bronson: Greetings, always a pleasure! I am in Berlin, with my husband Mark, in our rambling Berlin apartment on Fasanenstrasse—before the Wall came down, and even before that, this was the heart of Berlin’s art and culture world, but now it is pleasantly old-fashioned, with gas street-lamps, small auction houses and galleries, spreading chestnut trees, and a generous population of Russian expats. And despite the pandemic and the almost constant lockdown, we are okay here. To be truthful, my life—as an old man—has not changed that much. Except that my occasional forays into Berlin nightlife regretfully have come to an end.
Much of our current global situation feels unprecedented. However, COVID-19 is not the first disease to send shockwaves through our communities. The AIDS epidemic of the ‘80s and ‘90s, like COVID-19, hit indiscriminately but affected vulnerable members of society the hardest. At the time, amidst an inadequate public response largely rooted in homophobia, many artists felt compelled to create work aimed at raising critical awareness about the crisis. With AIDS (Installation), General Idea did this with a resounding impact, which continues to echo today.
This 1988 installation by the artist collective General Idea, founded in 1969 by A.A. Bronson (pictured), Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, serves up a critique of the rising influence of mass media on culture on a set of 144 porcelain sushi plates. The colour bars printed on the plates are based on the trademarked test pattern found on television screens.
At first glance, the placid seascape might blend in with the paintings around it, were it not for the tarlike substance clinging to the panel. The neon sculpture could be mistaken for a similar piece just down the road at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
And it’s hard to look at General Idea’s “Great AIDS (Ultramarine Blue)” stretching 10 feet across a gallery wall without seeing the resemblance to Robert Indiana’s “Love” a block away (sans photo-snapping tourists).
There are few artists I have more reverence for than AA Bronson. In 1969, with fellow artists Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, Bronson co-founded General Idea, the legendary Toronto-based art collective that helped pioneer Relational and Mail Art. Over the course of their decades-long collaboration, General Idea’s multidisciplinary conceptual practice helped establish bold new directions for art in Canada and abroad.
This show introduces viewers to the group's less well-known paintings: hard-edged, fluorescent geometric abstractions that evoke the pixelated silhouettes of eight-bit video games. They also allude to the mystical and political significance of stepped architecture in ancient societies, from Mesopotamia to the Mayans, where such structures were thought to lead to the gods. Exhibited alongside the paintings are plans for the "The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion," an absurdist beauty-pageant venue that, per the artists' lore, had burned to the ground, leaving only the footprint of the ziggurat.
The real surprise of the show is a series of paintings in the main gallery. Covered in allover patterns of interlocking ziggurats, two rectangular compositions from 1968–69 neatly combine stain painting with systemic minimalism. Nearly textbook examples of avant-garde abstract painting concerns of their day, these canvases split the difference between seriousness and burlesque.
Canadian art collective General Idea (1969–1994), made up of Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, and AA Bronson, gets its first solo show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. The exhibition highlights their use of the ziggurat motif, an architectural form common to both the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica and to modern skyscrapers.
Formed in Toronto in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, the artist collective General Idea built its body of work on a strikingly diverse array of themes, constantly revisiting both the field of contemporary art production and the identity politics of the era that ultimately underscores so much of the artist’s act of world-making, critique and expression. No subject was safe from their intuitive and enigmatic lens, from the myth of the artist, the role of mass media, and the relationship between the body and identity, to questions of gender and sexual representation, and perhaps most famously, the HIV/AIDS activism of the 1980’s, a mode of critique that the group were pioneers of during an era of intense repression and governmental silence. Working in a broad range of practices, from paintings to performances, published editions to video, sculpture to installation, the group was almost constantly in a state of reinvention, speaking to the diversity and power of their collective vision.
The Estate of General Idea (1969-1994) had their first exhibition with the Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery on view in Chelsea through January 13, featuring several “ziggurat” paintings from the late 1960s, alongside works on paper, photographs and ephemera that highlight the central importance of the ziggurat form in the rich practice of General Idea.
The importance of the ziggurat to General Idea’s practice cannot be understated. It is a central and repeated symbol in General Idea’s vocabulary, appearing (either implicitly or explicitly) in paintings, drawings, performances, photographs, sculptures, prints, videos and costumes spanning the group’s existence. An ancient Mesopotamian architectural structure of steps leading up to a temple, the ziggurat symbolizes as a link between humans and the gods. The symbol can be found in cultures ranging from Mesopotamia to the Aztec to Navajo Nation. General Idea appropriates this symbol of power and theism, utilizing the form as a framing device to examine questions of branding, architecture and spatial politics.
Known for their unique approach to things and their meaning, General Idea appropriated the ziggurat as the icon of power and theism, utilizing its form as a framing device to examine questions of architecture, branding and spatial politics.
For them, the ziggurat stands, among other things, as an architectural device which communicates fame, money, success. The first series of Ziggurat paintings were created in 1968-69 by Felix Partz, but the group didn’t return to them until 1986, completing the sketches from the previous period that were never completed.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with an interview between AA Bronson and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Formed in Toronto in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, General Idea is recognized internationally for work that concerns subjects as the myth of the artist, the relationship between the body and identity, the role of mass media, issues of gender and sexual representation, and famously HIV/AIDS activism at a time when even talking about it was a taboo.
This summer and autumn, General Idea has posthumous exhibitions at MAMCO, Geneva’s museum of contemporary art, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York. Next spring, Esther Schipper and KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin will showcase works by Bronson and his collective, as well those created under his pseudonym ‘JX Williams’. Outside of the gallery and institutional sphere, Bronson is compiling the group’s catalogue raisonné with Fern Bayer and developing a performance project at the Siksika Nation Aboriginal reserve in Canada.
We’re pretty excited about this one, as it’s General Idea’s first solo show in New York City since an exhibition at MoMA in 1996. Founded by AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal in Toronto in 1969, the collective has consistently tackled taboo subjects, especially pertaining to sexuality. This exhibition will focus on the group’s tamer but still visually grabbing Ziggurat Paintings, which were made between 1968–86 and play with the ancient Mesopotamian form.
Stemming from the group’s archives, the exhibition at MAMCO, conceived in close collaboration with AA Bronson, tackles the first ten years of their career under the specific angle of photography. The aesthetics of these early works borrows from Minimal, Conceptual, as well as Land art, and the regulars from MAMCO will certainly find an echo to works from Dennis Oppenheim, Franz Erhard Walther, or even Victor Burgin. However these photographs are also documents from the group’s life within the context of communitarian utopias which left their mark on the 1960s in Northern America.
“They reinvented the idea of artist activism,” Lucy Mitchell-Inness, a co-owner of the gallery, told ARTnews. “They took on ideas—those often demonized or ignored—with a boldness that was unheard of at the time. [General Idea] came of age in a period that saw pivotal changes in queer conceptualism and postmodernism. They led the charge in decentralization and intervention within the institutional framework.”
Gay nightlife gave rise to the drag ball as an underground simulation of female celebrity. General Idea, the Toronto-based art collective, did something similar with its Miss General Idea pageant, though only one of the four winners of the annual event, held in Toronto from 1968 to 1971, was a man; the competition wasn’t about gender so much as it was about art as a system for producing value and fame. Playing on a monitor at the entrance to the retrospective exhibition “General Idea: Broken Time” at the Museo Jumex, Pilot (1977), which the group made for Ontario public television, is a thirty-minute deadpan documentary on the pageant that provides an introduction to the collective’s interests and sensibilities.
AT THE HEIGHT of the Reagan-era culture wars and the AIDS crisis—a moment that shaped today’s battles over social values, over what is normal and what is not—General Idea decided to fit in. The group explored assimilation and transgression, convention and critique, biopolitics and style. They inserted their quixotic brand of activism, agitprop, marketing, and performance, virus-like, into the mainstream, with results that were anything but. On the occasion of the retrospective “Broken Time,” which travels to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires this month, critic Alex Kitnick takes a new look at General Idea—and their reimagining of what art and life could be.
The Canadian artist collective General Idea found its drive in the AIDS epidemic, becoming aesthetically and conceptually refined in the in the 1970s and ’80s, after long forays into absurdity and performances evocative of Dada and Fluxus. A retrospective presented by the Jumex Museum elucidates the collective’s progression from troublemakers to activist artists calling attention to the epidemic, which ultimately claimed two of its three members and countless others in the queer creative community.
Miss General Idea, the fictional character created by the Canadian artist group General Idea, will make her Latin American debut at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City this month. She features prominently in the group’s 1970s works, which parodied the art world and mimicked popular culture by appropriating mainstream magazine formats and staging campy beauty pageants.
General Idea’s now highly collectible magazine File dedicated its 1981 issue to the theme of success, with a contribution by Warhol and a dollar sign sculpture of their own contrivance on the cover. But by then General Idea had already experimented with new forms of retail like pop-ups and courted the international fashion set from their home base in Toronto for over a decade.