The Getty Center
Date: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Admission: Free; reservations recommended. Call (310) 440-7300 or use the "Make Reservation" button below.

Greg Louganis/Ritts
Herb Ritts's photography is the obverse of AIDS. Populated by impossibly beautiful young people with impossibly perfect bodies frolicking in the outdoors, they are the picture of perfect health—and as such the polar opposite of the wan, cadaverous figures then increasingly visible as AIDS slowly lurched into public view. There are plenty of gay people in this aestheticized world, but straights too, women as well as men, black as well as white, a polymorphous collectivity of erotic desire that effortlessly transcended the then ubiquitous markers of identity mobilized to segregate the presumptively uninfected from those of us marked to die. Here the body, the newly declared enemy of an ever-larger segment of the gay community, reigns supreme, its possibilities and pleasures scopically available in an obverse relation to physical risk.

Herb Ritts's career as a photographer neatly maps over the ravages of AIDS. In this talk, Jonathan Katz resituates Ritts's work in the social and cultural context of the worst years of the plague, and argues that his commercial and critical import stem in large part from the fact that he was an openly gay photographer who nonetheless proffered a utopian dream of a time before the prospect of Eros was inevitably fused with the specter of Thanatos.

About Jonathan Katz
Jonathan Katz is the director of the Visual Studies doctoral program at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He was curator of Hide/Seek: Difference, Desire, and the Invention of Modern American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Katz's work explores the intersection of art history and queer history, which he considers one of the busiest, yet least studied, intersections in American culture.

Complements the exhibition Herb Ritts: L.A. Style

How to Get Here
The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California, approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for maps and driving directions.