AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization in the United States, routinely uses thought provoking, educational, and sometimes controversial advertising to reach a wide variety of demographics with messaging about reducing the spread of HIV and STDs through condom use, routine testing, and open sexual dialogue between partners.
The global organization is taking its promotions in a new direction with its latest billboard campaign in Los Angeles, which pairs engaging messaging with artwork by some of today’s most popular and influential visual media artists. The premiere billboard, posted at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood, features work by renowned multimedia artist Bill Barminski.
The custom billboard utilizes classic Barminski elements – dramatic colors, a textured look, and imagery evocative of 1950s advertisements embellished with the artist’s unique use of double mouths – and the simple inquiry, “Friends With Benefits?” with the address for freeSTDcheck.com, the Foundation’s resource for people seeking free screenings for HIV, Chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.
Barminski’s ironic take on consumerism in America has crossed several visual media, from paintings similar to the current AHF billboard to surrealistic sculptures made of cardboard to award-winning music videos for such artists as Gnarls Barkley, Goo Goo Dolls, Underoath, Modest Mouse, and Death Cab For Cutie.
Additionally, the self-taught Barminski has forayed into film: the artist partnered with director Peter Howitt and Oscar-winning editor Zach Staenberg to create multiple video sequences for the 2001 feature film Antitrust. Barminski also worked with Chris Louie and Joel Stein on the animated short The Adventures of Joel Stein, which was included in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Barminski has been an adjunct professor of digital art and design at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television since 1998.
Not a stranger to loaning his art to advertising, in 1998 the artist was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to produce a piece that became the largest and most expensive ever commissioned at that time. The billboard remained posted above LA’s Sunset Strip for two years.
“Since the days of Keith Haring’s iconic paintings in the 1980s, art has been an important part of raising awareness of HIV and AIDS,” said Jason Farmer, Creative Director for AHF. “The design of Bill’s signature ‘double mouth’ artwork is the perfect way for us to get the message across about the dangers of having multiple partners and not getting tested for STDs frequently. It was a pleasure working with such a great artist who really cares about this message.”
The Barminski billboard is the first in a series of AHF Artist Gallery advertisements that will feature a new artist every two months. Professional artists interested in contributing work to the series should contact AHF Creative Director Jason Farmer at [email protected].