Robert Farber (American, 1948-1995)

Farber said, “with abstraction, I could create whole worlds of color and space. These worlds were my refuge.” Living during the HIV/AIDS crisis as a gay man influenced most of the art he produced in the 1980s, such as Self-Portrait from 1988. Depicting himself as a spectral man with a ghastly figure on the left screaming, Farber reveals the personal nightmares and inner demons that tortured him. A family portrait lines the bottom left-hand corner, alluding to Farber’s lack of belonging in his family. The darkness of the painting creates a foreboding atmosphere, and a precursor to Farber being diagnosed with HIV in 1989 and passing away from it six years later.

Farber studied at Brandeis University, London School of Dramatic Art, and the Art Students League, first working in theater and performance before turning to painting. Dedicated to his work addressing the AIDS crisis, Farber is famous for Every Ten Minutes, an audio recording of the bell in the New York City’s Riverside Church tolling every ten minutes to represent the rate of deaths as a result of HIV/AIDS.