Daniel Goldstein: The Marks We Leave Behind

Friday, Dec 1, 2023 – Jan 27, 2024

659 W. Wrightwood
Chicago, IL 60614

Alphawood Exhibitions proudly presents DANIEL GOLDSTEIN: The Marks We Leave Behind, an exhibition of works from the San Francisco-based artist & HIV/AIDS activist’s iconic “Icarian Series,” to be mounted in the fourth-floor atrium of Wrightwood 659 on World AIDS Day, Friday, December 1, 2023. Goldstein’s “Icarian Series” both literally and figuratively evokes the toll of the AIDS epidemic through the ghostly imprint of bodies—once present, now lost—onto the leather cushions of worn gym equipment. DANIEL GOLDSTEIN: The Marks We Leave Behind is curated by art historian Jonathan D. Katz, Professor of Practice in the History of Art and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, whose critically acclaimed exhibition The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930 was mounted at Wrightwood 659 in Fall 2022.


The Story Behind the Seat Covers

In the 1980s, Muscle System was the undisputed queer gym of San Francisco, so much so everyone called it Muscle Sisters. The abrasion, sweat, and heat of countless bodies over many years naturally imprinted itself on the gym’s leather seat covers. But now these men are dead, part of the relentless toll of AIDS that nearly wiped out an entire generation. In the late 1980s, Muscle Systems remodeled, and Goldstein collected the used leather seat covers, doing nothing to them save mounting them as relics.  He named this series ofthree-dimensional works – comprised of leather, sweat, wood, copper, felt, and plexiglass – “Icarian,” after the brand of exercise equipment from which these covers were removed.  One of the works to be shown, I/Incline (1993), was first displayed at the Alphawood Gallery pop-up in Lincoln Park as part of its popular Art AIDS America exhibition, also curated by Katz (with Rock Hushka), in 2016.


The artist

Daniel Goldstein is a San Francisco based artist originally from New York. For over 25 years, he has worked at the local and global level as an activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In addition to his “Icarian Series,” other works – such as his haunting “Medicine Men” of suspended figures in glass and bronze – were created out of his own experiences with the pandemic. In 2010, he was featured in the award-winning film “We Were Here,” and was commissioned to make three sculptures for the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. In 2011, “Invisible Man,” made of over 800 syringes and red crystals, was installed in the central archway of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in honor of World AIDS Day. Permanent collections containing Goldstein’s work include The Art Institute of Chicago, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, The Oakland Museum, The Berkeley Art Museum, and The Brooklyn Museum of Art. Goldstein speaks widely on his experiences as a long-term AIDS survivor and witness to an era.

Related Memorial program

The public is invited to reflect and memorialize lives lost to the AIDS epidemic at a special program entitled The Light of Memory taking place at Wrightwood 659 Friday, December 15, at 5:30pm.  Exhibition curator Jonathan D. Katz – himself a longstanding member of the Muscle Systems gym from which Goldstein sourced the materials for his “Icarian Series” – will discuss Goldstein's work in the context of San Francisco in the 1980s.  Attendees are encouraged to bring a text of 100 words or less on someone they wish to remember lost to AIDS. Participants will have the opportunity to read their text aloud and inscribe it in the memorial book accompanying the exhibition. Entry to The Light of Memory is complementary with the purchase of an exhibition ticket.



Please note: Exhibition tickets must be purchased online and in advance of your visit.