Eric Rhein – AIDS-Vitality-Creation: an artist’s journey

On July 28th Eric Rhein gave an artist talk at the 21er Haus – Museum of Contemporary Art, in Vienna Austria.

AIDS-Vitality-Creation: an artist’s journey

It was a lively evening in honor of New York artist Eric Rhein who shared his creative voyage, influences, vulnerabilities, and discoveries through three decades of living with HIV. The artist addressed themes of resilience, spirit, survival, and transcendence, topics that are also central to his Leaves an ongoing project started in 1996: a series of symbolic portraits honoring the lives of over 250 men and women he knew who died of complications from AIDS, whose lives still enrich his being and work.


The evening with Eric Rhein featured work created over the past 30 years, depicting his travels to physical and mystic spaces. Often using cast-off objects, arranged with care and balance, he charges them with new meaning and life, mirroring the artist’s survival and renewal.

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Works from Rhein’s Leaves are currently on view at the residence of the US Ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel B. Baer.  His work has also been exhibited in the American Ambassadors’ residences in Cameroon and Malta.


Rhein received his BFA and MFA degrees from the School of Visual Arts, NYC. His work is exhibited internationally, including: the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Pera Museum, Istanbul; the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, NYC; the Portland Museum of Art, Oregon; the Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters, and the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition, Millennium Messages. He has received grants and fellowships from the Pollock/Krasner Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. His work is featured in the 2015-2016 traveling exhibition Art AIDS America, currently at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

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Photograph by Peter Fahrni