Diagnosed in 1987 with HIV, and ultimately succumbing to AIDS-related complication at the age of 32 in 1995, Steers’s subject matter often speaks to his experience of living through an evolving Queer identity and the devastating AIDS crisis. Alongside Flag, Megaphone (1992), Gas Mask (1992) marks a departure from Steers’s usual domestic scenes of couples and individuals confronting the horrors of the epidemic. Instead, the work alludes to the US government’s inaction in the wake of the AIDS crisis. Featuring an American flag and a man in a suit wearing a gas mask hooked to a machine, the image speaks to the artist's own frustration with the national response to AIDS, marking one of his few overt political statements.
Private collection (acquired directly from the artist)
Schröder, Barbara and Karen Kelly, eds. Hugh Steers: The Complete Paintings, 1983-1994. New York: Visual AIDS, 2015, p. 225.