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I had been promised that the Venetian climate was much like Winston-Salem’s, but the winter of ’85 hit La Serenissima hard. For weeks I slipped bootless through her slushy streets, attempting to stay out of the foul canals and avoid squashing the loads of cat shit coming out of the thaw. But the coldest I got that unprepared season was on a January trip to Torcello. While ice sufficed for my torment, making my shaking hands unable to sketch the cathedral’s mosaics, above me on the west wall of Santa Maria Assunta the damned impassively endured the fire of The Last Judgment. Though he didn’t have to suffer—at least not directly—for the Byzantine image as I had (a reproduction having caught his eye), Roger Brown drew inspiration from the Torcellan tesserae for a mosaic of his own. Installed above the site of New York’s African Burial Ground, Brown’s haunting memento mori and AIDS memorial meshes rows of skulls with the faces that once hid them: The living rattle their way down to join the ranks of the dead like balls in a pachinko machine. Sidney Lawrence, curator of Brown’s 1987 retrospective, will discuss the Chicago imagist’s mosaic on National AIDS Day, which several years ago some right-thinking Puritans attempted to designate a “Day Without Art.” Perhaps realizing that AIDS has rendered enough invisible already, fewer institutions are observing the occasion with renunciations. Besides, when you’re considering the prospect of serpents strung through your skull like so much unwound red ribbon, art is one of only two things liable to do you any good at all. At 3 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, 8th & Independence Ave. SW. FREE. (202) 357-2700. (Glenn Dixon)