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White Gray Black

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954–1992)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American painter, collagist, photographer and writer. From 1968 he repeatedly ran away from home, spending some time at the High School for Music and Art in New York before dropping out in 1970. He lived on the streets until settling in the East Village area of New York in the late 1970s. One of his first works of art was a series of photographs, Arthur Rimbaud in New York, which showed a friend wearing a home-made mask with the features of the 19th century French poet (1979; see 1998 exh. cat., p. 6). He started to exhibit work in the early 1980s and was a fixture on the East Village scene, showing work using stencils and collage, for example Untitled (Burning House Stencil) (1981; see 1998 exh. cat., p. 7). In 1984 his lover, the American photographer Peter Hujar (1935–87), was diagnosed HIV positive. At this point Wojnarowicz’s work became more political and angry. A work such as Fuck You Faggot Fucker (1984; see 1998 exh. cat., p. 16) exemplifies both his painting style, with its mixture of collage and dreamlike imagery, and his politics, which were aggressive and unrelenting. After his own HIV-positive diagnosis and Hujar’s death, Wojnarowicz concentrated much more on photography, as in Weight of the Earth, Pt 1 (1988; New York, MOMA), often incorporating text or montage into the compositions. Wojnarowicz’s art and writings are powerful testaments to the confusion and anger of the first generation of artists to come of age living with AIDS. He died of an AIDS-related illness in 1992.

Catherine M. Grant
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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