David Wojnarowicz. Fire. 1987

David Wojnarowicz Fire 1987

  • Not on view

Wojnarowicz worked as an artist, writer, and activist in New York in the 1980s, a period marked by the initial outbreak of AIDS and by the high–profile charges of obscenity against certain artists advanced by senator Jesse Helms and the American Family Association. The imagery in Fire, such as the rattlesnake imprinted with dollar bills in the lower left and the wanted posters of criminalized (and therefore marginalized) subjects, imbues the work with layered personal and political meanings that address the greed, violence, and homophobia the artist perceived in American culture.

Fire belongs to a series of four paintings in MoMA's collection each relating to one of the classical elements: fire, water, earth, and air. It contains natural, mythic, and symbolic sources of heat and energy, such as a volcano, Satan, and a heart. These are juxtaposed with the personal iconography that recurs throughout Wojnarowicz's work: snakes, a dung beetle, and the map and grocery store advertisements on the right panel—found paper onto which the other elements were collaged or painted. Wojnarowicz used Surrealist techniques, such as dramatic disparities of scale, with a combination of image and text to create contemporary statements that are both fantastical and disturbing.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 78.
Medium
Acrylic and pasted paper on wood, two panels
Dimensions
6 x 8' (182.9 x 243.8 cm)
Credit
Gift of Agnes Gund and Barbara Jakobson Fund
Object number
313.1992.a-b
Copyright
© 2019 Estate of David Wojnarowicz
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.