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Wojnarowicz - Documentary

wilder · 5 · 525

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on: May 28, 2020, 12:00:09 AM

As much as any other artist whose work takes on denial and neglect, David Wojnarowicz used his unique skills as a writer, painter, and thinker to give voice to queer rights at a critical time in U.S. history. In this collage-like yet incisive exploration of his life, Chris McKim deftly mixes his paintings, photos, films, old answering-machine messages, and recorded conversations with recollections from friends, relatives, curators, critics, colleagues, and siblings. McKim traces Wojnarowicz’s life, from his toxic New Jersey upbringing to his “making it” in the New York art scene, and beyond. As New York City became the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, Wojnarowicz's art became angrier and more outspoken, and his powerful, unapologetic way of seeing the world made an impact that greatly contributed toward gay rights. Wojnarowicz, a victim of AIDS, passed away in 1992 at age 37, but as this film attests, his uncompromising work and attitude still carry great relevance.— Brian Gordon

Directed by Chris McKim
Release Date - Premieres through DOC NYC November 11th-19th

The Whitney held a retrospective of his work, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake At Night, in 2018.

Wojnarowicz's own books Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration and Memories that Smell Like Gasoline are essential.

I also recommend Seven Miles a Second, a graphic novel about his early life as a street hustler.

There's a brilliant biography about him, Fire in the Belly by Cynthia Carr.

And the pieces featured in The Whitney exhibition were collected in a coffee table book of the same name.

Quote from:  Wikipedia
Wojnarowicz was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, where he and his siblings survived a childhood of physical abuse at the hands of their father. After his parents' divorce, he moved to New York with his mother as a teenager. During his teenage years in Manhattan, Wojnarowicz worked as a street hustler around Times Square. He graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan.

After a period outside New York, he returned in the late 1970s and quickly emerged as one of the most prominent and prolific members of an avant-garde wing that used mixed media as well as graffiti and street art. His first recognition came from stencils of houses afire that appeared on the exposed sides of buildings in the East Village.

Wojnarowicz made super-8 films, such as Heroin, and Beautiful People with Jesse Hultberg, completed a 1977-1979 photographic series on Arthur Rimbaud, did stencil work; collaborated in the band 3 Teens Kill 4, which released the independent EP (music) No Motive in 1982. He exhibited his work in well-known East Village galleries and New York City landmarks, notably Civilian Warfare, Ground Zero Gallery NY, Public Illumination Picture Gallery, Gracie Mansion and Hal Bromm.

Wojnarowicz was also connected to other prolific artists of the time, appearing in or collaborating on works with artists incluing Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Luis Frangella, Karen Finley, Kiki Smith, Richard Kern, James Romberger, Marguerite Van Cook, Ben Neill, Marion Scemama and Phil Zwickler. In 1987 his longtime mentor and lover, the photographer Peter Hujar, died of AIDS, and Wojnarowicz himself learned that he was HIV positive. Hujar's death moved Wojnarowicz to create much more explicit activism and political content, notably around the injustices, social and legal, inherent in the response to the AIDS epidemic.

Article - Why Has the Whitney Tried to Sanitize David Wojnarowicz?

« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 05:55:12 PM by wilder »


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Reply #1 on: May 29, 2020, 03:22:58 AM


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Reply #2 on: May 29, 2020, 03:31:43 AM


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Reply #3 on: May 29, 2020, 11:46:19 AM
Thanks for sharing all that, wilder. Especially the Frieze/Whitney piece and that doc excerpt.

A bright white wall has been hung with photographs of Wojnarowicz by Peter Hujar, who would become his best friend and mentor after a brief courtship in 1980. The works are some of the few true masterpieces in the exhibition. In them David, sullen-faced, smoulders with sex. Hujar convinced Wojnarowicz to paint, and what follows is a stifling ‘white cube’ presentation of his history paintings. Though impressively detailed, their garish colours and cartoonish textures revel in bad taste. Blue maps poke through their oily skins like lesions. Cowboys, insects, snowmen, trains: delirious symbols from his writings recur. When successful, their pastiche forms skewer the schizo-culture of late capitalism, what he called ‘X-Rays of Civilization’.

The show’s strongest paintings appear in a re-installation of Wojnarowicz’s 1987 show at Gracie Mansion, ‘The Four Elements’. Each respective force of nature is symbolically rendered, large-scale, with a level of draftsmanship that must be admired in the flesh. Gay porn stills float in an inky wash beside a foetus, swimming sperm and tadpoles in Water (1987), while a bandaged hand drops a flower through prison bars, in a nod to Genet’s Un chant d’amour (1950). Wind (For Peter Hujar) (1987), completed just before Hujar’s death to AIDS, is a spectral billow of steam from an industrial ruin, overlaid with an open window, a pair of paratroopers and a bird’s wing modelled from Albrecht Dürer, which Wojnarowicz had etched on his friend’s grave.

Take the time to read them, and these works cut like a knife to the gut. Yet they are blunted by a baffling omission: not one didactic mentions ACT UP, the pivotal AIDS activist organization of which Wojnarowicz was a leading member, and for which he produced several of these editions. (After ACT UP itself protested the exhibition for historicizing the epidemic, the museum added an adhesive label acknowledging the group’s contributions.)


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Reply #4 on: February 09, 2021, 03:22:41 PM
Quote from: Deadline
Theatrical release on March 19 followed by VOD release on Kino Now and home video.