Wojnarowicz was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, and later lived with his mother in New York City, where he attended the High School of Performing Arts for a brief period. From 1970 until 1973, after dropping out of school, he for a time lived on the streets of New York City prostituting himself and also worked as a farmer on the Canadian border.
Upon returning to New York City, he saw a particularly prolific period for his artwork from the late 1970s through the 1980s. During this period, he made super-8 films, such as Heroin, began a photographic series of Arthur Rimbaud, did stencil work, played in a band called 3 Teens Kill 4, and exhibited his work in well-known East Village galleries, notably Civilian Warfare, Ground Zero Gallery NY, Gracie Mansion and Hal Bromm. Wojnarowicz is also connected to other prolific artists of the time, appearing in or collaborating on works with artists like Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Luis Frangella, Kiki Smith, John Fekner, Richard Kern, James Romberger, Ben Neill and Phil Zwickler.
In 1985, he was included in the Whitney Biennial, the so-called Graffiti Show. In the 1990s, he fought and successfully issued an injunction against Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association on the grounds that Wojnarowicz's work had been copied and distorted in violation of the New York Artists' Authorship Rights Act. Wojnarowicz' successful lawsuit represented a notable and affirmative step towards artists rights in the United States.
Wojnarowicz died of AIDS-related complications on July 22, 1992 at the age of 37. His personal papers are part of the Downtown Collection held by the Fales Library at New York University.
His works include: Untitled (One Day This Kid...); Untitled (Buffalo); Water; Birth of Language II; Untitled (Shark), Untitled (Peter Hujar); Tuna; Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: St. Sebastian; Delta Towels; True Myth (Domino Sugar); Something From Sleep II; Untitled (Face in Dirt); and I Feel a Vague Nausea among others.
After his death, photographer and artist Zoe Leonard, who was a friend of Wojnarowicz, exhibited a work inspired by him, entitled "Strange Fruit (for David)"
Face in Dirt
Wojnarowicz has served as an inspiration to many artists; those that have credited him as an influence include: Zoe Leonard, Victoria Yee Howe, Matt Wolf, Emily Roysdon, Henrik Olesen, Mike Estabrook, and Carrie Mae Weems.
In November 2010, G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian, removed an edited version of footage used in Wojnarowicz's short silent film A Fire in My Belly (available online) from the exhibit "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" at the National Portrait Gallery after complaints from the Catholic League and Rep. John Boehner. One segment of the film shows ants crawling over a crucifix.
In response, The Andy Warhol Foundation, which had provided a $100,000 grant to the exhibition, announced that it would not fund future Smithsonian projects, while several institutions, including SFMOMA and Tate Modern, scheduled showings of the removed work.
Close to the Knives: a Memoir of Disintegration is true and thrilling. The Port Authority has never seemed so scary and so romantic. Sorry. I guess you’re not supposed to think that. --Blair Mastbaum (http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/1089940.html)
Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration by David Wojnarowicz
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (May 7, 1991)
Amazon: Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration
In Close to the Knives, David Wojnarowicz gives us an important and timely document: a collection of creative essays -- a scathing, sexy, sublimely humorous and honest personal testimony to the "Fear of Diversity in America." From the author's violent childhood in suburbia to eventual homelessness on the streets and piers of New York City, to recognition as one of the most provocative artists of his generation -- Close to the Knives is his powerful and iconoclastic memoir. Street life, drugs, art and nature, family, AIDS, politics, friendship and acceptance: Wojnarowicz challenges us to examine our lives -- politically, socially, emotionally, and aesthetically.
In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz by Amy Scholder
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (February 3, 2000)
Amazon: In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz
Few artists have captured the emotional, sexual, and political chaos of modern urban life as perceptively as David Wojnarowicz, whom Out magazine has called "an acute observer of the unmapped region surrounding his heart and one of the best writers of his generation." In journal entries from age seventeen until his AIDS-related death at thirty-seven, In the Shadow of the American Dream chronicles the life of a radical artist who unequivocally defied bigotry even as he became a target for the right wing. It tells the story of Wojnarowicz's creative birth, from publishing his first photographs and writing what would become The Waterfront Journals to completing his tour de force, Close to the Knives, at the height of his fame. In the Shadow of the American Dream is finally a record of the private Wojnarowicz, falling in love, exploring erotic possibilities on the Hudson River piers, becoming overwhelmed by the demands of survival, and searching for the pleasure and freedom he believed one could live on.
More Artists at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Art
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