Who Was Artist David Wojnarowicz? We Find Out

After two actions led by ACT UP activists encouraged the Whitney Museum to change a wall label, we went looking for people who could tell us who Wojnarowicz was and help us decipher his complex life and art.

Detail of David Wojnarowicz’s “Untitled (Face in Dirt)” (1991, printed 1993), gelatin silver print (photo by Zachary Small/Hyperallergic)

Last month, a dozen activists gathered at the Whitney Museum of Art to condemn the institution’s lack of modern context about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in relation to Wojnarowicz’s artwork. Their action was noticed by the art world and the museum, which is continuing to talk to the protesters after changing a label to reflect on the fact that the AIDS crisis is not over.

ACT UP activist in front of a work by Wojnarowicz at the Whiney Museum retrospective (all images by and courtesy Michelle Wild at www.mwildsstudio.com)

In this episode we talk to Wojnarowicz biographer Cynthia Carr, author of Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, who helps narrate the complicated story of an artist who has become one of the luminaries of New York’s East Village scene in the 1980s. I also invited two artists, Jean Foos and Frank Holliday, who knew Wojnarowicz during his lifetime, to help paint a picture of a scene that burned bright, but was eventually snuffed out by a commercial art world obsessed with novelty, and the looming disaster that was AIDS.

A special thanks to Twig Twig for the music to this week’s episode. You can listen to that and more at twigtwig.bandcamp.com and other streaming services.

This and more in our current episode of our weekly Art Movements podcast.

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