”...the transmutation of suffering into wisdom must be accounted among humanity’s redemptive possibilities. And I have always found such possibility powerfully conjured up in the art of David Wojnarowicz” – Tony Kushner, 1995
”....as an artist he has cut through the sentiment and guilt surrounding the AIDS crisis and made art directly about homosexuality. In his determination to make the private public, he has also gone beyond specific thematic material to forge a unique combination of politics and spirituality, of the known and the unknown” – Lucy Lippard, 1990
P·P·O·W presents Spirituality – paintings, photographs, sculptures and film by David Wojnarowicz from 1979-1990. This exhibit comes on the heels of the censorship of A Fire in My Belly, from the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery. We will present not only A Fire in My Belly, 1986-87, but also works which come before and after the making of this unfinished film. The exhibition will clarify various misconceptions that have been circulating in the past few months in the press and in discussions surrounding the censorship of the film, especially with regard to the films timeline in relation to Wojnarowicz’ biography, its various incarnations and meaning.
For this exhibition we will also be borrowing work from the The Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University, that will further illuminate the film and David’s views about religion. David Wojnarowicz’ entire oeuvre both as an artist and a writer is infused with references to Catholicism and his experiences with organized religion as a young boy, man, and finally a person living with AIDS. In his memoirs Wojnarowicz chronicles being deeply disappointed by the Catholic Church as a child. Before his death he became enraged by the Church’s rabid homophobia and refusal to promote safe sex. Wojnarowicz was constantly seeking a sort of spirituality that he could understand:
“Going south of the border I found myth to be very much alive and with it the sense of connection to the ground people walked on…Popular culture still carries the most spiritual reverberation. As adults we are pressured to leave myth and thus spirituality behind…” – David Wojnarowicz
Along with A Fire in My Belly we will be screening Silence=Death, directed by Phil Zwickler and Rosa von Praunheim in 1990, which contains portions of A Fire in My Belly but is also an important and powerful reminder of the tragic loss of the many innocent people who died from AIDS.
We are grateful that we can in such a short time assemble a show of this depth and we thank all the lenders who have made it possible, The Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University and The Wojnarowicz Estate.
David Wojnarowicz was born in 1954 in Red Bank, New Jersey. From 1970 until 1973, he lived on the streets of New York City as a street hustler. He was in a band called 3 Teens Kill 4 and exhibited his work in well-known East Village galleries, notably Civilian Warfare, Ground Zero Gallery and Gracie Mansion. In the 1990s, he fought and successfully issued an injunction against Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association for their distortion of his work in violation of the New York Artists’ Authorship Rights Act. Wojnarowicz died of AIDS-related complications on July 22, 1992 at the age of 37.
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