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Wojnarowicz, David
U.S. (1954 - 1992)
Sex Series [bridges with text]
Gelatin silver print
14 3/4 x 17 3/4 in. (37.5 x 45.1 cm) image size; 16 x 19 7/8 in. (40.6 x 50.5 cm) sheet size
Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company
FA 97.198
Keywords: Series: Sex Series; Architecture (bridge); Text; Cityscape; Abstract

David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, was a highly visible AIDS activist and artist who made art directly about his own homosexuality in relationship to a society he saw as violent, repressive and consumer driven. Wojnarowicz never studied art but was instead strongly influenced by comics and surrealism. His photographic Sex Series of 1988 was inspired when a work of his depicting homosexual activity was rejected from a Paris exhibit. The eight photomontages which comprise the series are printed as negatives and consist of a principle image framed or punctuated by small circular insets, which Wojnarowicz likens to surveillance photos. Each inset is a portal into another reality, one other than the main image of the photograph. Reversing the inset images gives them a sinister, darker aura, emphasized by the combination and juxtaposition of the known and the unknown. -- Label copy for After Art: Rethinking 150 Years of Photography, December 4, 1994 to March 26, 1995.

David Wojnarowicz ran away from an abusive father when he was only 16 years old and was forced to live on the streets of New York City. He supported himself by working as a prostitute. At this time he also began to write and draw on scraps of found paper and to make collages of found objects. These pieces, all intensely autobiographical, were intended to speak to his experiences as a member of an invisible underclass. "[I] started developing ides of making and preserving an authentic version of history in the form of images/writing/objects that would contest state-supported forms of history," he wrote. In the Sex Studies series, he collages found and altered examples of gay pornography and iconic images from gay male subculture onto appropriated American icons--here the skyline of lower Manhattan--in order to remind viewers that the story of a flourishing homosexual subculture in the United States is one of this country's hidden histories. -- Label copy for The Photographic Impulse: A Critical History of Photography, The Joseph and Elaine Monsen Collection, Cincinnati Art Museum, October 12, 2001 to January 6, 2002.

David Wojnarowicz’s Sex Series of 1988 features photo montages that juxtapose everyday subjects with sexually explicit imagery. The circular insets call to mind the view through a surveillance camera or a scientific specimen in a Petri dish. An AIDS activist, Wojnarowicz made art about homosexuality, in a critique of a society he viewed as unjust, hostile, and oppressive to gay and lesbian Americans. -- Label copy by Sylvia Wolf, Director, for The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age, July 9 to September 25, 2011.

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