David Wojnarowicz

Untitled (Hujar Dead)
1988–1989

Not on view

Date
1988–1989

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Gelatin silver print, acrylic, screenprint, and collaged paper on board

Dimensions
39 × 32 in. (99.1 × 81.3 cm)

Accession number
2018.219

Credit line
Gift of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol in memory of David Wojnarowicz

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate


Audio

  • David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night

    David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Hujar Dead), 1988-89

    David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Hujar Dead), 1988-89

    0:00

    David Wojnarowicz: “If I had a dollar to spend for healthcare, I’d rather spend it on a baby or innocent person with some defect or illness not of their own responsibility; not some person with AIDS,” says the healthcare official on national television and this is in the middle of an hour long video of people dying on camera because they can’t even afford the limited drugs available that might extend their lives and I can’t even remember what this official looked like because I reached in through the TV screen and ripped his face in half and I was diagnosed with AIDS recently and this was after the last few years of losing count of the friends and neighbors who have been dying slow and vicious and unnecessary deaths because fags and dykes and junkies are expendable in this country. “If you want to stop AIDS shoot the queers” says the governor of Texas on the radio and his press secretary later claims that the governor was only joking and didn’t know the microphone was turned on and besides they didn’t think it would hurt his chances for re-elections anyways. And I wake up every morning, and I wake up every morning in this killing machine called America. And I’m carrying this rage like a blood filled egg and there’s a thin line between the inside and the outside, a thin line between thought and action and that line is simply made up of blood and muscle and bone and I’m waking up more and more from daydreams of tipping Amazonian blow darks in “infected blood” and spitting them at the exposed necklines of certain politicians or government healthcare officials or those thinly disguised walking swastikas that wear religious garments over their murderous intentions or those rabid strangers parading against AIDS clinics in the nightly news suburbs. There’s a thin line, a very thin line between the inside and outside and I’ve been looking all my life at the signs surrounding us in the media or on people’s lips; the religious types outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral shouting to men and women in the gay parade “You won’t be here next year─you’ll get AIDS and die. Ha ha.” And the areas of the USA where it is possible to murder a man and when brought to trial one only has to say that the victim was a queer and that he tried to touch you and the courts will set you free. And the difficulties that a bunch of Republican Senators have in Albany with supporting an anti-violence bill that includes ‘sexual orientation’ as a category of crime victims. There’s a thin line, a very thin line and as each T-cell disappears from my body it’s replaced by ten pounds of pressure, ten pounds of rage, and I focus that rage into non-violent resistance, but the focus is starting to slip, the focus is starting to slip. My hands are beginning to move independent of self-restraint and the egg is starting to crack. America. America. America seems to understand and accept murder as a self-defense against those who would murder other people and its been murder on a daily basis for eight, nine, ten count them eight long years and we’re only expected to quietly and politely make house in this windstorm of murder, but I say there’s certain politicians that had better increase their security forces and there’s religious leaders and healthcare officials that had better get bigger dogs and higher fences and more complex security alarms for their homes and queer-bashers better start doing their work from inside howitzer tanks because the thin line between the inside and the outside is beginning to erode and at the moment, at the moment I’m a thirty-seven foot tall, one thousand and one hundred and seventy-two pound man inside this six foot body and all I can feel is the pressure, all I can feel is the pressure and the need for release.

  • David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night

    David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Hujar Dead), 1988-89

    David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Hujar Dead), 1988-89

    0:00

    Narrator: To make this painting, Wojnarowicz took his photographs of Peter Hujar on his deathbed, and overlaid them with screen-printed text. The text calls out systemic homophobia, as well as government complicity in the AIDS epidemic.

    Emily Roysdon: This was, for me, from my life experience, a crucial image to see.

    Narrator: Artist Emily Roysdon describes the impact of this painting.

    Emily Roysdon: It was this profound intimacy mixed with rage. It was an emotional bond and a political moment.

    The thing with David's work to me was always that—I think people like to talk about the rage that is in his work and, and that he expressed himself in those very terms, but for me there, there was always this kind of hope that was also coupled with that. Just because of the depth of his articulation. Because he was so analytic, so forceful about another vision that he had for what life could be, what America could be, and what he kind of would demand of a loving, tolerant, reasonable, radical society. Because he could be so explicit about that, there was this kind of hopefulness also that was important to me.

    Narrator: In 1991, Wojnarowicz made a recording of the text screened over this painting. To hear him read it, please tap to continue.


David Wojnarowicz
48 works

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