David Wojnarowicz. Fire. 1987

David Wojnarowicz Fire 1987

  • Not on view

Wojnarowicz worked as an artist, writer, and activist in New York in the 1980s, a period marked by the initial outbreak of AIDS and by the high–profile charges of obscenity against certain artists advanced by senator Jesse Helms and the American Family Association. The imagery in Fire, such as the rattlesnake imprinted with dollar bills in the lower left and the wanted posters of criminalized (and therefore marginalized) subjects, imbues the work with layered personal and political meanings that address the greed, violence, and homophobia the artist perceived in American culture.

Fire belongs to a series of four paintings in MoMA's collection each relating to one of the classical elements: fire, water, earth, and air. It contains natural, mythic, and symbolic sources of heat and energy, such as a volcano, Satan, and a heart. These are juxtaposed with the personal iconography that recurs throughout Wojnarowicz's work: snakes, a dung beetle, and the map and grocery store advertisements on the right panel—found paper onto which the other elements were collaged or painted. Wojnarowicz used Surrealist techniques, such as dramatic disparities of scale, with a combination of image and text to create contemporary statements that are both fantastical and disturbing.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 78.
Medium
Acrylic and cut-and-pasted paper on wood, two panels
Dimensions
6 x 8' (182.9 x 243.8 cm)
Credit
Gift of Agnes Gund and Barbara Jakobson Fund
Object number
313.1992.a-b
Copyright
© 2021 Estate of David Wojnarowicz
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].