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  • "David Wojnarowics’s intention is explicitly ideological: his aim is to affect the world at large; he attempts to create weapons to resist established powers."
    —Félix Guattari

    Produced in the early to mid-1980’s, these five works by David Wojnarowicz, including one collaboration with artist Luis Frangella, from the collection of  Russel Sharon capture the artist at the height of his influence upon the bourgeoning East Village art scene, uniquely presenting many of the motifs that would become central to his poignant, politically-charged practice.  A primary force in the rise of political activism and community engagement in art, Wojnarowicz’s life was tragically cut short by AIDS in 1992, yet his highly influential oeuvre addressed the era’s most urgent and topical subjects in a deeply emotional and highly personal, multi-faceted approach to artmaking that employed painting, sculpture, photography, writing, film, performance, and music, deeply engraining his life’s work within contemporary culture.

     

    Each of these five works present a unique insight into Wojnarowicz’s complex and layered iconography.  In USDA Choice Beef, for example, the image of King Kong destroying New York is painted on a fake sheet of hundred-dollar bills and then collaged upon a typical grocery store poster, reflecting the economic collapse and literal destruction of many corners of New York. In the moving work Dear Russell, 1983, a two-part painting on New York City maps that includes a written note to Russel Sharon, the artist includes one of his most notable icons in the form of a bull.  Nearly identical to the image of the artist’s celebrated “Gagging Cow,” painted in the same year within the legendary, and now demolished, Pier 34 on Manhattan’s West Side, here Wojnarowicz’s cow is drowning in New York Harbor.  Within the touching note to Russell, the artist fondly recalls a trip to Normandy in which he lay in field listening to cows mooing from one farm to another, and likens this to sitting on Russell’s New York City rooftop and hearing the sirens of a firetruck traversing the city.

    "Transition is always a relief. Destination means death to me. If I could figure out a way to remain forever in transition, in the disconnected and unfamiliar, I could remain in a state of perpetual freedom."
    —David Wojnarowicz

    In defiance of much of the Abstract Expressionist, Pop, and Minimalist movements that preceded him, Wojnarowicz embraced multiple mediums, and sought to escape the physical and symbolic confines of the gallery.  Indeed, as the artist states in his memoir Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, “Transition is always a relief. Destination means death to me. If I could figure out a way to remain forever in transition, in the disconnected and unfamiliar, I could remain in a state of perpetual freedom.”

     

    At a time when the people around him, and ultimately the artist himself, were being diagnosed with HIV, Wojnarowicz became increasingly focused on the urgent need for advocacy against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis and the increasingly divisive 1980s culture wars.  As the renowned psychologist and philosopher Félix Guattari wrote in 1989, “David Wojnarowiczs’s intention is explicitly ideological: his aim is to affect the world at large.”  The urgency and vitality of Wojnarowicz’s work has become increasingly topical over time, and major retrospectives have been recently organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2018 and the Museo Reina Sofía in 2019, and the artist’s unflinching resolve is perhaps best embodied in Untitled (Wolf), a personification of the artist himself, who wrote in his memoir, “Feeling animalistic. Feeling Hyena. Feeling Wolf. Feeling Dog. I am tongue and heart.”

    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Hal Bromm Gallery, Desde New York: Luis Frangella / David Wojnarowicz, September 5–December 21, 2018
      Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County Museum of Art, That 80's Show, March 16–July 7, 2019, p. 50

Property from the Collection of Russell Sharon

145

Dear Russell

titled “DEAR RUSSELL” upper edge and signed "–DAVID WOJNAROWICZ" lower right of the left map
mixed media on New York City maps, in 2 parts
each 16 3/4 x 10 3/4 in. (42.5 x 27.3 cm)
Executed in 1984.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for $26,460

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021