David Wojnarowicz: Dear Jean Pierre
An epistolary portrait of Wojnarowicz’s formation as an artist and writer through his tender letters to his Parisian lover—with artwork, photographs and ephemera
This volume collects David Wojnarowicz’s transatlantic correspondence to his Parisian lover Jean Pierre Delage between 1979 and 1982. Capturing a truly foundational moment for Wojnarowicz’s artistic and literary practice, these letters not only reveal his captivating personality—and its concomitant compassion, neuroses and tenderness—but also index the development of the visual language that would go on to codify him as one of the preeminent artists of his generation.
Through this collection, readers are introduced to Wojnarowicz’s Rimbaud series, his band 3 Teens Kill 4, the publication of his first photographs, his early friendship with Peter Hujar, his participation in the then-emerging East Village art and music scenes, and the preparations for the publication of his first book. Included with these writings are postcards, drawings, xeroxes, photographs, collages, flyers, ephemera and contact sheets that showcase some of the artist’s iconic images and work, such as the Burning House motif and Untitled (Genet, after Brassai).
Beyond these milestones, the book offers a striking portrayal of Wojnarowicz as a 20-something detailing his day-to-day life with the type of unbridled earnestness that comes with his age and the softness of love and longing. This disarming tenderness provides a picture of a young man who is just beginning to find his voice in the world and the love he has discovered in it. Although the two exchanged letters in equal measure, Delage’s correspondences have largely been lost, leaving us with only a revelatory glimpse into the internal world of Wojnarowicz during what turned out to be his formative years.
Painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, songwriter and activist, David Wojnarowicz was born in Redbank, New Jersey, in 1954 and died of AIDS in New York in 1992. He authored five books, most famously Close to the Knives. Wojnarowicz attained national prominence as a writer and advocate for AIDS awareness and for his stance against censorship. His work is in numerous private and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, among other institutions.