Painting--Paint and Mixed Media on Found Materials

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Delta Towels, 1983. Spray paint on poster, 50 1/4 x 35 inches. Private collection. Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W, New York

Wojnarowicz began his career paintings on found objects, like trash can lids and supermarket posters, as well as abandoned cars and gallery doors, often using stenciled spray-painted imagery. He referred to these as paintings, but they could just as easily fall into category of sculpture, works on paper, or installations. For his first installation at Civilian Warfare, he created a painting executed on a commercial photomural of the surface of the moon, or what he described as “one of those photographic things you can buy to transform your room into a tropical rainforest or whatever.” [1]

Wojnarowicz returned to the supermarket poster as a mode of support throughout his career. He was drawn to them as ground for his paintings because of their temporal specificity and connection with consumption. [2] In these works, he often juxtaposed erotic imagery against text advertising items like paper towels (Delta Towels, 1983), or meat (Butt and Shank, 1985).

Media and techniques

See stencils for details on spray-painted stenciled work.

Wojnarowicz started using supermarket posters as a medium in 1983, when he discovered the workplace where supermarket posters were made. He admired the technique of the workers who cut stencils freehand, and was able to acquire boxes of the posters for free.[3]

Wojnarowicz preferred trash can lids with a patina, selecting lids that were particularly dented or aged. [4]

Conservation and display

Trash can lids are displayed mounted on the wall.

Selected works

Untitled, 1982. Spray paint on garbage can lid, 18 in. diameter.


  1. Lucy Lippard, “Out of the Safety Zone,” Art in America (December 1990): 139, 182.
  2. Cynthia Carr, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (New York, Bloomsbury, 2012): 231, quoting Fales Series 8B, Box 16, Audiotape092.0247
  3. Carr, 231.
  4. Carr, 230.