Ward Line Pier Project

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Hudson River Piers (Ward Line Pier Project at Pier 34 and 28)


During the late 1970s and 1980s, the piers along the Hudson River between Canal Street and 14th Street were a popular gay cruising scene. In early 1983, Wojnarowicz and Mike Bidlo began inviting artists to create paintings and installations at Pier 34 as an alternative exhibition site to the burgeoning commercial scene in the East Village. Hundreds of artists participated; Wojnarowicz called the pier "the real MoMA.” [1] The installations soon extended to the lesser-known Pier 28. By June of 1983 the police had cracked down on artists’ use of the pier, and the pier was torn down the next year.

Statement by Jean Foos

Jean Foos is an artist who frequently worked with Wojnarowicz, including at the Ward Line Pier. According to Foos:

At the pier we have photos of David using cans of Pearl Paint acrylic paint. Since the pier was on Canal street it was easy to stop there on the way. When David invited Dirk and I to go to the pier in early Spring of 1983, we made a stop at my studio where I collected assorted art supplies. I painted primarily in oils, and so gathered all my lower quality enamel and acrylic house paint, rollers, and old brushes that I had. I also brought some silver paint and spray bottles which I used. I’m pretty sure I gave David some supplies once we got there. Also, my bag of supplies had disappeared by my second visit. Everyone had to bring their own supplies, but many used the trash and debris piled everywhere. David painted and wrote a poem on a shade bracket that he found there— I still have it and will lend it to the upcoming Pier show. David and Kiki Smith planted grass in one dirt-filled room. I stopped going after I finished my room, but I know David stayed on and learned much about painting from people like Luis Frangella and Judy Glantzman.

Regarding materials used—we found 2 x 4’s to easily scrape away peeling paint and expose wonderful smooth plaster walls. We found old ladders, chairs or piles of trash to stand on and broom poles to tape brushes to.

Media and techniques

All artists invited to create work at the Pier brought their own supplies, and many used the trash and debris already located onsite. Jean Foos recalls bringing low-quality enamel and acrylic housepaint, and old brushes on her visit; by the next visit, her bag had disappeared. She also recalled picking up acrylic paint from Pearl Paint, located on Canal street, on the way to the Pier.[2] Found two-by-fours were used to scrape of peeling paint and reveal the plaster walls for painting surfaces. Broom handles were co-opted to create long paintbrush handles.

Conservation and display

These site-specific painting installations were meant to be temporary.

Installation Views

Images by Marion Scemama of Pier 28 and 34 can be found in Fales, Wojnarowicz Papers, Series IX, Subseries F, Box 84. Images of Pier 34 by Andreas Sterzing can be found at http://www.sterzing.co.uk/asp/place_1./Pages/Pier_34_New_York.html


Mike Bidlo
Bidlo is a conceptual artist, and a friend and collaborator of Wojnarowicz's.

Jean Foos
Foos is an artist and graphic designer, a frequent collaborator with Wojnarowicz, and she was a Designer at Artforum.

Marion Scemama
A French artist, Scemema was a friend and frequent collaborator with Wojnarowicz.

Pages on Knowledge Base that link to this page

  1. Cynthia Carr, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (New York, Bloomsbury, 2012): 225.
  2. Email from Jean Foos to Diana Kamin, project researcher, August 8, 2016.