Works on Paper--Xeroxes

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Untitled (Genet after Brassai), 1979/1990. Hand-colored Xerox, 35 x 47 1⁄2 inches. Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W, New York

Xerox machines were a commercially available tool that Wojnarowicz used in the planning and execution of a variety of work. Wojnarowicz frequently collected found material to incorporate into his work—from newspaper clippings to play money and comic strips—and he used Xeroxes to transfer and manipulate images. He also used Xeroxes to manipulate photographic images, as he did in the preparations for the Photostat print One Day This Kid, detailed in the case study section.

Untitled (Genet after Brassai), 1979, is one notable early Xerox collage. In this work, Jean Genet is inserted within Christian iconography of martyrdom, pictured with a halo in a church setting, with an icon of Christ shooting up with a syringe in the background. The process of producing the work was recorded in his journals. In a 1979 journal entry he noted, “Do a Saint Genet collage—go to Strand for a copy of his photo on Funeral Rites.” [1]

Wojnarowicz used Xerox as a component in sculptures like Brain Time/Blood Time 1988-89, and as support in Untitled, 1989-90. In the Wojnarowicz Papers at Fales, Xeroxes are catalogued in Series IX, Subseries F.

Media and techniques

For context about the use of Xeroxes in Wojnarowicz’s work, see Joy Bloser’s paper on this site, which examines the contents of the Wojnaorwicz Xerox Art archive in the Fales collection. Bloser determined that the Xerox 6500 was one of Wojnarowicz's go-to machines for color copies.

Like many other downtown artists at the time, Wojnarowicz frequented Todd’s Copy Shop.[2] Richard Kern also recalled that he and Wojnarowicz would make use of their friend Montana Hewson’s access to a copy machine at his job at Ford Foundation, referring to the zines and posters printed there as being published by “Montana Printers”

Untitled (Genet after Brassai) was originally a hand-colored, Xerox collage, and was released as an editioned lithograph in 1990. Even in lithograph form, it retains the distinctive quality of a Xerox image.

Conservation and display

There is a significant collection of Xerox pieces in the Wojnarowicz Papers at Fales, but the extent to which Wojnarowicz considered these finished pieces is unclear. There is little evidence that he exhibited Xerox pieces in his lifetime. Color Xerox prints are generally light sensitive. Exposure to light in storage and display should be kept to a minimum, and filtered for ultraviolet radiation.

Selected works