More Life - Mark Morrisroe | David Zwirner

Mark
Morrisroe

Curated by artist Ryan McGinley, Mark Morrisroe is on view at 34 East 69th Street in New York from June 24 through August 3, 2021.

Known as Mark Dirt in his Boston punk days, the photographer and filmmaker Mark Morrisroe (1959–1989) was, in the words of his former boyfriend Jack Pierson, “magnetic and scary, … the most extreme person I had ever encountered.” In his short life, Morrisroe produced a body of work that examined queer kinship, the performance of gender, and the intimacy of risk while experimenting formally with his chosen Polaroid medium. After capturing thousands of images as well as appropriating stills from his Super 8 films, Morrisroe further manipulated his photographs through a number of unconventional techniques, producing distinctive dreamlike prints that document his circle of friends, lovers, and 
himself. 

A detail from a photograph by Mark Morrisroe, called Untitled (self-portrait standing in the shower), dated 1991.

Mark Morrisroe, Untitled (self-portrait standing in the shower), 1981 (detail)

 

Mark Morrisroe, Untitled (self-portrait standing in the shower), 1981 (detail)

 

“I identify with Mark’s story; a radical queer hustler, addict in a torn T-shirt, who photographed his close friends and lovers with an artistic vision.”

—Ryan McGinley, 2021. Click here to read the full curatorial statement.

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Sweet Raspberry/ Spanish Madonna, dated 1986.

Mark Morrisroe

Sweet Raspberry/ Spanish Madonna, 1986
C-print inscribed with marker
Image: 14 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches (36.8 x 37.5 cm)
Sheet: 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches (62.9 x 52.7 cm)

Born in Massachusetts to a single mother who was an alcoholic, Morrisroe began hustling and styling himself under the name of Mark Dirt as a teenager. He was shot by a client at seventeen, an experience that deeply affected him, and eventually entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on a scholarship.

In 1986, Morrisroe presented his first solo exhibition at Pat Hearn Gallery in New York. A second solo exhibition followed in 1988, a year before the artist’s death at age
thirty.

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Untitled (My Bottom Line in the Home of a Rubber Fetishist, London), dated 1982.

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled (My Bottom Line in the Home of a Rubber Fetishist, London), 1982
C-print
Image: 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches (19.1 x 19.1 cm)
Sheet: 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Framed: 14 3/4 x 12 3/4 inches (37.5 x 32.4 cm)

Morrisroe’s fierce commitment to experimentation permeated his life as well as his practice. He said in 1985: “I, Mark Morrisroe, pledge to coldly use and manipulate everyone who can help my career. No matter how much I hate them I will pretend that I love them. I will fuck anyone who can help me no matter how aesthetically unpleasing they are to me.”

 

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Hello from Bertha (promo still), dated 1983.

Mark Morrisroe

Hello from Bertha (promo still), 1983
C-print
Image: 12 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches (31.8 x 47 cm)
Sheet: 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
Framed: 20 3/4 x 24 3/4 inches (52.7 x 62.9 cm)

“Mark Morrisroe was an outlaw on every front—sexually, socially, and artistically. He was marked by his dramatic and violent adolescence as a teenage prostitute with a deep distrust and a fierce sense of his uniqueness.… He developed into a photographer with a completely distinctive artistic vision and signature.”

—Nan Goldin, 1993

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled "Paul Fitzgerald (Black)", dated 1982.

Mark Morrisroe

"Paul Fitzgerald (Black)", 1982
C-print inscribed with marker
Image: 15 3/4 x 15 1/2 inches (40 x 39.4 cm)
Sheet: 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches (62.9 x 52.7 cm)

Many of Morrisroe’s friends and subjects, including David Armstrong, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Nan Goldin, Pat Hearn, and Jack Pierson, attended Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts or the Massachusetts College of Art; this group would become known as the Boston School. 

These works lushly re-create the social context of a band of iconoclastic artists captured by a figure who lived and documented life at the
periphery.

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Two Birds at Sunrise, dated Sunrise, 1985.

Mark Morrisroe

Two Birds at Sunrise, 1985
C-print
Image: 18 x 11 1/2 inches (45.7 x 29.2 cm)
Sheet: 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches (62.9 x 52.7cm)
A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Untitled (self-portrait standing in the shower), dated 1981.

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled (self-portrait standing in the shower), 1981
C-print
Image: 15 1/2 x 15 3/8 inches (39.4 x 39.1 cm)
Sheet: 18 5/8 x 16 inches (47.3 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 22 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches (57.2 x 50.2 cm)
Dated verso by Pat Hearn for the Estate of Mark Morrisroe; estate stamp verso

“The horrors of AIDS … would have compounded the sense of a society in extremis. This urban landscape would be the venue throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s for a remarkable flowering … of loosely networked individuals—fed on the traditional subcultural diet of drugs, flamboyance, sex, boredom, and intense emotional drama.”

—Michael Bracewell, “An Evening of Fun in the Metropolis of your Dreams”, 2008

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Gail Thacker and Me (Blow Both of Us), dated 1985.

Mark Morrisroe

Gail Thacker and Me (Blow Both of Us), 1985
C-print
Image: 12 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches (31.1 x 31.8 cm)
Sheet: 16 x 16 inches (40.6 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 inches (50.2 x 50.2 cm)
A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Untitled, Lynelle Contemplates the Bird, dated 1985.

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled, Lynelle Contemplates the Bird, 1985
C-print
Image: 9 1/8 x 13 1/4 inches (23.2 x 33.7 cm)
Sheet: 16 x 20 inches (40.7 x 50.8 cm)
Framed: 14 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches (37.5 x 45.1 cm)
A photo of a page from a homemade magazine titled Dirt, made by Mark Morrisroe.

Mark Morrisroe and Lynelle White, Dirt, 1975–1976

 

Mark Morrisroe and Lynelle White, Dirt, 1975–1976

 

“Morrisroe’s enterprising adolescence comes to life in the typed originals of the fanzine Dirt that he and a friend, Lynelle White, produced in 1975 to 1976. They distributed the ’zine in Xeroxed and hand-colored editions of between 20 and 30 in Boston nightclubs..”

—Brooks Adams, “Beautiful, Dangerous People”, 2011

A photo of a page from a homemade magazine titled Dirt, made by Mark Morrisroe.

Mark Morrisroe and Lynelle White, Dirt, 1975–1976

 

Mark Morrisroe and Lynelle White, Dirt, 1975–1976

 

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Sky, dated 1986.

Mark Morrisroe

Sky, 1986
C-print
Sheet: 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches (62.9 x 52.7 x 3.8 cm)

“His complex manipulations of the photo negative … allowed him a means of transposing truth into lies, and lies into truth, or, of ‘writing a new photograph.’’’

—David Joselit, “Mark Morrisroe’s Photographic Masquerade”, 1995

A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Untitled (light and shadow), dated 1986.

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled (light and shadow), 1986
C-print
Image: 17 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches (44.5 x 29.2 cm)
Sheet: 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches (62.9 x 52.7 cm)
A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Untitled (Kato), dated 1983.

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled (Kato), 1983
C-print
Image: 17 x 15 5/8 inches (43.2 x 39.7 cm)
Sheet: 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches (62.9 x 52.7 cm)
A photograph by Mark Morrisroe, titled Untitled (Janet with soap wig), circa 1985.

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled (Janet with soap wig), c. 1985
Instant-photographic print
Image: 3 3/4 x 2 7/8 inches (9.5 x 7.3 cm)
Sheet: 4 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches (10.8 x 8.6 cm)
Framed: 9 x 8 1/8 inches (22.9 x 20.6 cm)

Mark Morrisroe

Untitled (female nude, torso), 1985
C-print
20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches (62.9 x 52.7 cm)

“Mark Morrisroe does what Charles Baudelaire struggled too hard to extract from Constantin Guys in his Painter of Modern Life.… It took a gay man and that moment, at last, to see that it was only out of the transience and fragility to which he so fully belonged that he could make scars that would never heal.”

—Adrian Rifkin, “The Value of Mark Morrisroe”, 2011

A photo by Gail Thacker titled Mark Morrisroe, Eyes Closed (Pat’s Room on Day Tripper, Boston to NYC), dated 1980/81.

Gail Thacker, Mark Morrisroe, Eyes Closed (Pat’s Room on Day Tripper, Boston to NYC), 1980 (detail)

Gail Thacker, Mark Morrisroe, Eyes Closed (Pat’s Room on Day Tripper, Boston to NYC), 1980 (detail)

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