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Guide to the David Wojnarowicz Papers
ca. 1954-1992

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2596

Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Marvin J. Taylor

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 10, 2019
Description is in English.

 Updated by Jacqueline Rider to reflect incorporation of video preservation master and sub-master files Updated by Megan O'Shea to add seven items and prepare 24 others for a move to offsite art storage in September 2017 Updated by Megan O'Shea to incorporate items treated and rehoused by Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department staff Updated by Megan O'Shea to prepare artwork being sent to offsite art storage in December 2017 Updated by Weatherly Stephan to note deaccessions Updated by Kelly Haydon to incorporate new digital access copies of materials from Series VIII, Subseries C: Sound Materials  , March 2017 , August 2017 , November 2017 , December 2017 , June 2018 , May 2019

Scope and Content Note

The David Wojnarowicz Papers are a part of the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library, New York University. The Fales Library is the primary special collections division of the NYU libraries, housing nearly 200,000 volumes of English and American literature from 1700 to the present. Strengths of the collection include the development of the English and American novel, with an emphasis on the Gothic and the Victorian novel. The Downtown Collection, of which the Wojnarowicz Papers are a part, is a comprehensive collection of printed materials, archives, and other materials related to the Downtown New York scene from ca. 1975 to the present. The David Wojnarowicz Papers are comprised of journals, correspondence, manuscripts, ephemera, photography, artwork, film, video and audio works. The film, video and audio series (Series VIII, IX and X) of the David Wojnarowicz Papers contain audio, film and video works by David Wojnarowicz, as well as an extensive collection of film, video and audio source materials produced by Wojnarowicz. The collection of source and production materials reflects his interest in documenting environments through visual and audio recording media, as well as his tendency to reuse imagery from various media. The source materials include recorded journal entries, ambient recordings and interviews with friends and colleagues. Works by other downtown NYC artists and collaborators, such as Ben Neill, Richard Kern, Charles Atlas, Phil Zwickler, and Rosa von Praunheim are included in the collection as well as commercial works representing David Wojnarowicz's personal videotape library. Also included in the collection are taped radio interviews which document the NEA and Donald Wildmon/ American Family Association controversies. The collection also includes phone message tapes from David Wojnarowicz's personal answering machine. These tapes document significant events in his life such as the death of Peter Hujar. Descriptive information for items in these series is taken from any descriptive information provided by the artist on the object or its packaging. The photography series (Series IX) contains multiple formats of photographs taken by David Wojnarowicz, mainly during the 1980s and early 1990s. Negatives, contact sheets, prints, and slides offer different media in which to examine Wojnarowicz's camera style, subject matter, and photographic collages. Contact sheets often have Wojnarowicz's notation on them as to which frames to reprint or enlarge, allowing a glimpse into his artistic choices. In addition, the envelopes which originally housed the contact sheets and negatives are full of Wojnarowicz's descriptions of the images inside, and sometimes his thoughts about their artistic merit. Negatives of important Wojnarowicz photographic work, such as the Rimbaud series, diorama shots, and photographs of Peter Hujar's death, are included. These negatives are not open to researchers. Wojnarowicz's many trips to Paris, Berlin and Mexico are well documented; inspirations gained on these trips can be traced throughout Wojnarowicz's work. The prints, which range in size from 3 x 5 in. to 16 x 20 in., often show a variety of exposures and darkroom techniques on the same image, detailing the options from which the final choice was made. Wojnarowicz's collection of commercial pornographic images is included here, and contains images which were later incorporated into several of the Sex series works. Many prints of the Rimbaud series, as well as many copies of a source photograph of a meteor crater, are contained in this series. A numbered run of slides contains most of Wojnarowicz's completed art works and documents, along with the prints and contact sheets, of many of his installation pieces.


  • Series I consists of 2 boxes of journal notebooks with handwritten entries, encompassing the period from 1971 to 1990 (with discontinuities). The journals refer to sojourns in France, Berlin, Spain, Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, and New York and include notes on art and film projects.
  • Series II comprises correspondence of both a personal and business nature and covers the 1970's through 1992. The bulk of the correspondence is directed to Wojnarowicz, although correspondence authored by Wojnarowicz is included. Correspondence is ordered chronologically (where possible) and then alphabetically by correspondent. Only recurring and noteworthy names are listed in the finding aid.
  • Includes drafts of various writings, transcripts of interviews, lectures, and monologues, and performance scripts and notes.
  • Subseries A: Manuscripts
  • Subseries B: Notebook manuscripts
  • Subseries C: Lectures/talks
  • Subseries D: Monologues
  • Subseries E: Booklength monologues
  • Subseries F: Scripts/Plays
  • Subseries G: Performance Collaborations
  • Subseries H: Manuscripts by Others
  • Chronicles Wojnarowicz's phone calls; includes notebooks, loose paper, and scrap sheets upon which Wojnarowicz noted pertinent phone call information.
  • Subseries A: Contributions of Artwork to Art Magazines by Wojnarowicz. Wojnarowicz images and motifs which appear in commercial publications, including Spin, The New Yorker, and Artforum.
  • Subseries B: Articles by Wojnarowicz. Prose pieces by Wojnarowicz appearing in commercial publications.
  • Subseries C: Articles on Wojnarowicz in art magazines. Some 34 articles and essays discussing Wojnarowicz's career, work, and milieu.
  • Subseries D: Misc. Articles and Mention. Approximately 20 mentions or references to Wojnarowicz in various commercial publications.
  • Subseries A: Photographs & Documents. Snapshots of Wojnarowicz, his work, and friends; biographical, contractual, and medical documentation.
  • Subseries B: Obituaries. Some 22 obituaries which appeared in such diverse commercial publications as OUT, Entertainment Weekly, and TIME. Also, files pertaining to Wojnarowicz's memorial service, including the funeral log.
  • Subseries C: Reviews. Some 50-odd critical reviews of various Wojnarowicz exhibitions, performances, writings, and art.
  • Subseries D: Business and Promotional. Various artist-related materials, including gallery papers, exhibition and performance flyers, and contracts. Also included are business cards and phone numbers of Wojnarowicz's friends and contacts, and other artists' exhibition flyers and catalogs.
  • Subseries E: Subseries E: Taxes, Receipts, and Legal Documents. Taxes, including Peter Hujar tax information. Receipts, ordered chronologically (where possible) from 1983 to 1986.
  • Subseries A: Loft. Loft papers and loft board files, ca.1979-1991 (with discontinuities). Also various banking, telephone, and utility receipts; bills; and nine files pertaining to Peter Hujar, including Hujar's will and obituaries.
  • Subseries B: Legal Cases
  • Documentation pertaining to the Reverend Wildmon trial and NEA legal battles.
  • Subseries C: Announcements. Flyers, posters, and promotional material concerning political activism, Wojnarowicz's rock'n'roll band 3 Teens Kill 4, art exhibitions, and various cultural and social events.
  • Subseries D: General Subjects. Includes material on PPOW gallery, Dennis Cooper, and Tom Rauffenbart.
  • Series VIII contains both complete audio works and audio source materials. Letters and number sequences at the end of each description refer to the original box in which the work was found.
  • Subseries A: Composed of researcher access copies for original material found in Subseries B, C, D, and E.
  • Subseries B: Composed of primary audio works including recorded journal material, radio interviews conducted with David Wojnarowicz concerning the NEA and Donald Wildmon controversies, and recordings of Wojnarowicz's public readings and performances.
  • Subseries C: A collection of ambient recordings and a sound effects library that David Wojnarowicz used for the production of audio works and soundtracks for his films.
  • Subseries D: contains original music recordings by David Wojnarowicz and the group 3 Teens Kill 4 No Motive as well as original and commercial music recordings by other Downtown NYC artists.
  • Subseries E: Phone Message tapes from David Wojnarowicz's answering machine. These tapes document major events in Wojnarowicz's life including the death of Peter Hujar, and other friends, as well as the NEA grant controversy and the lawsuit against Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association.
  • Subseries F: Commercial tapes. This series is processed at the box level. There is no list of the items included.
  • Subseries G: Contains dubs Wojnarowicz made of bands from commercial and other sources. This series is processed at the box level. There is no list of the items included.
  • Subseries H: Contains unidentified and blank tapes. This series is processed at the box level. There is no list of the items included.
  • This series includes photographs taken by David Wojnarowicz, photographs taken by other artists, photographs of Wojnarowicz' artwork, and source photographs Wojnarowicz was inspired by or incorporated into larger works. The majority of the contact sheets and negatives correspond to each other, and comprehensive indexing exists between the two subseries. Negatives can be found for most of the Wojnarowicz prints in this series, but have not been indexed in this way. A large numbered run of slides of completed artwork is accompanied by a list of each artwork's date and media; these seem to be pieces represented by Gracie Mansion Gallery.
  • Subseries A: Contact Sheets
  • Subseries B: Negatives
  • The provenance of subseries A and B is complex, and needs to be understood in order to understand the two subseries. In 1994, Aperture acquired many negatives and contact sheets from Wojnarowicz in order to use some of them in the production of the book David Wojnarowicz: Brush Fires in the Social Landscape. Aperture received 58 manila envelopes containing negatives and contact sheets, which they numbered. Other contact sheets or negatives arrived in "box 108," "box 109," "paper bag 111" etc. This original housing forms the basis for Aperture's system of organization. They organized and rehoused all the negatives, leaving contact sheets in the original envelope or box housing. Aperture also created a list of what they received, transcribing Wojnarowicz' notes, and listing the numbers of contact sheets and negatives in each folder. An abridged version of this list appears in the Container listing, and the original is attached to the finding aid as Appendix A. All other contact sheets and negatives arrived at Fales Library also in manila envelopes. About half of these were numbered in red pen with numbers ranging from 2 - 41. The remaining envelopes were not numbered, but, as do all the envelopes, contain Wojnarowicz's notes about the negatives inside. A list similar to that created by Aperture was generated for these envelopes, and while much of it also appears in the Container listing below, it also is attached as Appendix B.
  • All contact sheets are currently housed in Boxes 30 - 44, in numerical order following photocopies of any notes on the original housing. Negatives are housed correspondingly in Boxes 45 - 55, and are labeled with the number or title of the envelope in which they originated. In this way, negatives can be found based on the number of the envelope in front of the contact sheet. There are some gaps in the contact sheet-negative match. For example, Aperture's "Box 108" has no batch of corresponding negatives; negatives to these contact sheets mainly occur in the "unnumbered envelopes." In order to make these discrepancies less complex, each contact sheet is marked with the Box number in which the corresponding negative appears. Aperture-numbered envelopes are marked as such. The non-numbered envelopes are titled based on Wojnarowicz' notes and ordered as they were originally in the box in which they arrived at Fales. "Order" of these photographs, however, matters little, as Wojnarowicz himself did not order or number any of the envelopes. Original housings or notations are housed at the end of the series.
  • Rimbaud series. Box 44 contains an almost complete set of what appear to be original Rimbaud series contact sheets. However, the negatives for these photos were in disarray when Aperture acquired them, and new contact sheets were created. These appear in Box 37. They contain strips of negatives from different rolls of film printed onto the same contact sheet. The majority of the Rimbaud negatives appear in Box 49, with others scattered throughout the collection. A list of where the Rimbaud negatives can be found, based on the original contact sheets in Box 44, follows as Appendix C.
  • Subseries C: Prints of Wojnarowicz Art Photographs
  • These prints are organized into known photographic series (such as Arthur Rimbaud in New York and the Sex Series) and then loosely by the subjects "Animals and Insects," "People," and "Things." The oversize prints are grouped together by series when known, or by photograph (including multiples from the same negative), and are described at the item level. The multiple versions reflect different contrast and exposure choices made while printing, and some of the photographs have been printed with alternative processes such as solarization or by painting directly on the print surface with chemistry. The oversize prints include the photographic series of Peter Hujar on his deathbed.
  • Subseries D: Prints of Source Photographs
  • Contains Wojnarowicz' collection of mid-20th century pornographic cards. Also included are Wojnarowicz photographs which were later used in larger collages, or were not used as part of any artwork. These are organized loosely by subjects as in Subseries C: "Animals and Insects," "People," and "Things," as well as by more specific subjects, such as "Statues," "Sex Pics," and "Paris."
  • Subseries E: Other People's Photographs. Composed of a 16 x 20 in. Nan Goldin photographic print (of Nan Goldin).
  • Subseries F: Slides. As with the contact sheets and negatives, many of these slides were acquired by Aperture in 1994 and organized and described based on letters or numbers given to the original boxes. Many of these works are reprints of photographs, some are entire rolls of color film (many of Mexico) which do not exist in print form in this collection. The majority of the slides have been housed according to this lettering and numbering system given by Aperture (A-Z, AA-ZZ, 1 - 106). An index to the topics covered in each box/sheet follows as Appendix D. These groups of slides are housed following photocopies of the notation on their original boxes, much as the contact sheets above.
  • A numbered list of over 300 completed artworks accompanied the slides; many of the corresponding numbered slides are scattered throughout the groupings by original slide boxes. An index to the location of these slides follows as Appendix E. In general, however, slides of completed Wojnarowicz artwork can be found in Boxes 80 - 86.
  • Slides not grouped or numbered in this way include documentation of Wojnarowicz installation pieces, photographs of Mexican mummies, additional numbered slides of Wojnarowicz artwork, as well as loose slides found throughout the collection. These are housed following any information which was attached to them, such as their original location or dates taken. Original housings or notations are housed at the end of the series.
  • Series X contains completed film and video works, original film and video production and source materials and commercial videotapes from David Wojnarowicz's personal collection.
  • Subseries A: Video Recordings - Access Copies contains completed video works, films transferrred to video, plus additional original source material by David Wojnarowicz. This subseries is arranged by chronologically.
  • Subseries B: Video Recordings - Original Material contains completed film completed video works, films transferrred to video, plus additional original source material by David Wojnarowicz. Access copies may not be available for all material.
  • Subseries C: Film - Access Copies contains completed film works plus original source material by David Wojnarowicz originally on Super8mm preserved on 16mm.
  • Subseries D: Film - Original Material contains completed film works plus original source material by David Wojnarowicz. Access copies may not be available for all material.
  • Subseries E: Commercial Works by Others that made up David Wojnarowicz's personal collection.
  • Artworks include sketches, drawings, studies, altered items, and collage; source material comprises diverse images and textual material which bear directly and indirectly on Wojnarowicz's art. Such items as maps, comic books, postcards, tear sheets, decals, and targets appear in the source material. Art by others includes work by downtown contemporaries Kiki Smith and Barbara Kruger.
  • Subseries A: Finished
  • Subseries B: Drawings
  • Subseries C: Sketches
  • Subseries D: Source Material
  • Subseries E: Plans
  • Subseries F: Xerox
  • Subseries G: Other People's Art
  • A list of books and publications, ordered alphabetically by author, which comprise Wojnarowicz's personal library. Many items may be considered source material, as a significant portion of the content is reflected in the motifs and preoccupations expressed in Wojnarowicz's art.
  • This series lists the books and other printed items that were in Wojnarowicz's library when it arrived at Fales. They were removed from the archive; most titles have been cataloged and can be retrieved by searching Bobcat, the Bobst library's online catalog.
  • Subseries A: General Objects and Artifacts. The objects in this series include religious objects, figurines, jewelry, toys, textiles, and artworks. While some of the objects are artworks made by Wojnarowicz, they also include artworks made by others, ritual objects, natural artifacts and commercial objects that he collected. Some of the objects figured as props in Wojnarowicz's photography and film works.
  • Subseries B: The Magic Box. The Magic Box is a group of fifty-nine small objects collected by Wojnarowicz and stored by him in a pine fruit box labeled "Magic Box." According to Tom Rauffenbart, Wojnarowicz kept the box under his bed and never discussed its function or significance. The objects range from organic materials such as stones and dried flowers, to commercial products like jewelry and plastic toys. To preserve the contextual and artifactual integrity of the box as a work, Fales has kept it in the same general arrangement it was in when it came to the Fales Library in 1997. This means the objects have not been physically separated from each other, but remain piled loosely in the box, and no steps have been taken to preserve their physical condition. However, scholar Mysoon Rizk cataloged the objects before they came to Fales, and some of them remain grouped in the plastic or tissue housings she used to organize and protect them. These items are generally wrapped in tape that has been marked with her initials.
  • Subseries C: Personal Items. These personal effects were part of a 2001 accretion of materials from Tom Rauffenbart. The inlcude Wojnarowicz's wallet, eyeglasses, and identification cards.
  • Comprises additional materials bearing on Wojnarowicz's life and career donated by various sources and persons. Includes VHS videocassettes and audiocassette formats.


Folders are arranged both alphabetically by subject/author heading and chronologically depending on the nature of the materials.

The files are grouped into 13 subject based series and further subdivided into subseries.

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Journals
  2. Series II: Correspondence
  3. Series III: Manuscripts
  4. Series IV: Phone Logs
  5. Series V: Art Magazines and Catalogue Contributions
  6. Series VI: Biographical
  7. Series VII: Subjects
  8. Series VIII: Audio [SEE ALSO Accretions 2001]
  9. Series IX: Photography
  10. Series X: Video and Film
  11. Series XI: Art Works
  12. Series XII: Library
  13. Series XIII: Objects and Artifacts
  14. OVERSIZE - Series I: Journals and Diaries
  15. OVERSIZE - Series V: Art Magazines and Catalogue Contributions
  16. OVERSIZE - Series VI: Biographical
  17. OVERSIZE - Series VII:Subjects
  18. OVERSIZE - Series IX: Photography
  19. OVERSIZE - Series X: Video and Film
  20. OVERSIZE - Series XI: Art Works
  21. OVERSIZE - Series XII: Library
  22. Mapcase - Series VII: Subjects
  23. Mapcase - Series XI: Art Works
  24. Accretions 2001 - Media
  25. Accretions 2001 - Series VI: Biographical