There should be a word other than “artist” for David Wojnarowicz, whose sensational retrospective, subtitled “History Keeps Me Awake at Night,” is now at the Whitney Museum. “Phenomenon” works. So might “sphinx,” for a young man who managed his fierce emotions with striking sangfroid. An abused child and then a teen-age street hustler, the New Jersey native didn’t so much join as happen to the East Village art, music, and graffiti scene during its peak, in the recessionary early nineteen-eighties. He was preposterously talented, notably as a spellbinding writer in the vein of his hero, the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, and as a designer of posters and fliers, including some for his rock band 3 Teens Kill 4. Wojnarowicz was mentored by the masterly photographer Peter Hujar, and it shows in the steely deliberation of even his most surreal or polemical works, which increasingly addressed the AIDS crisis. The disease took his life in 1992, at the age of thirty-seven. See this show and its spirit will follow you home.

Source: David Wojnarowicz