Mark Morrisroe at ClampArt: ONE WEEK LEFT

Mark Morrisroe, "Self Portrait (Photo Booth Strip)," c. 1986, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur

Every once in a while there is one show in NYC that I would seriously consider buying a plane ticket to go see. The current exhibition of Mark Morrisroe's work at ClampArt is certainly one of them. The show closes this weekend so I strongly suggest seeing it before it closes.
Mark Morrisroe lived a short life, born in 1959 in Massachusetts and died of AIDS in 1989. In those 30 years he blossomed into a prolific artist driven by an insatiable lust for fame and a magnificent body of work that mused on his disturbing childhood and the life he later made for himself. At age 15 Morrisroe left home and began working as a teenage prostitute to support himself; he put himself through the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he befriended young artists such as Nan Goldin, Jack Pierson (who became his lover), David Armstrong and Phillip Lorca Di-Corcia, all of whom are now known as The Boston School. Morrisroe was a pioneer of the punk scene in Boston in the 70’s and from early on developed zines and manipulated his prints in ways that remain unique today. His photographs are inhabited by junkies and gender-bending youth, artists and punks living on the edge.
Mark Morrisroe, "Self Portrait," 1980/1996, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur
When I started interning at ClampArt in 2007 we were preparing for Morrisroe's first solo show at the gallery. At the time I had never heard of him, but I was given a box of his prints and was asked to document them. I spent a great deal of time looking through each delicate print and found myself lost in them. Each told a story, not just through the narrative nature of the subject, but also through the physical and aesthetic qualities of their surface. These pictures had been places; they had been printed, re-printed, torn, toned, spotted, re-photographed and printed once more. The margins showed traces of his own writing: notes, titles and inscriptions, some in pen and some with a sloppy spot toning brush. I flipped through them as I tried to figure out what was it about them that I found so fascinating and overwhelming. He was so present.
Morrisroe’s mark is on every image and his vision is unique. In the midst of a raw portrayal of sex, drugs, illness and death there is a tender honesty that emerges inconspicuously. His images are a portrait of a broken man; a closer look reveals intimacy and moments of silence in what seems like a restless life. At times it is the coarseness of a subject that keeps you from seeing the beautiful pictorial quality of the work. Morrisroe found it important to photograph the naked teenage prostitute or the troubled junkie, to share life on the edge, but somewhere along the line he deliberately chooses to manipulate these gritty images into ones with muted tones and painterly nuances. This is where Mark Morrisroe shines, glimpses of tenderness reveal themselves in his aesthetic choices, dream-like images emerge in the midst of darkness and life unhinged. That’s what keeps me coming back.


Mark Morrisroe, "Self Portrait (To Brent)," 1982, Collection Brent Sikkema
There are only 5 days left to see this show so make sure to stop by ClamArt and see this show. This exhibition is scheduled to coincide wit the comprehensive exhibition at Artist Space in NYC, which draws from work in the estate (Collection Ringier). Morrisroe is also currently featured on Art in America (there is a great slide show of work there too).

Mark Morrisroe, "Eggs," c. 1986, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur
Mark Morrisroe, "Untitled (Stephen and Jonathan)," 1979/1996, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur
Mark Morrisroe, "Jonathan (Jack Pierson)," 1982, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur
Mark Morrisroe, "Lisa"  1982, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur
Mark Morrisroe, "Paul Fitzgerald (Back)," 1982, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur
Mark Morrisroe, "Untitled (Mark's Hand #2)," 1988, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City, © Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringer Collection), Fotomuseum Winterthur