Mark Morrisroe, ?"Self-Portrait (to Brent)," 1982. ?C-print, negative sandwich, retouched with ink and marker, 50.5 x 40.5 cm?.*
More than twenty years after Mark Morrisroe's early death, Fotomuseum Winterthur is presenting the first comprehensive survey exhibition on his work—an extraordinarily diverse body of works that has usually been shown in group shows, mostly in connection with his famous Boston colleagues Nan Goldin and David Armstrong. The exhibition, curated by Beatrix Ruf and Thomas Seelig, is a collaboration between Fotomuseum Winterthur and the Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringier Collection).
In the Boston of the early 1980s, Mark Morrisroe was a well-known, charismatic figure, who often appeared in drag together with the artist friends he had met while studying and who performed in bars and clubs with Stephen Tashjian (alias Tabboo!) as the "Clam Twins". As an artist and photographer he was also at the center of the lively Boston punk scene, whose most important protagonists were known well beyond the city. Like Nan Goldin and David Armstrong before him, Mark Morrisroe moved to New York in the mid-1980s to try his luck there. He died—far too early—in July 1989, at the age of just 30, from the consequences of AIDS.
Mark Morrisroe's short creative period, of barely ten years, was characterized by an amazing output of photographic experiments, and stands out for its constantly searching, inquisitive, and always individual aesthetic, as a glance at the photographer's extensive estate reveals. The estate was acquired by the Ringier Collection in 2004 and was placed in the care of the Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2006.
The exhibition will feature early color and black-and-white prints, Polaroids, and late photograms he processed by hand. During his art studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston Morrisroe was already experimenting with various interpretations of reprography, trying to understand the possibilities of the medium and its inherent limitations, and using different ingenious printing processes for his photographic prints. Within his close circle of friends he soon laid claim to the "invention" of what are called "sandwich" prints—enlargements of double negatives of the same subject mounted on top of one another—which yielded an elaborate pictorial quality, producing a very iconic impression in the final result, which over time Morrisroe learned to use in an increasingly controlled way. Early on, the artist recognized the intrinsic value of prints—irrespective of the medium used to produce them—as pictorial objects that he could manipulate, color, paint, and write on at will.
By all accounts, Mark Morrisroe was a man driven to achieve fame and recognition. Restless and demanding—of himself as well as of others—he always wanted more, and from this inner restlessness he derived enormous resources of artistic energy. Right to the very end, his life and work, down to the photograms feverishly produced in the makeshift darkroom in his hospital, which have hardly ever been publicly shown until today, attest to an unlimited and ecstatic search for a sensual, aesthetic, and always ambivalently charged pictorial world.
Comprehensive monograph accompanying this first major retrospective:
Mark Morrisroe, edited by Beatrix Ruf and Thomas Seelig, JRP-Ringier.
512 pages, hardcover, 203 x 262 mm, with essays (German/English) by Stuart Comer, Lia Gangitano, Teresa Gruber, Elisabeth Lebovici, Fionn Meade, Beatrix Ruf, Thomas Seelig, Frank Wagner and Linda Yablonsky, 402 images.