Mark Morrisroe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Self Portrait (to Brent), 1982, Mark Morrisroe

Mark Morrisroe (January 10, 1959 in Malden, Massachusetts - July 24, 1989 in Jersey City, New Jersey) was a performance artist and photographer. He is known for his performances and photographs, which were germane in the development of the punk scene in Boston in the 70's and the art world boom of the mid to late 80's in NYC. By the year of his death he had 2,000 pieces of work to his name.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Born to a drug-addicted mother, Morrisroe left home and began hustling under the name Mark Dirt at the age of 15. His mother was a tenant of Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, and Mark often told people he was DeSalvo's illegitimate son.[2] When he was 17 years old, one of his disgruntled clients shot him in the back, leaving him with a bullet lodged next to his spine for the rest of his life. The experience had a profound influence on Morrisroe's art, which often incorporated images of young prostitutes and X-rays of his injured chest.[3] Morrisroe attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he made friends with several soon-to-be-well-known artists, including Nan Goldin,[4] David Armstrong,[5] Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Stephen Tashjian (aka Tabboo!, with whom he founded the drag duo "Clam Twins" at the famous Pyramid Club in New York), Gail Thacker and Pat Hearn. His boyfriend while he lived in Boston was Johnathan Pierson, who later changed his name to Jack Pierson. He graduated from the Museum School with honors receiving the coveted "5th" Year" Award. While attending, he performed as a drag character of his own creation named Sweet Raspberry and co-founded a zine called Dirt Magazine with his friend Lynelle White, distributing it in Boston nightclubs. This zine was composed of fake news and gossip about celebrities, bands and other famous people, mostly from Boston.[6]

His career as a photographer began when he was given a Polaroid Model 195 Land camera. He experimented with unusual development techniques, receiving generous support of supplies, film, and chemicals from the Polaroid Corporation. 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 painterly 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. Thus, Morrisroe scrawled comments, biographical notes and dedications on the side of his pictures, which made them very personal pieces of art. His photographs were mostly portraits, and his subjects included lovers, friends, hustlers, and people who visited his apartment. He also often incorporated stills from Super 8 films. There are also a few photographs which incorporate landscapes and external shots.

Morrisroe died on July 24, 1989 from complications of HIV. His ashes are scattered in McMinnville, Oregon on the farm of his last boyfriend, Ramsey McPhillips. His fame has increased steadily since his death. He is considered a member of the "Boston School" and his work is found in many important collections including that of the Whitney and MOCA of Los Angeles. The estate of Mark Morrisroe (Collection Ringier) is currently located at the Fotomuseum Winterthur.


In the time from 1981 to 1984 Morrisroe shot three low-budget movies on Super-8 film: "The Laziest Girl in Town" (1981), "Hello from Bertha" (1983) and "Nymph-O-Maniac" (1984). These films were influenced by directors such as John Waters and Jack Smith.


"His work was exhibited by Pat Hearn Gallery from 1985 onward, including solo exhibitions in 1986 and 1988, His photographs have been included in two group shows at Artists Space: Split Vision, in 1985 (curated by Robert Mapplethorpe): and Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing, 1989 (curated by Nan Goldin). After his death, he was the center of the survey exhibition Boston School, ICA Boston 1995 (curated by Lia Gangitono). Solo exhibitions of his work have included Mark Morrisroe, 1959 - 1989, Neue Gesellschaft fur Bildende Kunst, Berlin; My Life: Mark Morrisroe, Polaroids 1977 - 1989, MOCA, Los Angeles (both 1997)"* { *Bio from Artists' Space catalogue: Mark Morrisroe From This Moment On (curated by Richard Birkett and Stefan Kalmar).

  • Mark Morrisroe: From This Moment On: Artists' Space 2011.
  • 2010 Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland[7]
  • 2011 Mark Morrisroe: From This Moment On: Artists Space, New York. Curated by Richard Birkett and Stefan Kalmar).
  • 2012 Mark Morrisroe. Museum Villa Stuck, Munich.
  • 2014 Mark Morrisroe (1959-1989): Hello from Bertha, ClampArt, New York[8]


  • Mark Morrisroe: Journal of Contemporary Art, Distributed Art Publishers, 1996
  • Boston School, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, 1996
  • Mark Morrisroe: My Life, Power House Books, 1997
  • Emotions & Relations: Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, Mark Morrisroe, Jack Pierson, Philip-Lorca Dicorcia, Taschen, 1998
  • Mark Morrisroe, Twin Palms, 1999
  • Der subjektive Blick in den Fotografien der "Boston School". David Armstrong - Philip-Lorca diCorcia - Nan Goldin - Mark Morrisroe - Jack Pierson - Shellburne Thurber, Tectum Verlag, 2008
  • Mark Morrisroe, JRP|Ringier, 2011 [1]
  • "Mark Morrisroe: Memento Mori / A Photographic Memoir by Megan "Montana" Smith, Blurb, 2012.
  • Mark Morrisroe: Mark Dirt, Paper Chase Press, 2012
  • It's all the same, you're queer anyhow! Les films de Mark Morrisroe, Yann Beauvais, revue Gruppen n°4, 2012
  • There Was a Sense of Family: The Friends of Mark Morrisroe, Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2012
  • Changing Difference: Queer Politics and Shifting Identities: Peter Hujar, Mark Morrisroe, Jack Smith, Silvana Editoriale, 2013

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adams, Brooks. (March 2011). "Beautiful, Dangerous People". Art in America, p.127.issn 0004-3214
  2. ^ "Beautiful, Dangerous People" 128
  3. ^ "Beautiful, Dangerous People" 127
  4. ^ see "Multiple Exposure: Mark Morrisroe" Matt McCann, The New York Times, March 10, 2011
  5. ^ see "Multiple Exposure"
  6. ^ Spex #337 (Mar/Apr 2012): "Mark Morrisroe. Leuchtende Körper in rumpeliger Umgebung." p. 74-77
  7. ^ Fotomuseum Winterthur
  8. ^ [1]

External links[edit]