Late Photograms is the first UK exhibition of the work of photographer and film-maker Mark Morrisroe. Morrisroe lived a creatively hectic life in which his personal and social relationships and experiences were inextricably linked to his artistic activity. Leaving home at 15, Morrisroe became a street hustler under the name of Mark Dirt. The name would be recycled as the title of Dirt Magazine ('The magazine that DARES to print the truth') which Morrisroe edited and wrote with his friend Lynelle White between 1975-77. An energetically trashy photocopied riot, Dirt encouraged photographic submissions and dubiously substantianted gossip.

Morrisroe attended the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and was to become friends with fellow artists such as Nan Goldin, Philip Lorca diCorcia, David Armstrong and Gail Thacker. Early on he was given a Polaroid Camera which began his career as a photographer, moving to New York in the mid-1980's. He was included in numerous shows at galleries in the East Village and championed by art dealer and gallerist Pat Hearn. Hearn had been at art school in Boston with Morrisroe and gave several of her school peers exhibitions in the city, for example painter George Condo or installation artist and one time boyfriend of Morrisoe's, Jack Pierson.

When Morrisroe was 17 one of his hustling clients shot him in the back and the bullet would remain lodged in Morrisroe's back for the rest of his life. This would begin a long bad-luck relationship with hospitals and health, especially towards the end of his life. Morrisroe died in 1989 of AID's related issues aged just 30. This is the period that Late Photograms focuses on. The work displayed is not intended to be an exhaustive or comprehensive survey of the artists work but focuses specifically on a series of photograms the artist made whilst in and out of hospital. Often these photograms were made using the bathrooms of the hospital's themselves as Morrisroe would treat his surroundings as his temporary studio. The photograms are made using using x-rays, cuttings from pornographic magazines and others bits of ephemera, often medically related, he came across. The majority entitled, Untitled, the imagery is playful and try-out yet striking. The silhouette of a pink-tinged black skull on a blue purple plane, both punk rock and poignant. Pop shapes collaged to form glowing vibrant compositions, a fusia-eyed black cat peeping from behind a golden cactus-spiked pineapple. In one a cut out hand points upwards suggesting something that is both optimistic and macabre - a thumbs-up crossed with a desperate hand sinking into the inky black sand.

Morrisroe's output was prolific, by the time of his death he had produced over 2000 images. His work, however, was only fully recognised and seriously considered after his death and he is now seen as part of the 'Boston School' and collected by institutions such as the Whitney and MOCA, Los Angeles. In 2011, Artists' Space in New York staged a major retrospective of Morrisroe's work entitled From this Moment on and published an accompanying monograph.

Late Photograms closes on Sunday 25th November at Open-eye in Liverpool, part of Liverpool Biennial 2012 but a more comprehensive survey exhibition seems certain to be on the cards for the UK in the coming years. Until then the Morrisroe monograph, published by Jpr/Ringier can be found on amazon and all the usual stockists for just under £30 and five editions of Dirt Magazine have recently been re-published by the New York music and book publishers/bloggers AlLuPiNiT.

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron
CategoriesPhotography