Derek Jarman Exhibition

David Zwirner 19th Street

poster for Derek Jarman Exhibition

This event has ended.

David Zwirner presents the iconic film Blue (1993) and a selection of late paintings by the interdisciplinary British artist Derek Jarman (1942–1994) at the gallery’s West 19th Street location in New York. Jarman’s richly layered and symbolically dense work—encompassing painting and writing, stage and costume design, filmmaking and gardening—drew upon philosophy and literature, in addition to his own autobiography, to critically interrogate the world around him.

Blue and the paintings on view evidence Jarman’s iconoclastic response to his HIV diagnosis in 1986, his confrontation with his own mortality, and the broader sociopolitical climate of the HIV/AIDS crisis. The monochromatic film Blue repudiates images because, according to Jarman, they “hinder the imagination and beg a narrative and suffocate with arbitrary charm, the admirable austerity of the void.”2 Instead, the viewer confronts an unmodified screen of Yves Klein’s ultramarine “International Klein Blue” that forces one to internalize the soundtrack of music and sounds produced by Simon Turner and the disembodied voices of Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry, John Quentin, and Jarman himself, who read a haunting combination of the artist’s own poetry and autobiographical narratives from his hospital diaries. Made after an AIDS-related infection rendered him temporarily blind and following a condition whereby flashes of blue light interrupted his vision, Blue not only recounts Jarman’s corporeal experiences with the virus, but also demands that viewers viscerally internalize and embody the highly personal and melancholic poetry, descriptions, sounds, and music by denying them images upon which to project and escape.

Similarly, the paintings on view reject pictorial representation. Words and abstract colors, rather than overt imagery, convey Jarman’s personal and physical experience with AIDS. Hovering between abstraction and language, he subverts the means through which the media and the government address and represent people living with AIDS and the virus. These works linger in the experience of a body failing, and a body being failed by larger systemic bias, inaction, and homophobia.



from June 24, 2021 to August 03, 2021


Derek Jarman

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