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First look - Peter Hujar: Speed of Life

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Fri, Dec 28, 2018

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Coming soon, one of the most talked-about shows of the year from one the most important photographers of the late 20th century.

While most of the galleries at the Wex will be devoted for the winter to the provocative work of John Waters, one space will belong solely to the photographs of Peter Hujar. Before his death from AIDS-related complications in 1987, Hujar captured a range of subject matter, from landscapes to animals, but he was most at home among the characters and locales of lower Manhattan in the 1970s and early '80s. The scope of his work is given an intense presentation in the upcoming show Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, with nearly 150 pictures to be shown salon-style in our most intimate gallery.

The exhibition, organized by New York's Morgan Library and Museum, has traveled extensively in 2018 and it's consistently grabbed the attention and admiration of critics. Keep scrolling for some notable thoughts on Hujar and the exhibition.

 

Lead image: Christopher Street Pier (2), 1976, gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2013.108:1.84. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

 

"Self Portrait Jumping," a 1974 photograph by artist Peter Hujar

Self-Portrait Jumping (1), 1974, gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2013.108:1.37. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

"Many of his friends were the bold-faced names of Downtown New York. But despite everything, he remained despondent, was regularly broke and frequently bitter about the elevating success of those around him."
Boy on Raft, a 1978 gelatin silver print photograph by Peter Hujar

Boy on Raft, 1978, gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2013.108:1.97. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

"...Each of Hujar’s photographs is a stand-alone object, masterfully conceived and printed, complete in itself. Yet the work overall is the product of a single complex, difficult sensibility. It shares a pervasive and insistent atmosphere of otherness, and—this comes through only gradually—a spirit of level-eyed fortitude in the face of damage."
A 1981 photographic portrait of Gary Indiana under a sheer sequined scarf by Peter Hujar, entitled "Gary Indiana Veiled"

Gary Indiana Veiled, 1981, gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2013.108:1.35. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

"Even when depicting more prominent or conventional celebrities—such as Isaac Hayes, Peggy Lee, or Madeleine Kahn—he used lighting, makeup, styling, and positions which, while never unflattering, possessed little obvious glamour. He was drawn toward showing the trappings of culture without buying into the artifice it created."
A 1973 photograph portrait of Andy Warhol superstar Candy Darling on her deathbed, by Peter Hujar

Candy Darling on her Deathbed, 1973, gelatin silver print, collection of Ronay and Richard Menschel. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

"Through Hujar’s lens, [Candy] Darling becomes an icon of death without abjection, a triumph of the durable image over the ephemeral body."
Susan Sontag, 1975 black and white photograph portrait by Peter Hujar

Susan Sontag, 1975, gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2013.108.8.2310. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

"As with his portrait subjects—people better known for their ferocious wit and provocative work—Hujar found calmness in the chaos, and captured it with sensitivity, power, and peacefulness."