Posts Tagged ‘David Wojnarowicz

05
Mar
22

Exhibition: ‘Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus’ at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2021 – 27th March 2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus' at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen showing from left to right, Armando Cristeto (Mexico, b. 1957) Apolo urbano, c. 1981; Antonio Reynoso, La Gorda, c. 1960; Herb Ritts, Wrestling Torsos, Hollywood, c. 1987

 

 

I’m working from my iPad at the moment as my computer has gone down, so this will be short and sweet.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, that in this day and age a museum provides so few media images on such an important theme that I had to spend many hours digging around trying to find images for this posting. I examined the labels on the installation photographs, and then looked at the museum’s Instagram account where there was much more information, before searching for large enough images online for the posting. Some artists are little known so this proved very difficult.

It’s good to see Arlene Gottfried’s strong, brash, direct photographs of gay icons, Jewish bodybuilders and street urchins but they are standard clubbing / street fare and there is little subtlety in her work.

While Gottfried may have survived to tell her story her own way the work only documents. For a photograph is that ever enough? Here the photographs in no way provide a fresh perspective on a clubbing street aesthetic grounded in the milieu of the mid 70s to early 80s Studio 54, pre-AIDS, groovy, disco party vibe. Nostalgia, history and memory are their appeal today.

Tastes have changed. Personally I find more power and sensitivity in Kike Arnal’s Untitled (Emmanuel, trans man and tattoo artist) (2018, below) than most of Gottfried’s graphic photographs – her subjects caught as if the lights had come up in the club at 6am (believe me this has happened many times, all of us looking like startled rabbits). Strike a pose!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Cobra Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus' at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen showing from left to right, Shohei Miyachi, Untitled, c. 2018; Leonard Freed, Handcuffed, New York City, from Police Work series, c. 1978; Larry Clark, Chuck, c. 1981

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Angel and Woman on Boardwalk, Brighton Beach' 1976

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Angel and Woman on Boardwalk, Brighton Beach
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
Framework: 59.5 x 46.5cm
Photo: 27.9 x 35.5cm
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

How does your gender impact your work as an artist? The candid photographs of Arlene Gottfried have become everlasting memories of New York’s fast-evolving culture(s). For over 40 years, Gottfried photographed the intimate stories of the American domestic life, as well intrepid snapshots of the Puerto Rican community or the wild nights inside Studio 54.

She emphasised that being a female photographer back in the 70s was very different than now:

‘A lot of the male photographers [in the past] felt threatened and didn’t like it. […] It’s changed so much with women working. They’re more visible now. I don’t know the statistics on museums and how many are being collected. But on an everyday level, you see women in jobs that used to be male – bus driver, train conductor – typically male jobs that now have female employees and photography was the same. It used to be only guys, really. And actually, in my first photography class, I was the only young woman in the class and I had a lump in my throat, like I wanted to cry, only guys there. But it wound up being a very supportive environment and I learned a lot.

Unless you’re doing something that’s a very feminine kind of a topic, I don’t think gender is really all that visible.’

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Guy With Radio, East 7th Street' 1977

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Guy With Radio, East 7th Street
1977
Vintage gelatin silver print
Framework: 59.5 x 46.5cm
Photo: 35.5 x 27.9cm
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Pituka at Bethesda Fountain, Central Park' 1977

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Pituka at Bethesda Fountain, Central Park
1977
Vintage gelatin silver print
Framework: 59.5 x 46.5cm
Photo: 35.5 x 27.9cm
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

The legendary street photographer who captured more than neutral subjects, but also the living faces and bodies of people along with their memories. Arlene Harriet Gottfried photographs preserve cultural heritage of the urban atmosphere.

One of the most quintessential projects Gottfried produced was a black-and-white series of street photography from the 1970s and 80s in New York. Her work will form part of our exhibition Clandestine. This is a photo exhibition about the human body. One of the most dominant themes in the exhibition is the constant dialogue between culture and bodies. This is something Arlene Gottfried captures particularly well. Arlene Gottfried documented scenes of ordinary daily life. The everyday life from the past that still lives vividly in her photographs. Her work embodied stories and memories of people who although you will never get to know, you can easily feel familiarised.

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Disco Sally at Studio 54' 1979

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Disco Sally at Studio 54
1979
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Pose' Early 1980s

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Pose
Early 1980s
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Le Clique' Early 1980s

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Le Clique
Early 1980s
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus' at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen showing Arlene Gottfried’s portrait Marsha P. Johnson c. 1983

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Marsha P. Johnson' c. 1983

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Marsha P. Johnson
c. 1983
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American trans woman who lived in New York and is celebrated for her contribution to the LGBTQI+ movement. She was often referred to as ‘Saint Marsha’ for serving as a “drag mother” aiding and welcoming homeless people as well as young members of the LGBTQ movement.

Marsha P. Johnson was the Rosa Parks of the LGBT+ movement. She was a devoted activist, drag performer, sex worker and at some point she even modelled for Andy Warhol. She established safe spaces for transgender people and was thoroughly dedicated to defending the rights of trans people, sex workers, people with HIV/AIDS and prisoners.

‘You never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights.’ ~ Marsha P. Johnson

Our exhibition, Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus presents stories in black and white photographs about people who have not been recognised yet for their bravery. Today, Marsha lives in the hearts of brave activists as well as many transgender people.

 

 

The human body is the central theme of the Clandestine photo exhibition. About a hundred black-and-white photographs express an unreserved love of the body in all its manifestations: perfect, imperfect, elegant, erotic, proud or, on the contrary, very vulnerable. The works come from the extensive collection of photographer and collector Pedro Slim (Beirut, Lebanon, 1950) and are shown in the Netherlands for the first time.

Clandestine showcases photography by some 60 artists, including Diane Arbus, Horst P. Horst, Arlene Gottfried, Graciela Iturbide, Robert Mapplethorpe, Diana Blok, Helmut Newton and Man Ray. The exhibition presents original and contemporary prints (including silver on gelatine, photogravure), collages and photomontages. These photographs are placed in the context of New York in the 1970s and 1980s, where many were taken. Pedro Slim’s photo collection holds a unique place in the field of photography. In 1985, Slim started collecting photographs in which the human body plays a central role. With his collection, Slim highlights the power of images and seeks to transform and break open the paradigm that dictates what is feminine, masculine, non-binary or trans. Pedro Slim’s collection consists of more than 300 vintage prints and has rarely been exhibited.

The beauty of the photographs lies especially in the personal expression of those portrayed. The artists seek to go beyond the prevailing standards and ideals of beauty, and make a plea to appreciate the body in all its manifestations. The photographs are thus an ode to diversity and are still very relevant today.

 

Three themes

The exhibition revolves around three themes. The first part of the exhibition focuses on past and present ideals of beauty. The photographs show a diversity of body types and invite us to transcend judgements such as ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’. The photographs within the second theme show people living on the fringes of society,  many of the recorded scenes are raw, everyday situations. The visitor sees sex work, drug use and indecency. There are painful stories behind the provocative looks and poses.

The third part of the exhibition is entirely devoted to the work of Arlene Gottfried (1915-2017). Gottfried specialised in the genre known as street photography, recording life in the less well-to-do neighbourhoods of New York.  Her themes included gospel, schizophrenia, the Puerto Rican community, and the women in her family. Pedro Slim owns more than twenty original prints by Gottfried. This makes him the most important collector of her work.

 

About the collector

Photographer and collector Pedro Slim was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1950. He studied architecture and photography in Mexico and New York. Since the early 1990s, he has exhibited in various museums and galleries. His most recent exhibition was in 2017 at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. His passion for photography led him to start a collection.

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Brothers with their Vines, Coney Island, NY' 1976

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Brothers with their Vines, Coney Island, NY
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Third Avenue Shopping, El Barrio' 1978

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Third Avenue Shopping, El Barrio
1978
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Men's Room at Disco' 1978

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Men’s Room at Disco
1978
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Doorway in Soho, NY' 1980

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Doorway in Soho, NY
1980
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Savage Riders at The Puertican Day Parade' 1980

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Savage Riders at The Puertican Day Parade
1980
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Hassid and Jewish Bodybuilder' 1980

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Hassid and Jewish Bodybuilder
1980
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Riis, Nude Bay, Queens' 1980

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Riis, Nude Bay, Queens
1980
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

After completing a two-year photography program at FIT, Arlene moved to Greenwich Village in 1972, when the community was still an affordable outpost for artists, musicians and bohemians. She took a job as an assistant with an advertising agency. “I did everything: printing, processing, lighting, studio work, on location, a lot of it was for comps and sometimes it was for the ad itself, for sales promotion and point of purchase,” Arlene revealed in her final book, Mommie. “I didn’t always love what it was about but I always took photographs on the weekend and used their fantastic darkroom.”

“It’s nice to be young and be able to run across the beach like wild and be able to meet people and take their picture,” she continued. “That’s what I remember about it: Having a great time, and having a job so I could pay for things, and having a darkroom where I could print everything. You couldn’t ask for anything better. It was like a little grant at a little job, you know, a moderate income but just enough.”

Arlene made “just enough” to carry her through the next 45 years of her life, transforming her home in the West Village’s famed Westbeth Artists Housing into a bohemian palace. Above her kitchen table, she hung her photographs in a plastic carousel designed to air-dry intimate apparel. She entertained visitors, serving cherries and chocolate-covered espresso beans with a bottle of seltzer at the ready. When her cancer treatments stole her brunette curls in the years before her death, Arlene donned a burgundy velvet turban for her nights out.

Although she disliked hustle culture before it was named as such, Arlene maintained resolute faith in the importance of her work and the vitality of her gifts. Where other photographers sought to be a fly on the wall, Arlene was a butterfly in the mix, always aligned with the energy so that her presence only added to the beauty of the images she made. She loved to laugh, to sing, to dance and to celebrate the extraordinary stars in her orbit. In Mommie, Arlene remembers, “The clubs were very provocative then: People putting on these shows, taking their clothes off, acting things out. There’d be a theme and they’d be doing all kinds of crazy things like giving birth to dolls, simulating sex in public. I went in with my camera, took photographs and it was great.”

After the party, Arlene described the feeling of a glorious high that comes from a night on the town, surrounded by people doing what they love. She walked out of the club into the crisp winter air as snowflakes floated down from the sky like confetti in a parade. She then began strolling down Fifth Avenue, heading home, like the final scene of a Hollywood film.

Extract from Miss Rosen. “Sex clubs, Studio 54, Central Park: A portrait of NYC in the 70s & 80s,” on the i-D website 15 October 2021 [Online] Cited 16/10/2021

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Giant Dildo, Les Mouches Party, NY' 1979

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Giant Dildo, Les Mouches Party, NY
1979
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1960-2017) 'Miguel Pinero and Friend' 1980

 

Arlene Gottfried (American, 1950-2017)
Miguel Pinero and Friend
1980
Vintage gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

As an insider, Gottfried was able to tell the story on her own terms, capturing a slice of life that has vanished forevermore. “Now the only way to know what New York was like is from fleeting glimpses in movies made years ago like Taxi Driver, Death Wish, or Midnight Cowboy,” Gilbert Gottfried observes. “I remember there were neighbourhoods you didn’t want to be in and we lived in a few of those. Arlene had already been living on her own when me, my mother, and my other sister Karen moved to Avenue A. People were saying, ‘You’re nuts.'”

Arlene Gottfried flourished amongst her own, whether palling around with poet Miguel Piñero at the Nuyorican Poets Café, kicking it at Brooklyn’s famed Empire Roller Skating Center, or trooping uptown to the streets of El Barrio. Wherever she went, there she was, ready for whatever would come her way.

“I met Miguel Piñero at the Poet’s Café. I loved to dance and you could really dance over there!” she told me in 2014, roaring with laughter at the memory of her youth. “Salsa. R&B. There was a lot of good energy there. It was rough and raw. Not trendy. And that’s an amazing thing – that the Poet’s Café has lasted so long. I loved it. I stayed there until the sun came up, literally. That doesn’t last forever, these moments in time.”

Though Gottfried and many she photographed have passed, their legacies live on in her warm and loving photographs. Gottfried followed her heart and went with the flow, documenting everything from her years singing gospel with the Eternal Light Community Singers to her long-standing relationship with Midnight, a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

For Gottfried, the camera was her diary and confidant. “I don’t know exactly when Arlene started taking pictures, but I know she got into it and then it was all the time,” her brother says with a laugh. “Sometimes we were both on the bus with my mother. I would be helping my mother off and Arlene was taking pictures. I was thinking, ‘Put down the camera and help me help her out of the bus!'”

Gottfried’s archive holds vast treasures of New York at a time when everyone was a character yet no one would stare because that would suggest you were a tourist, unfit to make it here. Her photographs are a tribute to Old New York, to a city of myth, magic, and madness that many did not survive. Yet in her pictures, their lives are restored to the pantheon of grit, glamour, and glory.

It is a city the lingers like wafts of weed smoke on a warm summer day, a city that still exists if you look for it. Gilbert Gottfried remembers, “A year or two ago I was walking with my wife and we saw these two homeless men. One was fixing the other guy’s hair with his hand, and my wife said, ‘Ahh. That’s an Arlene picture.'”

Extract from Miss Rosen. “Arlene Gottfried photographed the magic and madness of Old New York,” on the Document Journal website June 28, 2019 [Online] Cited 16/10/2021

 

George Hoyningen-Huene (American-Russian, 1900-1968) 'A.E. Sudan' c. 1935

 

George Hoyningen-Huene (American-Russian, 1900-1968)
A.E. Sudan
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
George Hoyningen-Huene Estate Archives

 

 

Let’s talk about representation. A Russian man takes a photo of a Sudanese man. Superficially, this might seem problematic, but why?

In our exhibition, Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus, the portrait by the Russian photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, titled A.E. Sudan presents a naked Sudanese.

In a traditional setting, material items like clothes and jewellery help people express their values and beliefs. In this photo, the Sudanese man is alien from any form of expression. In addition, presented in front of a white wall strips the subject away from his situational contexts – such as time and place. This photo shows a person in a blank state, disconnected from any form of cultural or individual expression.

Despite these characteristics (or lack of characteristics), the photographer still opted to include the nationality of the subject in the title – Sudanese. We do not know if the artist understood the semantic power of the title, but by giving us some context, we know this person is not simply a naked model detached from his culture, but rather a ‘Sudanese’ man.

Here is where the questions that concerns representation starts gaining weight. Artists, including photographers, carry tremendous responsibility. Through their medium, they have the power to frame a subject as they please. In the creative process, it is possible that the view of the artist becomes the dominant perception understood by the audience.

For instance, in this case the Sudanese man has no voice concerning how the viewer perceives any of the characteristics that represent his identity, such as his skin colour, nationality, gender or age. It is virtually impossible to discuss all the concerns linked to cultural representation in a post, hence this conversations is far from over. Also, we do not intend to shame the way the artist framed the Sudanese man, but rather our whole aim, inspired by the Cobra movement, is to present new ways to think critically about art, ourselves and society.

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Edmund Teske (Chicago, Illinois, 1911 - Los Angeles, California, USA, 1996) 'Male Nude, Davenport Iowa' 1942

 

Edmund Teske (Chicago, Illinois, 1911 – Los Angeles, California, USA, 1996)
Male Nude, Davenport Iowa
1942
Vintage gelatin silver print
Framework: 59.2 x 48.9cm
Photo: 33 x 23.5cm
Pedro Slim Collection
© Estate of Edmund Teske, Courtesy Gitterman Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus' at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen showing from left to right, Nan Goldin’s Ivy wearing a fall Boston 1973 and Antonio Reynoso’s La Gorda (The Fat Woman) c. 1960

 

Antonio Reynoso (Mexican, 1919-1996) 'La Gorda' (The Fat Woman) c. 1960

 

Antonio Reynoso (Mexican, 1919-1996)
La Gorda (The Fat Woman)
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. This phrase stresses that beauty is thoroughly subjective and only limited by social constructs.

One would argue that beauty is different from sciences like physics or chemistry since it is not quantifiable or measurable. Nonetheless, through non-scientific agreement people still know how to distinguish what is pretty from what is not. For instance, a swampy pond is less pretty than a turquoise ocean. This is the shared opinion, of at least the majority, but is this a view shared by everyone? Even more importantly, is this our view or was it simply bestowed upon us without our prior consent?

Being critical when looking at a work of art, or more frankly when looking at anything, is an exercise to strengthen our own individuality and potential to envision a new beauty. This does not mean one should automatically discredit beauty from something or someone that is socially considered beautiful but to question it. This is a call to acknowledge that the notion of beauty can be challenged, abstracted or even reconstructed.

This is a portrait by Mexican photographer Antonio Reynoso La Gorda (The Fat Woman). It invites us to reconsider the meanings of several attributes including, beauty, sensuality and femininity.

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953) 'Ivy wearing a fall' Boston 1973

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Ivy wearing a fall
Boston 1973
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Allen Frame (American, b. 1951) 'Young Man, New York' 1974

 

Allen Frame (American, b. 1951)
Young Man, New York
1974
Gelatin silver print
Framework: 40.5 x 50.5cm
Photo: 27.9 x 35.5cm
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006) 'Handcuffed, New York City' c. 1978

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006)
Handcuffed, New York City
c. 1978
From Police Work series
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992) 'Arthur Rimbaud in New York' 1978-1979

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Arthur Rimbaud in New York
1978-1979
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

Arthur Rimbaud in New York, one of David Wojnarowicz’s few incursions into photography, is the articulation of a testimony to urban, social and political change in New York.

Wojnarowicz, using the figure of the accursed poet as the only way for an artist to intervene in reality, chronicles his own life and his emotional relationship with New York City in the late 1970s. The artista portrays a number of friends with a life-size mask of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, thereby taking on his identity and highlighting the parallels in their lives: the violence suffered in their youths, the feeling of being denied freedom, the desire to live far away from the bourgeois environment and the fact of their homosexuality. Wojnarowicz is juxtaposing the historical time of the symbolist poet with the artist’s present.

The series, taken in places that the artist used to frequent with photographer Peter Hujar, represents the emergence of identity politics and queer visibility in contemporary art, and the debates surrounding the public sphere as a space for individual non-conformity that were to shape the 1980s. The series also represents a contemplation of the end of the experimental artists’ collectives on the Lower East Side, as gentrification and urban speculation transformed the neighbourhood, and AIDS had begun to decimate the gay community, also causing the early death of the artist in 1992.

Salvador Nadales. “Arthur Rimbaud in New York,” on the Museo Reina Sofía website Nd [Online] Cited 23/02/2022

 

George Dureau (American, 1930-2014) 'B.J. Robinson' c. 1980

 

George Dureau (American, 1930-2014)
B.J. Robinson
c. 1980
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

What happens when people become labelled as objects of inspiration?

Popular culture often exotifies or objectifies a group of people who are slightly different from the majority. Sayings such as ‘you cannot fail if you have not tried’ accompanied by a photo of a person with a disability, portrays the subject as a source of exceptional inspiration for the viewer. This may objectify the subject in the photo.

This is something that happens in the art world too. For instance, the monumental achievements of artists with a disability, such as Frida Kahlo or Vincent van Gogh, are sometimes phrased as a direct outcome of their condition. By doing so the condition of the artist becomes bigger than the persona. This undermines the different elements that constitute the artist as a whole.

For the photographer George Dureau, whose work is displayed in our exhibition Clandestine, photography is a medium with the potential to empower people with disabilities by simply representing them, without objectifying them. By photographing people with disabilities the same way traditional photographers captured images of models, Dureau reconceptualised the standards of beauty.

The conversation revolving around objectification is far from over. Dureau’s views present an interesting way to think about the topic, but we still need more critical and engaged dialogue and we want to hear your opinion. Where is the boundary between admiration and objectification?

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Larry Clark (American, b. 1943) 'Chuck' c. 1981

 

Larry Clark (American, b. 1943)
Chuck
c. 1981
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Armando Cristeto (Mexican, b. 1957) 'Apolo Urbano' (Urban Apollo) Mexico City, 1981

 

Armando Cristeto (Mexican, b. 1957)
Apolo Urbano (Urban Apollo)
Mexico City, 1981
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection
© Armando Cristeto

 

 

Born in 1957 in Mexico City, photographer and historian Armando Cristeto began to study photography in 1977 at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico. He was a member of the photography collective known as the Grupo de Fotografos Independientes, one of the numerous cooperatives of artists known as ‘Los Grupos’ proliferating during the late 1970s in Mexico.

Founded by Amando Cristeto’s brother Adolfo Patino, the Fotografos Independientes sought to reach new audiences by taking their exhibitions out onto the street, where their works could interact with the urban context and be appreciated by new classes of people. Their exhibitions were installed along the sidewalks of Mexico City, employing clothesline to hang their photographic prints, or were even paraded through the streets on wheeled carts.

Anonymous text. “Armando Cristeto,” on the ultrawolvesunderthefullmoon website June 9, 2020 [Online] Cited 23/03/2022

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Most Beautiful Part of a Woman's Body' c. 1986

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Most Beautiful Part of a Woman’s Body
c. 1986
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Most Beautiful Part of a Man's Body' c. 1986

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Most Beautiful Part of a Man’s Body
c. 1986
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Magnolia with Mirror, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Magnolia, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

Is symmetry more beautiful than asymmetry?

The notion of symmetry is occasionally interchanged with the one of beauty as if these would be synonyms. Artists and philosophers from different cultures and times have championed equilibrium and positioned symmetry on an untouchable pedestal, but culturally speaking, asymmetry might be more valuable.

The mathematical notion of symmetry suggests that if an object is changed – say a cube or a sphere is rotated – it stays the same as before it was moved. Aiming for symmetrical forms seems reasonable from the functional standpoint of an architect or a mathematician, but why do our cultures dismiss or shame asymmetry?

Asymmetry presupposes that something, or someone, changes after its circumstances changed. Transforming when situations demand it, is necessary to evolve. One symmetric thought or body would entail that it does not change when it is moved. That said, maybe it is time to reevaluate the way we perceive notions of beauty and reformulate our societal desires. Asymmetric bodies might be much more sexy and beautiful after all.

The exhibition, Clandestine – The Human Body in Focus, presents black and white photographs of the human body. The photographs render asymmetric human bodies.

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Wrestling Torsos, Hollywood' c. 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Wrestling Torsos, Hollywood
c. 1987
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Merry Alpern (American, b. 1955) 'Dirty Windows #16' 1994

 

Merry Alpern (American, b. 1955)
Dirty Windows #16
1994
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Merry Alpern (American, b. 1955) 'Untitled' from the series 'Dirty Windows' 1994

 

Merry Alpern (American, b. 1955)
Untitled from the series Dirty Windows
1994
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

How to take dramatic photos of strangers? Wait, should you ask for their consent before photographing them?

In most countries, it is legal to take photos of people, including children in public. The question of whether it is morally right or wrong to take photos of strangers remains problematic. Some would say that it depends on the purpose of the photo. Judging a body of work that is intended to be used for profit, such as to promote a product, is different from photojournalism or a photo exhibition.

When seeing the photos exhibited in our exhibition Clandestine- The Human Body in Focus, one wonders if every single body was aware it would end up framed in the museum, or in the Instagram account of the museum itself.

To give this situation a context, consider Merry Alpern’s Dirty Windows series from 1994. Rather than posing her subjects, Alpern captured women (and men) crowded into the tiny bathroom of a sex club in the Wall Street district of Manhattan. Her photos were taken at night, in dim light, from a friend’s apartment, one story higher and about five meters away from the bathroom window. Her obsessive, voyeuristic, and even paranoic project as well as her overtly sexual scenes, caused a national controversy at the time.

With these images, Alpern encapsulated and reduced the identity of her subjects as ‘sex workers’. By taking a single shot of a person and framing it as the complete one, the photo runs the risk of stripping the full identity away from the subject. The women in the Dirty Windows series could be mothers, daughters, great sports players, activists and so on, but not everyone gets to see that part of the story.

Let this be a reminder that when taking a photo of a person, you should make sure the person is aware of the photo’s purpose as well as what part of the story- of their identity – is framed.

Anonymous text from the Cobra Museum of Modern Art Instagram page

 

Shohei Miyachi (Japanese, b. 1989) 'Untitled' c. 2018

 

Shohei Miyachi (Japanese, b. 1989)
Untitled
c. 2018
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

Kike Arnal (Venezuelan) 'Untitled' (Emmanuel, trans man and tattoo artist) 2018

 

Kike Arnal (Venezuelan)
Untitled (Emmanuel, trans man and tattoo artist)
2018
From the series Revealing Selves – Transgender Portraits from Argentina
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

When it comes to transgender rights, Argentina is a country rife with contradictions. After being subject to widespread medicalization and incarceration throughout the 20th century, Argentina’s transgender community began to see a number of windfall legal and political wins in the early 21st century that would secure them progress once only dreamed of. These included the Gender Identity Law of 2012, landmark legislation which guarantees transgender Argentinians the right to change their sex in the public record, access free gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy that doesn’t require medical or psychological diagnoses, and enshrines transgender discrimination protections in law.

But the gulf between legislative gains and reality can be wide in many countries, and Argentina is no exception. Despite these rights, 88 percent of Argentinian trans women have never had a formal job; their average life expectancy is 35, whereas the national average is 77; and only 40 percent graduate from high school. Transgender Argentinians still face massive cultural and social stigma, which can lead to family rejection and poverty.

In Revealing Selves: Transgender Portraits from Argentina … documentary photographer Kike Arnal provides a window into the homes and lives of Argentina’s transgender community, one that captures these contradictions.

Anonymous text. “Revealing Portraits from Argentina’s Transgender Community,” on the Them website April 10, 2018 [Online] Cited 23/02/2022

 

Kike Arnal (Venezuelan) 'Untitled' (Emmanuel, trans man and tattoo artist) 2018

 

Kike Arnal (Venezuelan)
Untitled (Emmanuel, trans man and tattoo artist)
2018
From the series Revealing Selves – Transgender Portraits from Argentina
Gelatin silver print
Pedro Slim Collection

 

 

Cobra Museum of Modern Art
Sandbergplein 1, 1181 ZX Amstelveen

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Monday

Cobra Museum of Modern Art website

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27
Dec
19

Exhibition: ‘Peter Hujar: Speed of Life’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 15th October 2019 – 19th January 2020

Curators: Joel Smith and Quentin Bajac

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

 

“I photograph those who push themselves to any extreme, and people who cling to the freedom to be themselves.”

.
Peter Hujar

 

 

Free your mind

A huge posting to finish what has been a bumper year on Art Blart: two book chapters published, a photographic research trip to Europe in which I saw some incredible exhibitions and took over 7000 photographs for my art work, lots of postings and writing and, sadly, the loss of two friends – my mother in Australia, the bohemian photographer and poet Joyce Evans and vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows.

I couldn’t think of a better posting to finish the year than with a photographer who put it all on the line: Peter Hujar. Not for him the world of Apollonian perfection, wishing for fortune and fame, relying on some big time backer to promote him. Hujar stuck to his craft, carving images, performances if you like, from dystopian contexts and Dionysian revellers. “Hujar was the instigator of the performances captured in his portraits, as much as a director as a photographer.”

Paraphrasing Mark Durant, we might say that Hujar was a poet of the urban nocturne, a photographer of subjective desire known for his gritty, erotic, sentimental yet (im)personal images. Philip Gefter observes that, “A hallmark of Hujar’s portraiture is the invisibility of technique – a kind of visual innocence – as if the camera were not present and the subject had been happened upon.” Richard Woodward says that Hujar, “observed his companions in this outlaw life with what might be called warm objectivity.” Photographer Duane Michals says that, “Hujar was a pioneer, years ahead of Mapplethorpe in his sexual candor, as well as an artist whose photographs are less swank and less affected.”

Ah! what a time it was to be an artist and to be gay in New York, with the likes of Hujar, Warhol, Mapplethorpe, Wojnarowicz, Haring, Arthur Tress, and Duane Michals, to name but a few. A time of sexual liberation, followed by a period of disease and death. Hujar pictures this “scene” – the flowering of gay life and then the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. He pictures the constellations as they swirl around him. He allows the viewer to enter his world without judgement, just showing it how it was – a world of avant-garde dance, music, art, and drag performance; “glowing skyscrapers, assorted rubble, discarded rugs, boys in drag, and girls passed out in his doorway.” This is it he is saying, this is how I live, this is who surrounds me, suck it up and breathe it in. He allows the viewer to enter his world of ideas and possible metaphors. No judgement is offered nor accepted.

As my appreciation of his photographs grows, I reflect on the skill that it takes to make these photographs look effortless. Hujar, “a student of Lisette Model, admirer of August Sander, and friend of Diane Arbus, made his photographs distinctly his own: a perfect and unmistakable mirror of his own body and milieu.” A mirror of strength and determination / of friendship / of love – his pictures gather, together, a feeling for – the freedom of people, and places, to be themselves. Do places have feelings? yes they do! (I remember visiting the Coliseum in Rome and having to leave after 20 minutes the energy of the place was so bad; and then visiting the Loretta Sanctuary in Prague and feeling, such calm and peace in that place, that I have rarely felt before).

Hujar’s photographs are memorable. Nan Goldin and Vince Aletti said that his work, “like that of so few photographers, can’t be forgotten and becomes even deeper and more compelling over time.” His work is so compelling it’s like you can’t take tear your eyes away from the photographs. They demand repeat viewing. They seem possessed of an awareness of their own making. That is Hujar’s music, his signature.

Like any great artist, his images reveal themselves over time, expounding his love of life and his intimate and free engagement with the world. Hujar was, is, and always will be… a watcher, a dreamer, a cosmic spirit.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Many thankx to David for the iPhone installation images. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The life and art of Peter Hujar (1934-1987) were rooted in downtown New York. Private by nature, combative in manner, well-read, and widely connected, Hujar inhabited a world of avant-garde dance, music, art, and drag performance. His mature career paralleled the public unfolding of gay life between the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

In his loft studio in the East Village, Hujar focused on those who followed their creative instincts and shunned mainstream success. He made, in his words, “uncomplicated, direct photographs of complicated and difficult subjects,” immortalising moments, individuals, and subcultures passing at the speed of life.

 

 

What was Hujar’s truth, his photographic truth? Hujar understood and utilized photography’s tension between document and theatricality. In the act of photographing there is a performance, not only on the part of the subject, but for the photographer as well. For Hujar, to photograph was a balancing act between fierce observation and manifesting his devotion. As Jennifer Quick observes in her essay for the catalogue, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, “While Arbus and Mapplethorpe are known for their detached postures, Hujar’s silent, tacit presence pervades his work. Like Avedon, Hujar was the instigator of the performances captured in his portraits, as much as a director as a photographer.” That Hujar is considered in the same company of Avedon, Arbus, and Mapplethorpe, reminds us that the retrospective Speed of Life is long overdue.

Hujar’s restlessness led him to wander beyond the confines of the studio. Like Brassai, Hujar was a poet of the urban nocturne, prowling the streets with his camera as the day unraveled. Brassai’s Paris is gritty, erotic, sentimental, yet impersonal. Hujar’s photographs of New York’s streets at night embrace emptiness and furtive gestures, glowing skyscrapers, assorted rubble, discarded rugs, boys in drag, and girls passed out in his doorway. His nighttime images of the Hudson river are disquieting, suggesting powerful currents not fully understood by the dappled surfaces. The thrill and danger of an anonymous sexual encounter is manifested in the 1981 image, Man Leaning Against Tree. It is the moment for Hujar to surveille and assess, when the object of desire is seen but has not yet turned his head to return the gaze. There is a little bit of softness in the image, due, perhaps, to the dim light or the camera moving while the shutter remained open. This image is as much a document of Hujar’s habits of looking as it is about the man leaning against the tree. Despite claims of photography’s objectivity or passive observation, the photographer, consciously or not, visually manifests subjective desire, and Hujar was masterful in this regard. …

While all photographs are tethered to mortality, there is something exemplary in Hujar’s cool acceptance of our temporality. He was fully engaged with his moment yet unsentimental in his attachment. Whether he was photographing a lover or an abandoned dog as elegant as it is scruffy, we can sense that Hujar’s interest was intellectual and physical in equal measure. He may not have been comfortable with the world as it was, but he embraced and even loved what was in front of his camera. “My work comes out of my life, the people I photograph are not freaks or curiosities to me,” he said. “I like people who dare.”

Mark Alice Durant. “Peter Hujar’s Photographic Truth,” on the Saint Lucy website [Online] Cited 01/11/2019

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Public Garden, Taormina, Sicily' 1959

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Public Garden, Taormina, Sicily
1959
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Sheep, Pennsylvania' 1969

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Sheep, Pennsylvania
1969
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Gay Liberation Front Poster Image' 1970

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gay Liberation Front Poster Image
1970
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Gay Liberation Front poster image

Hujar put his art to political use in 1969. In late June, a police raid inspired fierce resistance from the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, in the West Village. Hujar’s boyfriend at the time, Jim Fouratt, arrived on the scene to organise for the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), the first political group to cite homosexuality in its name. Hujar agreed to make a photograph for a GLF poster. Early one Sunday morning that fall, members of the group assembled and ran back and forth past the photographer on Nineteenth Street, west of Broadway. The poster, bearing the slogan COME OUT!!, appeared in late spring 1970 in advance of the gay liberation march that marked the first anniversary of Stonewall.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gay Liberation Front Poster Image (installation view)
1970
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Candy Darling on her Deathbed' 1973

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Candy Darling on her Deathbed
1973
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Candy Darling

In September 1973, transgender Warhol Superstar Candy Darling (born James Lawrence Slattery) was hospitalised for lymphoma. She asked Hujar to make a portrait of her “as a farewell to my fans.” Out of several dozen exposures, Hujar chose to print this languorous pose. As rendered in the print, Candy’s banal, fluorescent-lit hospital room looks as elegant as the studio props in a Hollywood starlet’s portrait. Hujar later wrote that his style cues came from Candy, who was “playing every death scene from every movie.” The image, first seen in print in the New York Post after Candy’s death six months later, became the most widely reproduced of Hujar’s works during his lifetime.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Candy Darling on her Deathbed (installation view)
1973
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Fran Lebowitz at Home in Morristown, New Jersey' 1974

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Fran Lebowitz at Home in Morristown, New Jersey
1974
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Self-Portrait Jumping (1)' 1974

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Self-Portrait Jumping (1)
1974
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Self-Portrait Jumping (1) (installation view)
1974
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Susan Sontag
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Susan Sontag (installation view)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Christopher Street Pier (2) (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Christopher Street Pier (2)' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Christopher Street Pier (2)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Jeu de Paume presents a selection of 150 photographs of this singular artist from October 15th, 2019 to January 19th, 2020. The exhibition follows Hujar’s work from the beginnings mid 1950 until the 1980s, shaping a portrait of the underground New York City.

The life and art of Peter Hujar (1934-1987) were rooted in downtown New York. Private by nature, combative in manner, well-read, and widely connected, Hujar inhabited a world of avant-garde dance, music, art, and drag performance. His mature career paralleled the public unfolding of gay life between the Stonewall uprising* in 1969 and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

After graduating from high school in 1953, Hujar worked as an assistant to commercial photographers until 1968. Five years of contributing features to mass-market magazines convinced him that a fashion career “wasn’t right for me” and in 1973 he opted for an autonomous, near-penniless life as an artist. In his loft studio above a theater in the East Village, Hujar focused on those who obeyed their creative instincts and shunned mainstream success.

At age forty-two, he published his only monograph, Portraits in Life and Death, and opened his first solo gallery show. The searching intimacy he achieved as a portraitist carried over into unsentimental photographs of animals and plants, landscapes, buildings, and the unique features of nude bodies.

Hujar’s brief affair in 1981 with the young artist David Wojnarowicz evolved into a mentoring bond that changed both their lives. On their excursions to blighted areas around New York, Hujar crafted the portrait of a city in free fall, complementing Wojnarowicz’s dark vision of Reagan-era America.

Peter Hujar died of AIDS-related pneumonia in November 1987.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Early years

In 1953, Peter Hujar finished high school in Manhattan, where he had studied photography. He then worked for some fifteen years as an assistant to commercial photographers. Punctuating those years were two long periods in Italy, buoyed by scholarships – a first one that was obtained by a boyfriend (1958-1959) and then his own (1962-1963). From 1968 to 1972, he tried to make it as a freelancer in the mass-market world of fashion, music, and advertising photography. The hustle “wasn’t right for me,” and he turned his back on the commercial mainstream. From this time on he lived on almost nothing, squeaking by on small jobs, taking paying jobs only when necessary and focusing on the subjects he found compelling. In 1973, he moved to the crumbling East Village, into a loft that would become the setting for his mature studio work, most notably the vast majority of his portraits.

 

Portraits

Portraiture was central to Hujar’s practice. The subjects of his art, Hujar wrote, were “those who push themselves to any extreme” and those who “cling to the freedom to be themselves.” “In a sense, I am still a fashion photographer. These people are chic but in a dark kind of way. Most of them are unknown or maybe known to just a few, but they have all been creative adventurers and possess a certain spirit.”

Most of his portraits were posed, but Hujar often expected his models to perform in front of the camera, which made many of the shoots truly collaborative ventures. Disguises and props were often incorporated, and his subjects were sometimes veiled, simultaneously revealing and masking themselves.

The reclining portrait is a photographic genre Hujar made his own. The pose features extensively in his 1976 monograph Portraits in Life and Death, and he continued to rely on it as a means of capturing something unique in his sitter: to face a camera lens from a reclining position is an unfamiliar and provoking experience.

 

New York

“The happiest times with Peter, when he wasn’t photographing, were walking around Manhattan, looking at the crowns of buildings, and the fantasies about ‘living there,'” remembers Gary Schneider, one of his close friends.

Born in New Jersey, Hujar spent all his life in New York, and more specifically in Manhattan, whose buildings, streets, and piers he started photographing more extensively in the second half of the 1970s. Divided between Downtown’s derelict areas and Midtown’s skyscrapers, Hujar’s New York is often a nocturnal city: a place of abandoned structures, night-time cruising, and early-dawn vistas. A few journeys outside New York, during the summer months, to the beaches of Fire Island in the Hamptons, and, in the early 1980s, to the countryside around Germantown, forty miles north of New York, along the Hudson River, offer other glimpses of Peter Hujar’s personal geography, testifying to the variety of subjects that he found worth photographing.

 

Bodies

Portraiture of bodies was another focal point of Hujar’s last decade of work. In 1978, some of his works were included in The Male Nude: A photographic Survey at the Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery in New York.

Bodies, he suggested, could be read as freely as faces for character, emotion, or life story.

He photographed bodies in the extremes of youth and old age, bodies displaying unique features, and bodies in transient states, notably pregnancy and arousal.

Whether photographing faces or bodies, Hujar was attentive to the characteristics conferred by time and experience, such as Manny Vasquez’s spinal tap scar and the imprint left by socks on Randy Gilberti’s ankles. “I want people to feel the picture and smell it,” he said of his nudes, which he contrasted to the idealised bodies in Robert Mapplethorpe’s work.

 

Gracie Mansion Gallery, 1986

When exhibiting his work, Hujar employed two distinct methods. He displayed prints either in isolation (notably in his loft, where just one photograph at a time was on view) or in large groupings, two images high, as on this wall. For the last exhibition during his lifetime, in January 1986 in New York, Hujar covered the walls of the Gracie Mansion Gallery with a frieze of seventy photographs in no apparent order. He fine-tuned the layout for days until no one type of image (portrait, nude, animal, still life, landscape, cityscape) appeared twice consecutively. Each of his subjects thus preserved its own identity and singularity rather than serving as a variation on an imposed theme.

The arrangement highlighted his inventive range, created echoes among seemingly unrelated images, and drew attention to preoccupations that had recurred throughout his career. The display in this room centres on images taken in the 1980s and is freely inspired by that 1986 exhibition.

 

Andy Warhol

In 1964 Peter Hujar was a regular visitor to The Factory, Andy Warhol’s studio at 231 East 47th Street in New York. He posed four times for Screen Tests, brief portraits filmed by Warhol and screened in slow motion. Together with his friend Paul Thek, Hujar was chosen as one of the “Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys”, whose film portraits were regularly shown at the Factory and at parties and events elsewhere. Among the other personalities figuring in the Screen Tests in 1964-1965 were the actor-directors Dennis Hopper and Jack Smith, together with writer-critic Susan Sontag and poet John Ashbery – both of whom would later pose for Hujar.

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'From Rockefeller Center: The Equitable Building' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
From Rockefeller Center: The Equitable Building
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Reclining Nude on Couch' 1978

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Reclining Nude on Couch
1978
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Boy on Raft' 1978

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Boy on Raft
1978
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Surf (2)' Nd

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Surf (2)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Boys in Car, Halloween' 1978

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Boys in Car, Halloween
1978
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Dana Reitz's Legs, Walking' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Dana Reitz’s Legs, Walking
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Dana Reitz’s Legs, Walking (installation view)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Gary in Contortion (2)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gary in Contortion (2)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'David Wojnarowicz Reclining (2)' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Wojnarowicz Reclining (2)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Wojnarowicz Reclining (2) (installation view)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

A hallmark of Hujar’s portraiture is the invisibility of technique – a kind of visual innocence – as if the camera were not present and the subject had been happened upon, discovered there, as Ludlam appears to be, in medias res.

Philip Gefter. “Peter Hujar’s Downtown,” on the NYR Daily website [Online] Cited 01/11/2019

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'David Wojnarowicz' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Wojnarowicz
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Wojnarowicz (installation view)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

“Hermetic appeal and an identification with psychic damage came together in Hujar’s last important relationship, with the meteoric younger artist David Wojnarowicz, who was a ravaged hustler when they met at a bar in late 1980 and who died from AIDS in 1992. They were lovers briefly, then buddies and soul mates. Wojnarowicz said that Hujar “was like the parent I never had, like the brother I never had.” In return, he inspired fresh energies in Hujar’s life and late work. In a breathtakingly intimate portrait of Wojnarowicz with a cigarette and tired eyes, from 1981, the young man’s gaze meets that of the camera, with slightly wary – but willing and plainly reciprocated – devotion: love, in a way. Their story could make for a good novel or movie – as it well may, in sketched outline in your mind, while you navigate this aesthetically fierce, historically informative, strangely tender show.”

Peter Schjeldahl. “The Bohemian Rhapsody of Peer Hujar: Photographs at the crossroads of high art and low life,” on The New Yorker website January 29, 2018 [Online] Cited 01/11/2019

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Greer Lankton' 1983

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Greer Lankton
1983
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Hujar observed his companions in this outlaw life with what might be called warm objectivity. Whatever the portrait subject – doll maker and transgender pioneer Greer Lankton, model Bruce St. Croix sitting naked on a chair and handling his huge erection, Warhol superstar Candy Darling on her death bed, or a pair of cows in a muddy field – he photographed them directly with his 2 1/4, often at close range, without props or gauzy lighting.

Richard B. Woodward. “Peter Hujar: Speed of Life @Morgan Library,” on the Collector Daily website February 21, 2018 [Online] Cited 01/11/2019

 

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gary Indiana Veiled
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Some iPhone installation photographs and others

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Woman and Girl in Window Italy
c. 1963
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Woman and Girl in Window Italy' c. 1963 

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Woman and Girl in Window Italy
c. 1963
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Young Man and Boy, Italy (installation view)
1958
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

He began as a street photographer, on the prowl for unrehearsed gestures, as can be seen in a 1958 picture in Italy of a well-dressed young man touching his thick coif of dark hair and standing next to a pudgy boy in a cap who has his hands in his pockets.

Richard B. Woodward. “Peter Hujar: Speed of Life @Morgan Library,” on the Collector Daily website February 21, 2018 [Online] Cited 01/11/2019

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Young Man and Boy, Italy' 1958

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Young Man and Boy, Italy
1958
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Peter Hujar. 'Palermo Catacombs (11)' 1963

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Palermo Catacombs #11, Rows of Bodies
1963
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Man in Costume on Toilet, Backstage at Palm Casino Review (installation view)
1974
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Nude Self-Portrait, Running / Nude Self-Portrait Series (Avedon Master Class) (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Group Picture (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Stephen Varble, Soho, Franklin Street (III) (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Stephen Varble, Soho, Franklin Street (III)' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Stephen Varble, Soho, Franklin Street (III)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Beauregard Under Plastic (1) (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Beauregard Under Plastic (1)' 1966

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Beauregard Under Plastic (1)
1966
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Bill Elliott (installation view)
1974
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Bill Elliott' 1974

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Bill Elliott
1974
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Dean Savard Reclining (installation view)
1984
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Dean Savard Reclining' 1984

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Dean Savard Reclining
1984
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Chloe Finch (installation view)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Chloe Finch' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Chloe Finch
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Skippy on a Chair (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Jackie Curtis and Lance Loud (installation view)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Zachy and Gamal Sherif (Twins) (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Zachy and Gamal Sherif (Twins)' 1985

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Zachy and Gamal Sherif (Twins)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Ethyl Eichelberger, Dressed as a Man (installation view)
1983
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Girl in My Hallway (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Girl in My Hallway' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Girl in My Hallway
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Hujar’s indelible portraits of famous avant-garde artists and drag queens, and his curiously gothic landscapes and animal pictures, are so fastidiously exquisite, so fussily exact, so representative of a period past (“Speed of Life” is a very odd title) that they immediately summon the ratty hauteur, the necessary obsessions, and the cold-eyed dignity that helped most gay men survive, and not survive, in the early gay lib and AIDS years. …

… His portraits often combine the freakish curiosity of Arbus and the monumental candidness of his mentor Richard Avedon into something resembling momento mori portraits suitable for displaying atop a casket. They are unmistakably contemporary but they feel historic, as if burned to silver plates. (Not for nothing did Hujar make his own display prints.) That doesn’t mean there’s no life in those portraits; far from it, these are the essences of his subjects so well-distilled that there’s really no need to go on. We see nostalgia washing over the present.

Mark B. “Peter Hujar’s brilliant, too brilliant icons,” on the 48hills website October 22, 2018 [Online] Cited 01/11/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
St. Patrick’s, Easter Sunday (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'St. Patrick's, Easter Sunday' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
St. Patrick’s, Easter Sunday
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Boy on a Park Bench (installation view)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Boy on a Park Bench' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Boy on a Park Bench
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Mural at Piers (installation view)
1983
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Mural at Piers' 1983

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Mural at Piers
1983
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Self Portrait (installation view)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Self Portrait in White Tank Top' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Self Portrait in White Tank Top
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gary in Contortion (1) (installation view)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Gary in Contortion (1)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gary in Contortion (1)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Daniel Schook Sucking Toe (Close-up) (installation view)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Daniel Schook Sucking Toe (Close-up)' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Daniel Schook Sucking Toe (Close-up)
1981
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen' 1980

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Manny Vasquez (Back with Bullet Wound) (installation view)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Robert Levithan on Bed (installation view)
1977
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Robert Levithan on Bed' 977

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Robert Levithan on Bed
1977
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Randy Gilberti, High Heels, Halloween (installation view)
1980
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Randy Gilberti, High Heels, Halloween' 1980

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Randy Gilberti, High Heels, Halloween
1980
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Nina Christgau (2) (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Nina Christgau (2)' 1985

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Nina Christgau (2)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Hudson (Leg) (installation view)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Paul Hudson (Leg)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Hudson (Leg)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Isaac Hayes (installation view)
1971
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Isaac Hayes' 1971

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Isaac Hayes
1971
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
William S. Burroughs (1) (installation view)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'William S. Burroughs (1)' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
William S. Burroughs (1)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Warrilow (1) (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Warrilow (1)' 1985

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Warrilow (1)
1985
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Jerome Robbins at Bridgehampton (3) (installation view)
1977
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Jerome Robbins at Bridgehampton (3)' 1977

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Jerome Robbins at Bridgehampton (3)
1977
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Hudson River (installation view)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Hudson River' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Hudson River
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Hudson (installation view)
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Paul Hudson' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Hudson
1979
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Rockefeller Center (2) (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Rockefeller Center (2)' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Rockefeller Center (2)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Cat atop a cash register in a liquor store (1957)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Louise Nevelson (2) (installation view)
1969
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Louise Nevelson (2)' 1969

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Louise Nevelson (2)
1969
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Bill Rafford and Vince Aletti in Dresses Fire Island (installation view)
1971
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Bill Rafford and Vince Aletti in Dresses Fire Island' 1971

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Bill Rafford and Vince Aletti in Dresses Fire Island
1971
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Robyn Brentano (1) (installation view)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Robyn Brentano (1)' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Robyn Brentano (1)
1975
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Dog in the Street, Provincetown (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Dog in the Street, Provincetown' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Dog in the Street, Provincetown
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Greer Lankton’s Legs (installation view)
1983
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Greer Lankton's Legs' 1983

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Greer Lankton’s Legs
1983
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Thek (installation view)
1973
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Paul Thek' 1973

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Thek
1973
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Christopher Street Pier #4 (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Bruce de Ste. Croix (installation view)
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Bruce de Ste. Croix' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Bruce de Ste. Croix
1976
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Phone: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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25
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Peter Hujar: Speed of Life’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 27th January – 30th April 2017

Curator: Joel Smith, “Richard L. Menschel Curator” and Director of the Department of Photography at the Morgan Library & Museum

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life has been organised by Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona, and The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. The exhibition and its travelling schedule have been made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

 

 

Peter Hujar. 'Horse in West Virginia Mountains' 1969

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Horse in West Virginia Mountains
1969
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Richard y Ronay Menschel
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

A love letter to Peter Hujar

.
You jumped so high

the boy on a raft

saluting the sky

absorbed in his craft

 

Of rhythm and eros

you offer no excess

just intimacy, connection

a timeless … transience

 

The line of skyscrapers, the lines of a thinker

the gaze of a baby, the eyes of a dreamer

two cows look direct, as direct as can be

and chrysanthemums and roses lay death near thee

 

Contortions and compression

of time and space

the twist of a wrist, the surge of a river

a certain, poignant – tenderness

 

In love with photography

and the stories it tells

A troubled man

brought out of his shell

 

You left us too soon

you beautiful spirit

your portraits of life

loved, immortal – never finished

 

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Fundación MAPFRE for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

See more Peter Hujar images on The Guardian website.

 

 

I want you to talk about me in a low voice. When people talk about me, I want them to do it by whispering.

.
Peter Hujar

 

He was charismatic and complicated and, it turned out, deeply insecure, with a damaging family history he kept mostly to himself… Peter was, in a way, at his most moving when taking photographs. He was so absorbed by it. Peter was in many ways a very tortured man, and I felt like when he was taking photographs, he wasn’t. I had other friends who were photographers, but not like Peter. Peter was so profoundly absorbed and engaged by it. He was never not a photographer.

.
Vince Aletti

 

 

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

 

Installation views of Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE is delighted to be presenting Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, a retrospective exhibition on the American photographer Peter Hujar. Offering the most detailed account of the artist’s work to date, from the 1950s to his death in New York in 1987, it will be on display between January 27 and April 30, 2017 at the Fundación MAPFRE’s Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space (Calle Diputació, 250) in Barcelona.

Hujar was a portraitist in everything he did. Regardless of the subject of the work – a lover, an underground theatre actor, a goose, the surface of the Hudson River, or the placid features of his own face – what moved and motivated him was the spark of encounter and exchange between artist and other. Hujar’s serene, meditative, square-format photographs confer gravity on the object of his attention, granting it an eternal moment’s pause within the rush of passing time.

Little recognised during his own lifetime, Hujar published only one book of photographs, Portraits in Life and Death, but his output is today recognised as distinctive. His portraits combine disclosure and secrecy, ferocity and peace. Hujar’s career involved both a quest for recognition in the world of fashion photography – the photographers he admired most were Irving Penn and Richard Avedon – and a more solitary, almost completely uncompensated body of work in which he depicted the creative and intellectual New York that he knew and admired.

The present exhibition follows Peter Hujar’s method of presenting his work. Rather than show his photographs in isolation or in an linear or chronological arrangements, he preferred to present them in dynamic, surprising and sometimes disconcerting juxtapositions.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Four keys

Peter Hujar’s work falls within the photographic tradition of portraiture: he was a portraitist in everything he did. Whatever the subject – a lover, an actor, a horse, the surface of the Hudson River, or the gentle features of his own face – what moved and motivated Hujar was the spark in the encounter and the exchange between the artist and his subject, establishing a direct relationship with whatever he portrayed thereby revealing its true nature.

One of the themes reflected in Hujar’s work is homosexuality. These were the years of the first Gay Liberation movements and the famous Stonewall riots. Hujar lived close to the Stonewall Inn, and his partner at the time, Jim Fouratt, came onto the scene the night of the police raid and founded the Gay Liberation Front. Hujar was not an activist, though he attended the group’s first meeting and contributed his well-known photograph which would become the image for the Gay Liberation Front Poster, 1970.

The route followed by the exhibition reflects the preferences of the artist, who systematically chose to present his photographs in vibrant, surprising and sometimes disturbing Most of the photographs are grouped into sets, some of which reflect the artist’s recurrent concerns, while others exemplify his interest in emphasising diversity and the internal contradictions in his work.

A distinguishing feature of his art is the invisibility of technique in his photographs and yet simultaneously his preoccupation with and care over it. Hujar produced his own copies and was also considered a good printer.

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE website

 

Peter Hujar. 'La Marchesa Fioravanti' 1958

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
La Marchesa Fioravanti
1958
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Stromboli' 1963

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Stromboli
1963
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Palermo Catacombs (11)' 1963

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Palermo Catacombs (11)
1963
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Allen Adler and Frances Beatty Adler
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'St. Patrick's, Easter Sunday' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
St. Patrick’s, Easter Sunday
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Artist biography

Peter Hujar was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1934 and grew up in the countryside with his Polish immigrant grandparents. When he was eleven his mother, a waitress, brought him to live with her in Manhattan.

Interested in photography from childhood, after graduating from high school in 1953 Hujar worked as an assistant in the studios of magazine professionals and aspired to work in fashion like his idols Lisette Model, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon.

Between 1958 and 1963 Hujar lived mainly in Italy with two successive partners, artists Joseph Raffael and Paul Thek. After studying for a year at a filmmaking school in Rome he returned to Manhattan, where he moved in the circles of writer Susan Sontag and Andy Warhol’s Factory. From 1968 to 1972 he pursued a freelance career in fashion photography, publishing over a dozen features in Harper’s Bazaar and GQ before concluding that the hustle of magazine work “wasn’t right for me.”

In 1973 Hujar definitively renounced his professional aspirations for a life of creative poverty in New York’s East Village. Living in a loft above a theatre at Twelfth Street and Second Avenue, he took paying jobs only when necessary in order to focus on the work that truly motivated him. He photographed the artists he knew and respected, animals, the nude body, and New York as he knew it, a city then in serious economic decline. In his book Portraits in Life and Death (1976) he combined intimate studies of his rarefied downtown coterie (painters, performers, choreographers, and writers such as Sontag and William S. Burroughs) with portraits  of mummies in the Palermo Catacombs that he had made during a visit with Thek thirteen years earlier. His focus on mortality would intensify and find its purpose in the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic ravaged gay populations in New York and worldwide.

Briefly a lover and subsequently a mentor to the young artist David Wojnarowicz, in his last seven years Hujar continued chronicling a creative downtown subculture that was fast becoming unsustainable in the context of the increasing power of money. His most frequent subject in these years was his neighbour and friend Ethyl Eichelberger, a drag performer whom he called “the greatest actor in America.” With Wojnarowicz, Hujar made expeditions to the depressed areas around New York, photographing industrial ruins in Queens, neighbourhoods of Newark, New Jersey, that had been destroyed in the riots of the late 1960s, and the abandoned Hudson River piers of lower Manhattan, sites of sexual exploits by night and guerilla art installations by day. Hujar died in New York on Thanksgiving Day, 1987, around eleven months after being diagnosed with AIDS.

Throughout his life Hujar stubbornly aligned himself with what he called the “All-In people”: artists committed to a creative course all their own, unconcerned with mass-market acclaim. At the same time he both disdained and bitterly wished for public recognition such as that achieved by his famous contemporaries Diane Arbus – eleven years his senior and respected by him – and Robert Mapplethorpe, who was twelve years younger and whom he considered a facile operator. During the thirty years since Hujar’s death the highly localised downtown public that knew his work has all but completely passed into history, while a vastly expanded photography audience around the world has become familiar with specific facets of his work, such as his indelible 1973 image Candy Darling on her Deathbed, and his soulful portraits of animals. In Peter Hujar: Speed of Life what comes to light is a broader assessment of his unique oeuvre, which was diverse and enduring. Many of the subjects populating this retrospective are familiar, even iconic faces of their era, but what can be seen more clearly today is the vision of the artist who unites them, himself a great and singular talent of the post-war decades in American art.

 

Peter Hujar. 'Cindy Luba as Queen Victoria' 1973

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Cindy Luba as Queen Victoria
1973
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Warrilow (1)' 1985

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Warrilow (1)
1985
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Flowers for the Dead, Mazatlán, Mexico (2)' 1977

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Flowers for the Dead, Mazatlán, Mexico (2)
1977
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen' 1980

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen
1980
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Grass, Port Jefferson, New York' 1984

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Grass, Port Jefferson, New York
1984
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Paul Hudson (Leg)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Paul Hudson (Leg)
1979
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Robyn Brentano (1)' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Robyn Brentano (1)
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Structure of the exhibition

The exhibition includes 160 photographs that offer an exploration of the career of this American photographer, with works loaned from the collection of the Morgan Library & Museum and nine other collections. The result is the most detailed account of Peter Hujar’s work presented to date.

In its structure the exhibition takes account of Hujar’s preference for presenting his photographs in vivid, startling, and even puzzling juxtapositions. Although following a broadly chronological order, with formative work from the 1950s and 1960s concentrated in the first half and later photographs at the end, the visual and creative continuities that spanned the duration of Hujar’s artistic life are emphasised as the visitor follows the sequence of works.

Most of the photographs are presented in groups of three to eight images, some of which showcase enduring preoccupations of the artist while others exemplify his desire to stress the diversity and internal contradictions of his work.

Thus, for the final exhibition of his life, held at the Gracie Mansion Gallery in the East Village in January 1986, Hujar spent several days arranging seventy photographs into thirty-five tightly spaced vertical pairs, taking care not to let any single genre of image appear twice in a row. At the start of the present exhibition, a six-photograph grid pays homage to this method by presenting a checkerboard-format conversation between three images made in controlled indoor conditions and three exterior views. The subjects, in order, are: a man’s bare leg with the foot planted firmly on the studio floor; waves rolling in on an ocean beach; a portrait of an unidentified young man; the World Trade Center at sunset; Ethyl Eichelberger applying makeup before a performance; and a dark burned-out hallway in the ruins of the Canal Street pier.

 

The catalogue

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition includes texts by its curator Joel Smith and by Philip Gefter and Steve Turtell, making it a reference work for a detailed knowledge of Peter Hujar’s work from the 1950s until his death in 1987.

 

Peter Hujar. 'Peggy Lee' 1974

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Peggy Lee
1974
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Hudson River' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Hudson River
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Mural at Piers' 1983

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Mural at Piers
1983
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Steel Ruins 13' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Steel Ruins 13
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Gary in Contortion (1)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Gary in Contortion (1)
1979
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Self-Portrait Jumping (1)' 1974

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Self-Portrait Jumping (1)
1974
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Candy Darling on Her Deathbed' 1973

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Candy Darling on Her Deathbed
1973
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Richard and Ronay Menschel
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Chloe Finch' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Chloe Finch
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Butch and Buster' 1978

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Butch and Buster
1978
Gelatina de Plata
Colección de John Erdman and Gary Schneider
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2)' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2)
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'John McClellan' 1981

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
John McClellan
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Susan Sontag
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'New York: Sixth Avenue (1)' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
New York: Sixth Avenue (1)
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Boy on Raft' 1978

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Boy on Raft
1978
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona featuring the Peter Hujar image 'Boy on Raft' (1978)

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona featuring the Peter Hujar image Boy on Raft (1978)

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space
Calle Diputació, 250
Barcelona

Fundación MAPFRE website

The Peter Hujar Archive

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20
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Art AIDS America’ at Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2015 – 10th January 2016

 

Did You Know?

 

 

This is the biggest exhibition on art relating to HIV/AIDS since the seminal exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1995, which I was a part of.

I was lucky to survive the initial wave of HIV/AIDS infections. The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981… and I had my first HIV test in London in 1983. In those days, as the wall text from the exhibition spells out above, you had to wait 16 days to get the result of a blood test. I vividly remember sitting outside a doctor’s office knowing that when I went in, if he said yes you have it, it was a death sentence. In those early days, there was no treatment. You were going to die. I only survived by luck. Many of my friends and lovers didn’t.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says exhibition co-curator Rock Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

This deep understanding can be supplemented by this posting. I spent many hours securing more images than were sent to me in the press pack, because I think it is really important to have as great a cross-section as possible of work online from this exhibition, as a record of this time and space in the ongoing HIV/AIDS story. At present, there is no website for the 1995 exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS but I am hoping to correct this in the near future, with installation images, art work, interviews and videos.

In terms of the art, I find the earlier narratives are much more powerful and focused than the contemporary work. One of the most moving of these, and one that I have never seen before, is Keith Haring’s Altar Piece (1990, cast 1996, below). Can you imagine being an artist, being Haring, working on the wax mould in hospital being treated for AIDS-related illness, thinking that this could possibly be the last art work that you would ever complete. That you would never see it produced. And then to make something that is so compassionate, so beautiful that it is almost beyond belief… my heart is full of admiration and, like the crowd in the triptych, I am washed with tears.

By comparison, some of the contemporary works seem to have become mere graphic symbolism (leaves, milk and flowers) rather than engaging activism. For example, Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers (2010, below) – while referencing his Mexican heritage through skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead – is not about loss with presence but loss without presence: a febrile graphic activity that is pure decoration. Other works such as Derek Jackson’s Perfect Kiss (2007, below) or LADZ’s Eden #31 (2012, below) enact only the most tenuous link to HIV/AIDS and only when it is spelled out in text. Again, while not denying the pain of the death of her mother, her persecution when growing up or the problems with living with HIV, Kia Labeija’s 24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room) (2014, below) propositions us with a women photographed in deadpan photography style as glamorous mother with vivid pink lipstick or a Beyonce music star in sequin dress and 6 inch heels. Only in the last photograph is there any hint of vulnerability and, funnily enough, it is the only photograph that I care about and engage with.

In all of these works the key word is enact, for these works are performances of gender and sexuality conceptualised for the viewer, where living with HIV/AIDS is shown to us at a distance. Instead of ACTing up, unleashing the power of the oppressed, artists are now acting out in this (supposed) post-death HIV/AIDS climate. Look at me, I can be whoever I want to be (and still have HIV). Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and you would be completely right… if only the art commenting on this post-death resurrection of the author, was memorable.

While 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection in the USA and an estimated 47, 352 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, people are still dying by the thousands in America (an estimated 13,712 people died in 2012 of an AIDS related disease – source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website). This is not pretty pink lipstick and sequin dresses, this is 13 thousand people a year still DYING from this disease.

Just think about that for a while.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Tacoma Art Museum, Mark I. Chester and Steven Miller for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987–1995), Let the Record Show… 1987/recreated 2015.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show…
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

In 1987, the New Museum’s curator William Olander invited ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to create a work about AIDS. ACT UP, a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots organisation, responded with Let the Record Show… providing information about the crisis.

At the time, the only visual presence of AIDS activism was the Silence=Death stickers. Let the Record Show… recreated here in full for the first time, included an LED reader board with statistics about the unfolding medical and political crisis, the neon pink triangle with “Silence=Death,” a photomural from the Nuremberg trials, and photographs of contemporary public figures with their statements about AIDS.

Using the 1986 graphics from the Silence=Death Project, ACT UP appropriated the pink triangle from the badges assigned to gay prisoners in Nazi Germany during World War II. The artists combined this historic symbol of powerlessness along with the photomural of the Nuremberg courtroom to make an explicit comparison between the severity of the AIDS crisis and government inaction and the Holocaust. The complicated installation asked whether simple silence in a crisis is as culpable as actively encouraging one. The anonymous collective Gran Fury formed as a committee of ACT UP, as a result of Olander’s invitation. Gran Fury continued to make provocative and important works about the AIDS crisis.

For the installation of Let the Record Show… at the New Museum, quotes were cast in concrete under the photograph of the irresponsible speaker:

 

“The logical outcome of testing is a quarantine of those infected.”

Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator

“It is patriotic to have the AIDS test and be negative.”

Cory Servass, Presidential AIDS Commission

“We used to hate faggots on an emotional basis. Now we have a good reason.”

Anonymous Surgeon

“AIDS is God’s judgment of a society that does not live by His rules.”

Jerry Falwell, Televangelist

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to protect common needle users, and on the buttocks to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

William F. Buckley, Columnist

” …”

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995) 'Let the Record Show…' (detail) 1987/recreated 2015

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show… (detail)
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957) 'Steal This Book #2' 1991

 

Carrie Yamaoka (American, born Glen Cove, New York, 1957)
Steal This Book #2
1991
Unique chemically altered gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Carrie Yamaoka takes inspiration from Abbie Hoffman’s iconic Steal This Book, a counterculture manual for social revolution. By photographing a page spread and then obliterating all of the words except “slaughter” and “history,” Yamaoka rejects any passive understanding of history. As an activist and artist, Yamaoka will use any means necessary to affect change. Steal This Book #2 may be considered as referring to Yamaoka’s experience as an AIDS activist and her desire to reshape our understanding of our relations with HIV.

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995) 'Bozo Fucks Death' 1988

 

Jerome Caja (American, 1958-1995)
Bozo Fucks Death
1988
Nail polish on plastic tray
Collection of Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye

 

 

One of Jerome Caja’s alter egos was the clown Bozo. Here Caja aggressively turns the tables on death and seeks to gain some control and power over the inevitable, even if only a transgressive, psychological fantasy.

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002) 'AIDS, you can't catch it holding hands' 1987

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (French-American, 1930-2002)
AIDS, you can’t catch it holding hands
1987
Book, 52 pages 8 × 10 inches
The Lapis Press, San Francisco
© 2015 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved / ARS, NY / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Working with collaborator Professor Silvio Barandun, Niki de Saint Phalle wrote and illustrated AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands for young adults. Using her characteristically colourful and joyous style, de Saint Phalle offers unusually straightforward information about the transmission of HIV from unprotected sex and unclean needles in intravenous drug use. She also uses the same frank approach to assuring her readers that casual contact from flowers, doorknobs, and toilet seats does not transmit AIDS, notions that were not widely understood in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (American, born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (American, born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

 

Art AIDS America aims to abolish the silence about the pervasive presence of HIV/AIDS in American art and open meaningful and respectful dialogues about our experiences with the ongoing epidemic. For too long, we have considered art about AIDS as a tragic, closed chapter in the history of American art. This exhibition demonstrates the deep and continued impact of the AIDS crisis on American art from the early 1980s and continuing to today.

For more than thirty years, artists have actively responded with exquisite sensitivity to HIV/AIDS. They have adopted a broad spectrum of styles and messages from politically activist to quietly mournful art that nonetheless thrums with political content. Through poignant portraits, some artists brought much needed attention to personal suffering and loss from the AIDS crisis. Others employed abstraction and coded imagery to reveal the social and political factors that exacerbated the spread of HIV/AIDS. Artists also widely appropriated various art historical traditions to speak about the devastating impact of the epidemic. Art AIDS America offers an overview of how these various approaches redirected the course of American art from postmodern “art for art’s sake” formulas to art practice that highlights the personal experience and expertise of the artist.

Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful. HIV and AIDS are not just past-tense problems. As we persist in the struggle with HIV/AIDS, these artworks remind us of humanity’s resilience, responsibility, and history. The legacy of the AIDS crisis and our new relationships with the virus continue to inform contemporary art and American culture.

Text from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse I' 1988

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Apocalypse I
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

In their first collaboration, Keith Haring illustrated William S. Burroughs’ dystopic poem Apocalypse by mixing references to advertising, art history, and Catholic theology. Haring included his “devil sperm,” the black, horned symbol he created to give shape to HIV and its reign of death and terror.

Burroughs introduced the chaos unfolding:

“The final Apocalypse is when every man sees what he sees, feels what he feels, and hears what he hears. The creatures of all your dreams and nightmares are right here, right now, solid as they ever were or ever will be, electric vitality of careening subways faster faster faster stations flash by in a blur.”

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse III' 1988

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Apocalypse III
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

Grassroots Activism

Artists provided the early warnings of the AIDS crisis with their artworks deployed at the street level. Posters, stickers, T-shirts and other projects made it impossible to ignore messages about AIDS. These activist artists were informed by earlier precedents of feminist art and artists working on issues of identity politics. Communities coalesced around the calls to action.

The most prominent group to address the AIDS crisis was the anonymous artist collective Gran Fury in New York, a committee of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The collective used techniques and ideas from advertising, marketing, and the art world to raise awareness and affect political change. Their bold graphic style and refined text continues to influence politically-themed art.

Gran Fury and other activists changed how Americans thought about AIDS. The political and social pressure instigated by their actions and artworks played important roles in changing the approval process for AIDS drugs and treatment protocols. Women’s health issues were brought to the forefront. As a result, American society positively changed their opinions about HIV/AIDS when they had correct information.

 

Memento Mori

The AIDS crisis compelled contemporary American artists to address death with urgency. Artists witnessed a plague sweep through their communities and wipe out their friends, colleagues, and lovers. They used art to express their rage and terror when AIDS had no effective treatment. Their artwork provided a vitally important way to mourn their losses and share their sorrow.

Artists looked back to European and American artistic traditions of memento mori, Latin for “Remember that you must die,” to share their experiences, feelings, and stories. They adapted symbols like skulls and flowers to depict the fragility and fleeting nature of life.

Artists in this section shifted the intent of memento mori away from concepts of death and the afterlife. They refocused on the preciousness and precariousness of life, without forgetting the political and social realities behind the massive wave of death. Nayland Blake’s clock marks the passing of so many individuals with a call to action. David Wojnarowicz rages against the senseless death of Peter Hujar. Bill Jacobson and Karen Finley give form to the fragility of memory. Latino folk traditions connect the living and the dead in the paintings of Tino Rodriguez and Thomas Woodruff.

 

Poetic Postmodernism

In the early 1980s, American art was dominated by a new, postmodern theory. It held that meaning belongs not to the artist who made the work but to their audiences who interpret the works. Called “the death of the author,” the theory was named after a 1967 essay by the French postmodernist thinker Roland Barthes.

As AIDS actually caused the death of thousands of authors and artists by the late 1980s, this metaphor became a terrifying reality. At the same time, a powerful Christian conservative movement aggressively politicised AIDS. Using homophobia and fear of the disease, these politicians passed Federal laws that made it illegal to “promote, encourage, or condone homosexual sexual activities or the intravenous use of illegal drugs” in an AIDS awareness and education bill.

The ramifications for artists and art exhibitions were equally prohibitive. Federal laws were passed that made it impossible for museums to receive government support if an exhibition included obscene content, which was understood to mean gay themes among others, including AIDS-specific art. In this climate, artists knew that overt political content would result in censorship. So they developed a new way to smuggle political meaning into art.

In his research for Art AIDS America, Jonathan David Katz named this new approach “poetic postmodernism.” Artists used the postmodern theory “death of the author” to camouflage their own personal, expressive meanings. Many of the works in this exhibition have the same title format, the word “untitled” followed by a more specific description in parentheses such as in “Untitled” (Water), Untitled (Hujar Dead), or Untitled (Corrupt HIV Activism). The first term, “untitled,” signals the prevailing postmodernist idea that all meanings come from the audience. But the phrase inside the parentheses reveals clues to the artist’s associations and intentions. Because recognition of AIDS content was a product of the viewer’s thought and not the artist’s explicit claim, such works could be shown in museums without fear of being censored under the new laws.

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950) 'Milk/Blood' 1989, printed 2015

 

Andres Serrano (American, born New York, New York, 1950)
Milk/Blood
1989, printed 2015
Chromogenic colour print
Exhibition print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Milk/Blood recall the pure, flat colour of hard edged abstract painters such as Ellsworth Kelly. But the simple saturated color fields in Serrano’s photograph bear the evocative title Milk/Blood, the two main body fluids that transmit HIV. Serrano appropriates the formal language of modernism for political purposes, a means of potentially slipping AIDS consciousness into a museum context without fear of exclusion or censure. As with HIV infection itself, the photograph underscores how our key sense, vision, is unreliable in the face of AIDS.

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950) 'Blood and Semen III' 1990

 

Andres Serrano (American, born New York, New York, 1950)
Blood and Semen III
1990
Chromogenic colour print, edition 1 of 4
40 × 60 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Like his Milk/Blood in this exhibition, Blood and Semen III also appears to be a rigorously formal composition, this time evoking the gestural appearance of an abstract expressionist painting. Again, the title references two body fluids that transmit HIV. As examples of poetic postmodernism, Serrano activates meaning in Blood and Semen III and Milk/Blood using formal arrangements and references to earlier artistic styles to inform his photographs with personal and potentially political content.

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' 1998

 

Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' (detail) 1998

 

Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.) (detail)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

After an extensive period working in Europe memorialising the Holocaust, Shimon Attie returned to San Francisco in 1996 and began his series Untitled Memory. Attie projected old photographs of his friends and lovers onto places with special meaning to him, including this room of a former apartment. His photographs of these projections became personal studies of loss and melancholy.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled (Hujar Dead)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled (Hujar Dead)
1988-89
Black and white photograph, acrylic, text and collage on Massonite
Collect of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol
Courtesy Second Ward Foundation

 

 

Wojnarowicz was briefly lovers with and then became a close friend of the famous photographer Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1987. Untitled (Hujar Dead) incorporates still images from a film by Wojnarowicz of Hujar’s lifeless body on his hospital bed. Wojnarowicz then overprinted the text of one of his famous “rants.” In these politically-charged performances and texts, he laid blame for the AIDS crisis squarely on the conservative right-wing demagogues who politicised the disease and continually spewed homophobic rhetoric which only exacerbated the crisis.

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010

 

Tino Rodriguez (Mexican-American, born Guadalajara, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010 (detail)

 

Tino Rodriguez (Mexican-American, born Guadalajara, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers (detail)
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

 

Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers incorporates aspects of his Mexican heritage, and especially the tradition of skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This family-oriented celebration of ancestors brings the living and dead into affectionate proximity. Rodriguez here exuberantly conflates familiar American oppositions such as death and life, growth and decay, and even good and evil. Inherently androgynous, the gender of the skulls remains unknown as does their cause of death. But as in the Dia de los Muertos celebration itself, Rodriguez’s image supplants horror with humour and loss with presence, offering the triumph of love and memory over death in the age of AIDS.

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992) 'Untitled (Buffalo)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled (Buffalo)
1988-89
Vintage gelatin silver print, signed on verso
Collection of Michael Sodomick

 

 

For Untitled (Buffalo), David Wojnarowicz simply photographed a diorama in a museum in Washington, DC. This image of buffalo being herded off a cliff served as a chilling metaphor of the politics of AIDS in the US in the late 1980s. Rather than an illustration of traditional Native American hunting techniques, Wojnarowicz eloquently expressed his rage, desperation, and helplessness through the great symbol of American identity. His shifting and layering of meaning onto this symbol is a classic example of poetic postmodernism.

One example of how artists hid their message is David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Buffalo). It’s a diorama of a buffalo fall, a traditional method of harvesting large numbers of buffalo by chasing herds off cliffs. The buffalo are made from plastic. Wojnarowicz photographed the diorama and cropped it. “This is appropriation,” Hushka said. “He used it as this extraordinarily eloquent cry about the state of American politics at the time.” Katz added, “It’s telling that even an artist of Wojnarowicz’s activist fervour engaged in a metaphor that only cohered in the mind’s eye. You needed to be attentive to what it might be saying to read it. There’s nothing specifically AIDS about it.”

 

Spiritual Forces

Because of the overwhelming number of deaths, the unspeakable losses, and the constant presence of disease, it should not be surprising that artists also turned to issues of spirituality. Yet, the art history of AIDS often neglects this important aspect. Across the United States, faith communities tended to the spiritual needs of people with AIDS and provided critical services for them. These communities continue to support people living with HIV.

The AIDS crisis exposed deep division within many spiritual traditions. Artists such as Jerome Caja, Robert Gober, and Barbara Kruger expressed discomfort and displeasure in how some religious ideologies oppressed gays and lesbians and worsened the AIDS crisis. Others made inspiring works within long-established traditions like Keith Haring’s altar piece. In other artworks, artists created symbols for the dignity of people suffering from AIDS, ranging from Christian saints and Biblical texts to imagery inspired by Buddhism and healing traditions from India.

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990) 'Altar Piece' 1990 (cast 1996)

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Altar Piece
1990 (cast 1996)
Bronze with white gold leaf patina, edition 2 of 9
60 × 81 x 2 inches
Denver Art Museum, Gift of Yoko Ono, 1996.204A-C.
© Keith Haring Foundation
Photo © Denver Art Museum

 

 

This altar piece by Keith Haring is the last work the artist completed. He worked on the wax mould while he was hospitalised for AIDS-related illnesses. The triptych format echoes traditional Roman Catholic altar pieces. The image of the crying mother holding an infant speaks to the inconsolable losses from AIDS. The mother’s tears fall on the crowds, seeking solace and mercy from the AIDS epidemic.

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945) 'Untitled (It's our pleasure to disgust you)' 1991

 

Barbara Kruger (American, born Newark, New Jersey, 1945)
Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you)
1991
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Eric and Nannette Brill

 

 

Despite provocative imagery and text, Barbara Kruger intends no specific meaning to her artworks. Rather, Kruger wants to demonstrate how the reader generates meaning each time the text is read. She activates ambiguity and political charge with the phrase “It’s our pleasure to disgust you.” Kruger underscores the gulf between and image and its possible meanings, an issue brought into high relief in the culture wars promoted by religious conservatives, during the period when this work was made.

The work may be interpreted as evidence that artists like Kruger were deliberately insensitive to cultural norms. Alternatively, it could be read as proof that artworks were deliberately manipulated for political purpose by others. Because AIDS was framed in political terms from its earliest moment, Kruger’s Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you) reflects the complexity and deliberate uses of language about AIDS.

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954) 'Drains' 1990

 

Robert Gober (American, born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954)
Drains
1990
Cast pewter Edition of 8, with 2 artist’s proofs, artist’s proof 1 of 2
Collection of the artist

 

 

Robert Gober’s Drains is meticulously handcrafted to resemble a mass-produced consumer good. Because we think about drains primarily as a tool to remove waste often associated with personal hygiene and cleaning, connections to HIV/AIDS are obvious. By placing the sculpture in an unexpected position on a gallery wall, Gober seeks to generate unanswerable, metaphorical questions about the functions of a drain and the unknown space behind it. The cruciform shape at the back of the drain recalls his childhood and his complicated relationship with Catholicism.

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955) 'Unveiling of a Modern Chastity' 1981

 

Izhar Patkin (American born Israel, b. 1955)
Unveiling of a Modern Chastity
1981
Rubber paste, latex theatrical wounds, and
printing ink on a stretched linen canvas
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Izhar Patkin painted Unveiling of a Modern Chastity one year before there was any public announcement about a new disease striking formerly healthy young men. This is the earliest work in the exhibition, and, in retrospect, one of the earliest AIDS paintings ever. Troubled by the sight of a group of such young men with similar dark purple skin lesions waiting in his dermatologist’s office, he presciently titled the work to reflect what he felt might be a forthcoming change in sexual culture. The painting’s skin-like surface erupts in what looks like Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.

Patkin’s heavily textured surface and use of artificial wounds was his effort to destroy minimalism and other traditions of pure abstraction. He wanted to expose the inability of modernist art to contain pressing social and contextual significance.

DID YOU KNOW? The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981.

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014) 'Akedah' 1995

 

Albert J. Winn (American, 1947-2014)
Akedah
1995
Gelatin silver print
171/2 × 21 ¾ inches
Courtesy of Scott R. Portnoff
Photo courtesy of the Estate of Albert J. Winn

 

 

In the artist’s own words: “Every month, because of my illness, I need to undergo a blood test. During the process, a tourniquet is bound tightly about my upper arm. At times when I’ve been on a study protocol for an experimental medicine, I’ve had my blood drawn every day. Having my blood drawn has become a ritual in what sometimes seems is a new religious practice, an AIDS ritual.

“Over time, I’ve transformed this ritual in relation to my Judaism. I wonder if like Isaac, I am being sacrificed. This time to science. I pray that an angel will intercede and spare my life. When my arm is bound with a tourniquet and the veins bulge, I am reminded that I am bound to my illness. I look at the rubber strap and see tefillin. Sometimes the impression of the leather straps from the tefillin are still visible on my skin by the time the tourniquet is wrapped around my arm. The binding of the tefillin is a reminder of being bound to my heritage. The straps also make my veins bulge. Except for the needle stick the binding feels the same.”

 

 

Art AIDS America at the Tacoma Art Museum

Politics, sex, religion, loss, and beauty – all of the topics that you can’t talk about over dinner but can at a museum – are open for discussion in Art AIDS America, an exhibition that reveals for the first time how the AIDS crisis forever changed American art. Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful.

Art AIDS America is a story of resilience and beauty revealed through art, and the community that gathered to bring hope and change. While recognising and honouring loss and grief, it refutes the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art, exploring how artists’ responses to the crisis and its legacy continue to inform contemporary American art. These artworks offer a vibrant representation of community, caring, creativity and activism. And, Art AIDS America will serve as a vivid reminder that the crisis is not over; HIV infections are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

A decade in the making, this exhibition is co-curated by TAM’s Chief Curator, Rock Hushka, and Jonathan D. Katz, PhD, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program, University at Buffalo.

“AIDS fundamentally changed American art, remaking its communicative strategies, its market, its emotional pitch and – not least – its political possibilities. But we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in the making of contemporary American culture, as we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in every other aspect of our lives. This exhibition underscores how powerfully a plague that is still with us has changed us,” says Katz. “Art AIDS America creates spaces for mourning and loss, yes, but also for anger and for joy, for political resistance and for humor, for horror, and for eroticism.”

The exhibition assembles 125 significant works in a wide range of media. The artists are diverse, including the internationally acclaimed such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Martin Wong, and those not yet as widely celebrated such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Chloe Dzubilo, Derek Jackson, Kia Labeija, and Joey Terrill. The works date from 1981 to today, and some, like Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 1986 AIDS/ARC vigil in San Francisco, will be on public view for the first time.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

Works in the exhibition will generally fall into two categories: art with a clear tie to AIDS, and art that requires the viewer to look beyond the surface to understand its connection to HIV/AIDS. Some artists addressed the AIDS crisis through activist works, community projects, graphics, and direct political statements. For example, the collective ACT UP NY/Gran Fury’s installation Let the Record Show… sears the words of public officials whose actions inflamed the crisis, including the silence of President Ronald Reagan, who would not speak publicly about AIDS until 1987. Other artists use camouflage, coding, misdirection, symbols, or other covert strategies to address the social, political, and physical impacts of HIV. An example is Robert Sherer’s beautifully rendered Sweet Williams, a basket of cut flowers, painted in HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood, about the untimely deaths of so many young men. The exhibition will be organised roughly by works created pre- and post-cocktail (in this case, ‘cocktail’ refers to the combination of drugs and therapies used to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS).

“Tacoma Art Museum is a safe space where people are able to address important and challenging issues. We are proud to present Art AIDS America. It is fitting that the exhibition debuts in Tacoma, the city that established the nation’s first government-sanctioned needle exchange program in a proactive approach toward controlling the spread of AIDS,” said Stephanie Stebich, TAM’s Executive Director. “TAM also has the scholarship to support this exhibition through our chief curator Rock Hushka and the exhibition’s co-curator Dr. Jonathan D. Katz, who also co-curated the award-winning Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which we brought to TAM in 2012.”

The Art AIDS America catalogue is a significant component of the exhibition, with 15 contributors, nearly 300 pages, and more than 200 illustrations. It is published in association with the University of Washington Press of Seattle and London and designed by Marquand Books, Seattle. Art AIDS America is organised by TAM in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts and will tour nationally. See it first at TAM, on view October 3, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition will then travel to Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA; and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY.

Press release from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955) 'Interim Portrait #373' 1992

 

Bill Jacobson (American, b. 1955)
Interim Portrait #373
1992
Chromogenic colour print
24 × 20 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947) 'Ken Meeks, PWA' 1985

 

Alon Reininger (American born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947)
Ken Meeks, PWA
1985
Archival pigment print
Courtesy of Contact Press Images, New York

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950) 'Robert Chesley - ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6' 1989, printed 2015

 

Mark I. Chester (American, born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950)
Robert Chesley – ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1-#6
from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal
1989, printed 2015
Pigment print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Mark I. Chester gives us the first portrait of a sexually active person with AIDS. Robert Chesley (1943-1990) was a playwright, theatre critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and music composer. Perhaps his most celebrated play was Jerker, or The Helping Hand: A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty. At a time when many gay men had come to associate their own sexuality with death, the artist showed Chesley as a vibrant, active person with AIDS, intended as a rebuke to the routine AIDS portraits of mortally ill people. With this series, Chester rewrote the late-1980s codes for representing gay male sexuality from sexlessness and death towards a renewed embrace of life and its pleasure.

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968) 'Robert' from the series 'Milky' 2004

 

Steven Miller (American, born Tucson, Arizona, 1968)
Robert from the series Milky
2004
Inkjet print
Edition 2 of 10
Tacoma Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from Curtis Man

 

 

For his series Milky, photographer Steven Miller asked his friends if he could photograph them as he poured milk over their heads. These portraits capture the different reactions to the sensation and convey a sense of discomfort from being drenched by fluids like milk. Miller likens these two aspects to a symbolic infection of HIV. For many gay artists of his generation, HIV looms as a constant presence, and body fluids remain deeply ingrained as transmitters of the virus.

 

 

Portraiture

Artists used portraits to directly convey the devastating effects of the crisis on individuals. Even if we do not know the subject, portraits remind us that someone we know was likely affected by AIDS. Because the science about the retrovirus was new and extremely complicated and frightening, such portraits humanised the disease so it could be understood through personal stories.

Early portraits brought attention to the physical symptoms of AIDS such as the deep purple lesions of the skin cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma and the devastating weakness caused by AIDS-related wasting syndrome. Artists soon refocused on portraits of defiant individuals living with HIV. Refusing to show people as victims of an incurable disease, these portraits depicted fighters and survivors.

From pure abstract representations to straightforward photographic likenesses, portraits continue to illuminate how individuals respond to and overcome even the most complex aspects of HIV/AIDS such as stigma, racism, sexism, and poverty.

 

The Legacy of the AIDS Crisis

HIV is no longer an immediate life-or-death issue facing American artists, but one that quietly and continually persists in intriguing ways. The legacy of the AIDS crisis can be traced either through the motifs and influences of earlier artists or by understanding the psychological trauma and challenges that result from living in a world with HIV.

Artworks made after antiretroviral medicines became available in the mid-1990s beg the questions: If HIV is undetectable in a body and all but invisible in society, why should visibility in art be any different? How do you identify HIV if an artist is unwilling to speak about it but doesn’t live a moment of his or her intimate life without being aware of its near-certain presence?

Artists such as John Arsenault, Kalup Linzy, Patte Loper, and Donald Moffett bring their personal histories as activists and care givers into their artwork. They also use their art to express the discomfort and complexities of living in a world with the constant presence of HIV.

Works of art should be read with empathy and compassion to understand the fullness and richness of the artist’s experience. We need to remind ourselves of the stresses, anxieties, fears, and realities caused by the burden of HIV. To honor these artists’ experiences, we must insist that HIV inform at least part of the meaning of their work. This will ensure an understanding of their art as part of an art history of deep social engagement and connection.

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964) 'THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey's Self-Obliteration #1' 2008

 

Julie Tolentino (American, born San Francisco, California, 1964)
THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1
2008
Chromogenic color print
Edition 1 of 5
Documentation courtesy of Leon Mostovoy
Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles

 

 

These three photographs capture moments in the archival performance of THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1.

Section 1 (left): The work begins with Athey’s solo performance of Self-Obliteration #1 while Tolentino, from a nearby platform, aims to capture his performance movements and affect (a reading of tones, gestures, and movements) as an archival action.

This work involves a long blond wig pierced onto the scalp with hidden needles. The needles are removed, causing blood to stream and pool onto two panes of glass. Ultimately, these glass pieces are positioned to encase the individual body.

Section 2 (center and right): Tolentino and Athey “repeat” his performance, a true impossibility in the live form – displaying a disrupted mirroring of the other.

Like a low current running throughout the work, THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME‘s tension opens to the spectator’s subjectivity. A range of issues are activated: Athey’s openly HIV positive status; the actions performed on a differently-gendered person of colour; and the intimate act of bleeding. This becomes entangled with Tolentino’s practice, history of activism and advocacy, caregiving and artist-to-artist relations as a living archive.

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961) 'Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)' 2000

 

Catherine Opie (American, born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961)
Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)
2000
Polaroid
Private collection

 

 

This work by Catherine Opie, taken with the world’s largest polaroid camera, was made in collaboration with the performance artist Ron Athey. Athey achieved both fame and censure as an HIV positive performance artist whose work involved physical and psychic trials, along with, on occasion, blood.

Clearly a response to AIDS, the pose of Ron Athey/The Sick Man recalls the traditional iconography of the Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary supports the body of the dead Christ. Athey is held by his performance partner Darryl Carlton (a.k.a. Divinity Fudge), two heavily tattooed men in place of the holy family. The implications of self-sacrifice and transcendence through pain and suffering animate both the original scene and this more contemporary incarnation. Opie situated the figures in a beautiful, richly saturated black space. She offers a contemporary allegory of the excluded sufferer whose exile and death can be laid at the feet of those who consider themselves pious.

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961) 'Life Altering Spencer from Leaves' 2013

 

Eric Rhein (American, born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961)
Life Altering Spencer from Leaves
2013
Wire and paper
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Purchased as the gift of Louis Wiley, Jr. (PA 1963) in Memory of Paul Monette (PA 1963) and his partner Roger Horwitz

 

 

Eric Rhein began The Leaf Project in 1996 to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and chose to memorialise his friends who had died of AIDS-related causes. He selected the leaf motif to honour the individuality of each person, while also evoking the countless leaves shed by trees in autumn. Life Altering Spencer honours AIDS activist Spencer Cox (1968-2012), a member of ACT UP, Treatment Action Group, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Anti-Viral Advisory Committee. In this capacity, Cox and others became experts on drug trials and approval, successfully lobbying to hasten the approval time for new HIV medications. Cox and his group thus changed the course of medicine in America – the first non-physicians to do so – and, not coincidentally, these new treatments saved the life of artist Eric Rhein.

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991) 'For the Record' 2013

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991)
For the Record
2013
Two offset prints on newsprint, two panels, installed: 22⅝ x 70 inches
Courtesy of the artists
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

The collaborative group fierce pussy created this work for the organisation Visual AIDS in New York City. Playing off Gran Fury’s 1987 Let the Record Show… and evoking postmodern text based art, fierce pussy asks that we remember the thousands of people who died of HIV-related causes before antiretroviral drugs became available to control the virus. They insist that we continue the work to end HIV/AIDS despite these new drugs.

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002

 

Thomas Haukaas (American, b. 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honour of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002 (detail)

 

Thomas Haukaas (American, b. 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected (detail)
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honour of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

 

The horse with no rider at the centre of the composition represents individuals on the reservation who have died of AIDS-related causes. Using the 19th-century tradition of ledger drawing, with a riderless horse as symbolic of a warrior who fell in battle, Haukaas weaves together the complicated issues of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the Native American experience with the disease.

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957) 'Sweet Williams' 2013

 

Robert Sherer (American, born Jasper, Alabama, 1957)
Sweet Williams
2013
HIV- and HIV+ blood on paper
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The title Sweet Williams comes from Robert Sherer’s childhood. His grandmother, an avid gardener, often asked him to help gather flowers from her garden and instructed, “Now, honey, cut down the most beautiful ones first.” Upon reflection, Sherer realised that AIDS was deeply correlated to beauty and sexual attraction. He remembers his many handsome friends and acquaintances who died too early – the Williams, the Billys, the Wills, the Willies – memorialising them in an image drawn in HIV negative and positive blood. Of all his colleague friends, two of whom were named William, only Sherer is still alive.

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955) 'Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week's Dose of Truvada' 2012

 

Joey Terrill (American, born Los Angeles, California, 1955)
Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week’s Dose of Truvada
2012
Mixed media on canvas
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Foundation purchase

 

 

Long-time Latino queer rights and AIDS activist Joey Terrill makes paintings that resemble the work of such well-known pop artists as Tom Wesselmann. Departing from Wesselmann’s 1960s pop still-life paintings, Terrill subverts the genre through his many queer references, not least the regular inclusion of the HIV medication Truvada. In these his appropriations of the American dream, Terrill shows himself to be a political activist – a role he has inhabited since the 1970s.

Terrill’s addition of the forget-me-nots at the centre of the composition pays homage to his artistic hero David Wojnarowicz. He also alludes to the daily routine of the antiviral medicine Truvada and pointedly questions why changes in the social and political realms have allowed this to be a normal part of so many people’s lives.