P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Peter Hujar, one of the most important and influential New York photographers of the 1970s and 1980s. This is the first American museum exhibition devoted to Peter Hujar since 1990, an artist whose reputation has steadily grown since his death in 1987. On view from October 23, 2005 through April 10, 2006, it will include more than seventy photographs, most of which have never before been exhibited or reproduced.
The range of Hujar's subjects—studio portraits, nudes, landscapes, the city street, modern ruins, animals—will be presented in a monographic rather than chronological manner. Working exclusively in black and white, Hujar vividly documented a New York that has been all but lost to us today, most notably its streets, architecture, and nightlife. His portraits of well-known figures such as Susan Sontag, Andy Warhol, and William Burroughs, but also of anonymous street people, circus and drag performers, are all highly regarded. In a sense, everything for Hujar was a portrait. Whether he was photographing a person, a dog, or a tree, his subject always seems to be posing for the camera, aware of being photographed, yet never self-conscious.
Hujar was a contemporary and friend of Diane Arbus, and both were admirers of Weegee and shared his dark vision. Regardless of subject matter—from the catacombs in Palermo to abandoned, wrecked cars—Hujar is a classicist whose distinctive style echoes further back to historical figures such as Eugène Atget and Brassaï. Hujar was a mentor, friend, and lover to the artist and writer David Wojnarowicz, and his work would go on to influence the photographers Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe. His sensibility, concentration, eye for detail, and feel for light and texture enable him to find, as both Atget and Brassaï in Paris before him, mystery where none is apparent, beauty in the mundane, and grace in disintegration. All of Hujar's work is imbued with a deep sense of mortality, and, as he makes visible an awareness of life and death as forever enmeshed, a depth of soul.
Born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1934, Peter Hujar received his first camera in 1947. His works have been exhibited throughout Europe and the United States, including the Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland. He died of complications accompanying AIDS in 1987.
This exhibition is curated by P.S.1 Curatorial Adviser Bob Nickas.