Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of works by internationally acclaimed American photographer, Peter Hujar. This will be the artist’s first solo presentation in Los Angeles.
Over the course of thirty years, Peter Hujar (1934 – 1987) created a dazzling range of portraits, landscapes, nudes and street scenes. He is regarded as an artist’s artist, a quintessentially New York photographer, revered by colleagues such as Richard Avedon and Nan Goldin, and respected by the starry assortment of painters, writers, performers and friends who served as his subjects. The likes of Diane Vreeland, Divine, David Wojnarowicz and Susan Sontag are featured in this exhibition. Yet whatever the ‘wattage’ of the subject, Hujar’s images deliver an indelible emotional charge, a psychological acuity born of exquisite sensitivity and an unmistakable intimacy with his subjects.
Born in Trenton New Jersey, Hujar spent the first eleven years of his life with his grandparents. After his grandmother’s death, Hujar was reunited with his mother. She and her second husband brought him to New York to live with them in their one bedroom apartment. The household proved to be abusive and Hujar fled their cramped quarters. At sixteen, camera in hand, he began living on his own in the city. In 1953, Hujar enrolled in the School of Industrial Art. By then he had amassed a significant portfolio and was intent on a career in photography.
At the advice of a sympathetic teacher, Hujar became an apprentice to numerous commercial photographers. The artist’s photographic education and technical expertise were earned, not in the classroom, but in commercial photo studios. For the next fifteen years, until 1967 when he landed assignments at Harper’s, Bazaar and GQ, he worked for photographers of no special distinction while pursuing his own work and establishing himself as one of the most charismatic of the celebrated bohemians of New York’s Lower East Side. Andy Warhol, Fran Lebowitz, John Waters, Candy Darling and a host of other writers, artists, drag queens, film makers, lovers, landscapes and the city itself were his confidantes. All make poignant appearances in his work.
The fact of his personal celebrity in no way lessened the rigor of his artistic pursuits. Despite early commercial success, he disavowed commissioned work. For the remainder of his life, before his untimely death from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1987, Hujar produced a wide-ranging body of work independent of significant commercial support.
Throughout his career, and readily apparent in the works selected for this exhibition, Hujar’s luminous black and white images with velvet darks melting into subtle greys served as touchstones for colleagues and mentors alike. The exacting craftmanship of the compositions aside, his photographs conjure the experience of what it might feel to know the subject; to be an intimate in the presence of a beautiful stranger. In frame after frame, it is as if the photographer has cracked the code to the rough-edged elegance of being alive.
Hujar’s photography has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in numerous private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Stedilijk Museum of Art (Amsterdam), Fotomuseum (Winterthur, Switzerland) the Morgan Library and Museum and the Walker Art Center, among others.
All images © 2020 The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC