Matthew Marks

Peter Hujar

10 Sep - 24 Oct 2009

© Peter Hujar
Boy rubbing his eye, Southbury, 1957
Gelatin-silver print
38 x 37 cm
Photographs 1956-1958

September 10 - October 24, 2009

526 W 22 Street

Matthew Marks is pleased to announce Peter Hujar: Photographs 1956-1958, the next exhibition in his gallery at 526 West 22nd Street. The twenty-five vintage gelatin-silver prints included in the exhibition were made when Hujar was aged 22 to 24 years old, and almost all are exhibited here for the first time.

The photographs come from four different series, each taken in a different location: New York City; Key West, FL; Southbury, CT; and Florence, Italy. A number of themes that remain constant in his work throughout his life are first seen here. His first landscapes, empty city streets, portraits of animals, and most importantly his empathetic depiction of children. In Southbury and in Florence, Hujar spent time in homes for developmentally disabled children. The photographs he made there show a unique sensibility and are recognized as his first mature pictures. They predate by at least a decade other well-known photographers who used similar subject matter in their work.

“Peter believed that there are in the world certain exceptionally favored people who live entirely in the present—unlike himself, unlike most of us, but perhaps like these children.” Hujar’s friend, the writer Stephen Koch, has written, “Emotionally, in their essential being, they never absent themselves; they are always fully here. They are present for everything. Peter took the interplay of presence and absence as one of the most essential human truths, and he viewed the mingling of immediacy and inner distance as a quality uniquely visible to the camera.”

Hujar was a consummate technician and even in these, his earliest prints, his exquisite black and white tonalities, are evident. Highly emotional yet stripped of excess, Hujar’s photographs find beauty in the unconventional.

Peter Hujar (b. 1934) died of AIDS in 1987 leaving a complex and profound body of work. He was a leading figure in the group of artists, musicians, writers and performers at the forefront of the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 70s and early 80s. The artist was enormously admired for his completely uncompromising attitude towards work and life. Since his death his work has been exhibited at numerous museums throughout the world and been the subject of one-person shows at the Grey Art Gallery, New York; the Stedelijk Museum; Amsterdam; Fotomuseum, Winterthur; ICA, London; and P.S.1, New York.

Peter Hujar: Photographs 1956 - 1958 will be on view at Matthew Marks Gallery, 526 West 22nd Street (between 10th & 11th Avenues) through October 24th, 2009. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.

Tags: Gelatin, Peter Hujar