Art Out: Peter Hujar at Pace Gallery
New York City as of now is a paradise for capitalists who want to invest billions of dollars into new developments, but is a crooked struggle for others who just want to continue living here. The city today is far from the 1970’s and 80’s economically and socially dire New York; grimy and rough, glamorous and disheartening, filled with crime and devastated by the AIDS crisis. Yesterday’s New York City is disappearing behind the shadows of skyscrapers and expensive housing, increasingly hiding away the disparity in the lives of the rich and the poor.
New York City during the 70’s was rampant with artists who were trying to bring art and life together. Peter Hujar was one of them, capturing that moment in time, through photographs. Master Class was the name of a seminar taught by Richard Avedon and Marvin Israel in 1967, where Peter Hujar was a student. The class inolved guest speakers such as Diane Arbus and Lucas Samaras who Peter looked up to.
Master Class is also the title of the exhibit at the Pace/Macgill Gallery showing Peter Hujar’s black and white portraits, acquired by Richard Avedon while he was his teacher. These portraits give us a sense of life in New York during the 70’s, not through typical lanscapes but through portraits of important figures in Peter’s life and in the East Village art scene. This exhibition guides us through different perspectives; looking at his photographs through a historical, artistic and personal lens. It puts forward only a fraction of his work, but succeeds to show how talented he is, and skillful at portraying emotion and vulnerability through still images.
Peter Hujar was never one to crave fame, at least in the glamorous sense of it. He knew that he was attracted to the raw state of New York City and its characters. He took what was around him and tried to capture it, as it was. He was motivated by what surrounded him everyday, and what better way to give us a glimpse than to capture the people who were experiencing it.
Photographs by Cid Roberts