New Show of Peter Hujar Photographs Captures New York City’s 1970s Icons

It's a series of intimate portraits of friends, who turned out to be legendary.

Peter Hajar, Andy Warhol (III), 1975 Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC
Peter Hajar, Andy Warhol (III), 1975
Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC

Big personalities like Andy Warhol, Candy Darling, and John Waters usually bring to mind excess, whether through hair and makeup or outspoken attitudes. But rarely are these 1970s legends seen as normal people.

At Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, a new exhibit of photographs by Peter Hujar titled “Lost Downtown” shows some of the most notorious art world and nightlife celebrities of the disco era in simple, sober, black-and-white images.

Peter Hujar, Installation view of "Lost Downtown" at Paul Kasmin Gallery Image: Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

Peter Hujar, Installation view of “Lost Downtown” at Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Image: Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Born in 1934, Hujar entered the New York City art world as a teenager, and worked as a magazine photographer in the 1960s. His artistic photography comprised portraits of drag queens, scene celebrities, his own circle of now-famous friends and lovers (Divine among the former; Paul Thek and David Wojnarowicz among the latter).

Peter Hujar, John Waters (I), 1975 Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC

Peter Hujar, John Waters (I), 1975.
Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC.

Immersed in the downtown art scene, Hujar appeared in the first reel of Andy Warhol’s screen tests, so it’s not surprising many personalities tied to Warhol’s factory are also tied to Hujar.

Peter Hujar, "Susan Sontag," (1975). Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC.

Peter Hujar, “Susan Sontag,” (1975).
Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC.

Writers like Susan Sontag, Fran Lebowitz, William Borroughs, and Vince Aletti also make cameos in the exhibition.

Peter Hujar, <i>Candy Darling on Her Deathbed</i>, 1973 <br>Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC</br>

Peter Hujar, Candy Darling on Her Deathbed, 1973.
Image: © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC.

The show could be marketed as a firsthand look inside the nostalgia mill, but it seems more like a series of intimate portraits of friends, many of whom turned out to be legendary.

“Lost Downtown” is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York from January 28-February 27, 2016.


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