In the late seventies and early eighties, Peter Hujar (1934–1987) roamed the no-man’s-lands of downtown New York after-hours: an empty corner of Leroy Street (now home to Federal Express and just down the block from Gavin Brown’s gallery), the silent meatpacking district, seedy swaths of the waterfront known only to cruisers like himself. He also turned his camera on fellow nightcrawlers, from his lover David Wojnarowicz to the girl he found slumped in his hallway. Hujar’s more formal studio portraits of Susan Sontag, Candy Darling, and other bohemian cohorts inspired Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe, but his contribution to the subgenre of New York street photography that consists of night shots—long dominated by the more sensational Weegee—is only beginning to emerge. Today, as the cobblestones teem with tourists and Wall Streeters, Hujar’s nocturnal city looks improbably desolate, like the long-exposure streetscapes of the earliest photographers.
At Matthew Marks Gallery
January 15 Through March 5