Philip Gefter is the author of Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, for which he received the 2014 Marfield Prize. He is currently at work on the biography of Richard Avedon. (January 2018)

NYR DAILY

Peter Hujar’s Downtown

Peter Hujar: Gary Schneider in Contortion (2), 1979

Peter Hujar’s photographic subjects were not specimens of American male perfection; his nude figures were idiosyncratic yet erotic. In one of his signature nude studies, Bruce de Ste. Croix (1976), the subject is seated in a chair, contemplating his erection. This portrait represents Hujar’s conscious attempt to reintroduce male genitalia into Western art, and he was taking it a step further: the erection had never before been photographed with such aesthetic regard.