Monday, March 12, 2018

UNSEEN OCEANS: A Splashy Review: By Polly Guerin

Dive beneath the waves and explore the UNSEEN OCEANS!  No bathing suit needed, just your innate curiosity to learn the latest advances in ocean exploration, the technologies behind them, and the mysteries that remain. 
     The American Museum of Natural History exhibition opens today and remains in a permanent space through Sunday, January 6, 2019. Plenty of time to get your feet wet, so to speak, and embark on a journey that takes you from the oceans' sunlit surfaces to their inky depths as you discover the latest ocean science and encounter the researchers and technologies that reveal our blue planet as never before.  It's a colorful world, alive with electrifying images revealing the unseen habitats of the oceans' most mysterious animals and inhospitable areas in unprecedented detail.  However, sinking deeper into the ocean, daylight fades, most colors disappear and life is bathed in blue. But diving at night with specially-designed lights and cameras museum researchers have discovered a wide variety of fishes and other marine animals are fluorescent, glowing in startling shades of red, orange, and green when illuminated with high-energy blue light. 
Photographs by Roderick Mickens, AMNH)

     Yes, our world is an ocean planet. More than 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by, yet surprisingly little of these vast realms has been explored.  Now, with the use of 21st-century technologies like robotics, satellite monitoring, miniaturization, and high-definition imaging, our concept of the vast oceans is beginning to change. 
     "All life on our planet depends on the oceans, yet they remain one of the last great frontiers," said Ellen V. Futter, president of the AMNH. "Today a new generation of marine scientists with a pioneering spirit of ingenuity and adventure, and an explosion of technological and imaging advances, are creating a golden age of ocean exploration, yielding astonishing discoveries at dark and mysterious depths." Image: Hercules,at a remotely operated exploration vehicle with instrumentation, lights and a robotic arm.  
     This multi-dimensional exhibition impresses upon the visitor that ocean exploration is as exciting and important as space exploration. In Unseen Oceans, visitors are invited to explore a series of circular, media-rich galleries showcasing a range of marine environments and introducing scientists who are using cutting-edge research tools and developing new methods to explore the oceans top and bottom.  

The ocean floor is another world swirling with discovery.  Only about 10 to 15 percent of the sea floor has been mapped with accuracy, meaning that we know the surface of Mars much better than the submerged landscapes of our own planet. But today, with the use of sound waves, radar and lasers, scientists are beginning to construct extraordinary detailed images of these environments. In Unseen Oceans you will encounter a gallery that features a scientifically-accurate re-creation of landscapes including a local "landmark": the Hudson Canyon, a spectacular underwater feature only 100 miles from New York City. Image: The Plankton Room
     PRESERVING THE OCEAN'S FUTURE As the human population has exploded, the demand for seafood has surged and destructive, wasteful fishing practises have cause the number of fish to plummet by 50 percent since 1970. Unseen Oceans also highlights the threat to the ocean's vital abundance--including over fishing and habitat degradation--as well as the conservation scientists and forward-thinking governments that are making progress toward protecting the rich diversity of living things in the sea.
      This is a breathtaking exhibition that unravels mysteries of the ocean with interactive exhibits that enchant both child and adult. For additional information, call 212-769-5100 or visit the Museum's website at
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! What a wonder world to explore. Unseen Oceans is a "must."  You will be amazed and learn more about the ocean that you never knew before. Fan mail is always welcome
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Monday, March 5, 2018

International ANTIQUARIAN BOOK FAIR: Review By Polly Guerin

A mecca for literary cognoscente, bibliophiles and a haven for the curious seekers, the NEW YORK ANTIQUARIAN BOOK FAIR (NYIABF) in its 58th year lands at the Park Avenue Armory, Thursday, March 8 and stays on through Sunday, March 11th.  I'm giving you this heads up on the Fair to provide you with plenty of time to view the exceptional offerings spanning the history of the written word that ranges from pre-Gutenberg to the 21st century. 
       So why do ancient books and ephemera matter? As one scholar remarked, "The story of books is almost the story of civilization itself."  
Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Medieval Manuscripts
While the Fair is considered a "must see" for seasoned connoisseurs and scholars, it has offerings in every conceivable genre and subject---something for everyone. The FAIR is not for the faint of heart, however, it is wise to invest more time to browse and linger over works that interest you. There is a vast treasure trove of material--rare books, maps, illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, illustrations, historical documents and print ephemera. The dealers welcome your inquiry and some have unique offerings at accessible price points. Now in its 58th edition the FAIR presents more than 200 exhibitors culled from the finest American and International antiquarian dealers.  For instance, illustrated herewith is an example of a rare book you will find at  the dealer, Phiillp J. Pirages Fine Books and Medieval Manuscripts. Over the years their business has gravitated toward historical artifacts that are physically attractive in some way---illuminated material, fine bindings, beautiful typography and paper, impressive illustrations and much more.     
Salvatore Dali at Biblioctopus
DALI fans may be interested in Biblioctopus, a multi-faceted book dealer which specializes in such diverse offerings as cuneiform tablets of 3000 BC to a wide range of first editions of the classics of fiction and diverse print material. This rare and amazing image of  Dali, the surrealistic artist, illustrates his incredible ability to create weird and wonderful works of art. This is an over-painted photographic cut out portrait, painted and signed.

     Ah, what joy it must be to hold the first edition of a famous author's book and then to own it. Then, too, there is Royal Books, a rare bookstore specializing in Cinema, Film Ephemera, 20th Century Literature and Arts and Culture. Among items this dealer intends to exhibit at the Fair THE
Royal Books rare Maltese Falcon
MALTESE FALCON, by Dashiell Hammett, 
 is perhaps the most influential single work in establishing the conventions of hard-boiled fiction. This first edition is a price clipped, yet un-restored first edition dust jacket. Another one-of-a-kind offer is Y0JIMBO, the original shooting script for Akira Kurosawa's legendary 1961 film based thematically on 
Dashiell Hammett's novels, "The Glass Key" and "Red Harvest." It is a working copy, with annotations throughout. The adventure continues with far too many worthy dealers (200) to include here, except to mention one more.       
Eric Chaim KIine Judaica and Rare Books
Eric Chaim Kline Judaica and Rare Books tugged at my interest with this Marc Chagall Lithograph complete with twelve original lithographs signed. But there is much more to their story; like some other dealers, they take books on assignment and do appraisals for estate insurance.

     What's in Your Attic? Special Event-DISCOVERY DAY, Sunday,  March 11 offers a FREE event with paid admission. Ticketed visitors the opportunity to bring to the FAIR their rare books, manuscripts, maps, etc. (up to 5 items). Exhibitors will be on hand to offer expert advice and free appraisals. Daily admission is $25, students with ID $10. And I just know a one day visit is not enough there is a Run of Show at $45.  LOCATION: Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, New York. The FAIR is produced by Sanford L. Smith + Associates. 
      Ta Ta Darlings!!! You will know where to fine me this immersion at the Fair. Don't you have a rare treasure to bring to Discovery Day? 
Fan mail always welcome   Visit Polly's Blogs at and click in the left-hand column to the Blog lings that resonate with your interest.


Monday, February 26, 2018

JACOB and HIS TWELVE SONS at THE FRICK: Review By Polly Guerin

JACOB, ca. 1640-45
Why does Zurbaran's  JACOB and HIS TWELVE SONS resonate today? Quite frankly, it is one of the best stories told in any New York museum exhibition this season. which traveled to the United States for the first time from Auckland Castle, County Durham, England. The Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue presents a breath-taking panorama, a series of thirteen monumental figures painted by the seventeenth-century Spanish master Francisco de Zurbaran. Image: Francisco de Zurbaran (Spanish, 1598-1664) JACOB ca. 1640-45, Oil on canvas. (c)Auckland Project/Zurbaran Trust: Photo credit: Robert La Prelle.
     This exhibition, through April 22, 2018, begins with the Spanish baroque master  Zurbaran, who in the 1640s made thirteen paintings of Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch, and his sons, who founded the twelve tribes of Israel. Each figure carries his share of the story: Jacob, now old, is folded over his cane, eyes downcast, ruminating on the future.
      The prophetic poem, "The Blessings of Jacob" a prophetic poem in Chapter 49 of the Book of Genesis was Zurbaran's primary source for the imagery of the life-size figures, each of which is rendered with a strong sense of individuality yet forms a synergistic part of a cohesive choreographed group. For the Auckland paintings, Zurbarian turned largely for inspiration from engravings depicting Jacob and his twelve sons that were executed in 1589 by Jacques de Gheyn II after designs by Karel van Mander I. The expressive and highly distinctive faces of each son, however, suggest that they were painted from life.  On canvases measuring nearly seven feet in height, full-length figures wearing sumptuous, exotic costumes tower over varied landscapes. Who commissioned the series is a mystery.       
Reuben, Gad,  Naphtali, Joseph 
According to archival notes: It was likely intended for export to Latin America. However, the paintings first appeared in England in the 1720s. Twelve of the thirteen canvases were purchased in 1736 by Richard Trevor prince-bishop of Durham, a supporter of Jewish rights.  He installed them in the Long Dining Room of Auckland Castle, the traditional residence of the Anglican bishop, as a declaration of his commitment to the movement for religious tolerance. Image: Reuben, Gad, Naphtali, Joseph. Franciso de Zurbaran (Spanish, 1598-1664) (c) The Auckland Project/Zurbaran Trust. Photo Credit: Robert LaPrelle. 

STUDY THE IMAGES. Both eye and facial expressions and costumes tell a story about each son.For example, on his deathbed, Jacob assembled his sons to foretell what was to become of them. Describing his eldest son, Reuben, "unstable as water," Jacob stated, "you shall no longer excel because you went up onto your father's bed and defiled it," a reference to Reuben sleeping with Jacob's concubine Bilhah, as told in an earlier chapter of Genesis. In keeping with his status as firstborn, Reuben wears an elaborate costume and leans against a column, signifying his strength and fortitude.  His downcast, shaded eyes and inward expression, however, reflect Jacob's prediction that Reuben would not thrive.
Zebulun, Asher, Issachar, Dan
Zurbaran's luxuriant treatment of his figures did not spare on detail. 
Benjamin, known for his love of fierce battle, stands with a wolf looking angry to his side; and Issachar, the meekest of them all, is accompanied by a humble donkey and wears only a simple robe. The most blessed of Jacob's sons, Joseph, who according to Hebrew Bible wore "a coat of many colors, is handsomely appointed in a fur-lined robe, embroidered hosiery and a regal, deep-green scarf held together by a luxurious jeweled oval clip. Image: Zebulun, Asher, Issachar, Dan by Francisco de Zurbaran (Spanish, 1598-1664) Oil on Canvas ca. 1640-45. (c) The Auckland Project/Trust. Photo credit: Robert LaPrelle.
    The full and multi-layered story is told in a beautifully illustrated exhibition catalog, but in the galleries, the paintings speak for themselves. In his day, the artist was often, and for good reason, called the Spanish Caravaggio.
ABOUT THE SUBJECT OF THE SERIES: The subject of the series comes from the Old Testament.  Jacob, the son of Issac and the grandson of Abraham, fathered twelve sons with his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and two concubines Bilhah and Zilpah. The sons are considered to be the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the forefathers of the Jewish people.  For more information and a complete schedule of programs, lectures, talks and a symposium in conjunction with this exhibition visit:
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!   These awesome, monumental paintings are a testament to history and an opportunity to see Zurbaran's defining techniques that depict each son's individualistic character. Fan mail welcome, Polly would love to hear from you at: Visit Polly's website and click in the left-hand column on the Blog that resonates with your interest.  

Monday, February 19, 2018


Norman Norell       It is no wonder that NORMAN NORELL is called "The Dean of 
 American Fashion." His sleek, sophisticated, American glamour was   visible in all his fashion silhouettes.  With attention to couture-  inspired  detail and luxurious fabrics his designs attracted an A-List   clientele that included Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, Jacqueline   Kennedy, Lena Horne, Lady Bird Johnson and a host of the   industry's fashionistas in the corporate and magazine worlds. Styled   with  classic and modern inspiration, Norell's vintage garments are   still worn by film stars and even former first Lady Michelle Obama.
      Image; Triana Norell, Roman-striped sequined evening sheath   worn by Dovima, 1959. Photograph by William Helburn.
     It is a timely recognition; The Museum at the Fashion Institute of   Technology (MFIT) presents NORELL: DEAN OF AMERICAN   FASHION (Through April 14, 2018). The retrospective exhibition 
celebrates the work of this pioneering designer who created some of the finest most innovative clothing ever crafted in the United States. Approximately 100 ensembles and accessories from MFIT's permanent collection, are on view, as well as a compelling selection of objects borrowed from the stellar private collection of Kenneth Pool. 
NORELL'S EXTRAORDINARY OUTPUT The garments, accessories and related objects are organized thematically to illustrate the range of Norell's extraordinary output and the consistently outstanding quality of work produced by his atelier.  Most prominent are the designs from Norell's career---from 1960 to1972.  All his formal clothing was noted for its clean lines and comfort. His love of wool jersey was paired with fabrics like organized for a dramatic effect. Norell also made coats and suits using jersey sometimes in contrasting colors. Image; Norell evening ensemble with striped Duchesse satin ball skirt trimmed in black fox. Photograph of Kenneth Pool Collection (c) Marc Fowler. 
MERMAID GOWNS As a fashion historian I can say, "I have always felt that fashion inspiration starts with the choice and quality of the fabric." That is certainly true in this case, because the most representative of 
Norell's work were his glittering "MERMAID" gowns that only a svelte goddess could wear. They were unique simplistic creations generously but carefully embellished with thousands of hand-sewn sequins.  The base for those formfitting evening dresses was the flexible knitted jersey fabric that could cling to the curves of socialites and other shapely movie stars and fashionable women. It was cut with rounded necks and a variety of sleeves, short, long or openwork.. 
      His other love of wool jersey began with the creation of solid or color-blocked shirtwaist dresses that were the antithesis of the splashy, floral, day dresses popular during the 1940s. 

Image: Norell sequined Mermaid evening dress, 1965. Photograph of Kenneth Pool Collection. (c) Marc Fowler.
Inspiration from menswear was another key element of Norell's oeuvre. As in men's clothing, in women's fashions, pockets and buttons were always functional, yet every buttonhole and pocket was beautifully finished; a hallmark of Norell's atelier. On view is a wide array of daywear with select menswear details and ensembles that clearly evoke the look and style of men's clothing,,,but after all, hasn't fashion traditionally borrowed from men's wear?
   Although Norell was not the first American designer to employ couture techniques, he was the most important creator to transpose them to the ready-to-wear level.
    The exhibition is accompanied by a book titled Norell: Master of American Fashion. Written by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de La Chapelle, it is the first monographic study of this groundbreaking designer. Published by Rizzoli.
     In conjunction with the Norell exhibit is THE BODY FASHION AND PHYSIQUE in the Fashion and Textile Gallery. A Fashion Symposium will be held on Friday, February 23rd. For details and to register for the symposium go to the MFIT website or call 212.217.4585.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Ah, to possess just one of Norell's classic, stunning fashions today. Rare to find, even in upscale Thrift Shops, to own a Norell garment is a timeless fashion to treasure. Fan mail welcome, I always love hearing from you, Visit Polly's Blogs at where in the left hand column are links to fashion, determined women, visionary men and poetry.

Monday, February 12, 2018

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: No Refuge but Writing Review By Polly Guerin

Tennessee Williams with Four Celebrated  Plays
The plays, "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Glass Menagerie" and "The Rose Tattoo" may be etched in our collective memories, but least we forget The Morgan Library and Museum's new exhibit on view through May 13, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: No Refuge but Writing
reminds us that Williams's plays (in in the image right) established the author as one of the greatest American playwrights of the twentieth century and his genre is even more relevant today. 
        Image: The portrait shows a pensive Williams in a dark suit and crisp bow tie, fingers crooked around a holder with an ashy cigarette. Photograph by Irving Penn for Vogue, April 15, 1951 (c) Conde Nast. Used with permission of George Borchardt. Inc. It was taken the year the celebrated movie "Streetcar" opened.  By 1955 he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards and a Tony.
      Williams was a master of language and a tireless craftsman and of said  he found, "no refuge but writing and couldn't resist gilding even his paintings with words." Yet, as anyone who's deeply read Williams knows, his plays reflect a great deal of his harrowing family life including Rose, his schizophrenia institutionalized sister, his parents poisonous marriage and later his own private turmoil from alcohol and drug addition to stormy relationships. 
A Streetcar Names Desire 19
The exhibition unites Williams' original drafts, private diaries, photographs and personal letters, and other ephemera that constituted his real and inner world. It reveals how, even as he battled critics and censors, the author found solace in his writing and his ability to weigh in on the theatrical productions of his work. The Morgan's show provides an upfront chance to peer into Williams' creative process and his ongoing struggle for self-expression, and how it forever changed the landscape of American drama. 

      "It is almost impossible to overstate the impact of Tennessee Williams on theater as we know it." said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan Library and Museum. "His plays are so acclaimed and so well-known that one can conjure his unforgettable characters and their immortal lines almost at will." 
      So it is that we, too, remember the unforgettable characters in the film version of, A Streetcar Named Desire: (1951) Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois and Marlon Brando as the brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.  A stage production rehearsal (1947), however featured Jessica Tandy who portrayed Blanche with Karl Marden, Marlon Brandon, and Kim Hunter.  
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ON SCREEN: The Rose Tattoo, based on the 1951 Tony Award-Winning play. This classic drama centers on Serafina (Anna Magnani), a widowed Sicilian woman living  the American South who is left devastated by the death of her husband. The arrival of Alvaro (Burt Lancaster) offers new hope for love in her life. Friday, April 20, 7 pm,
        Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, adapted from the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, stars Paul Newman as Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player who drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor). His reunion with his father Big Daddy (Burl Ives) who is dying of cancer. jogs a host of memories and revelations. Friday, May 4, 7 pm. The exhibition Tennessee Williams, No Refuge but Writing will open at 6 pm for program attendees.  Ticket info: 
READING TENNESSEE WILLIAMS Adult workshop participants will engage in close readings on The Glass Menagerie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and explore Williams's writing and revision practises. February 28 and
March 7 2-4 pm. Tickets (two sessions) $45, $35 for members.
     Just a reminder:  The Morgan invites LGBTQ friends to attend a special evening celebration feauring the work of two iconic gay artists on view this season; the playwright Tennessee Williams and photographer Peter Hujar with curator talks, live music, after-hours-museum access, and a wine bar. Tickets $25; $20 Morgan Members. Visit the website: to purchase tickets.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  It is interesting to note how much of Williams would explore the dysfunction of his  home life in his plays, but after all, were we not advised by our teachers "Write what you know."  Fan mail welcome: I'd like to hear from you from time to time just to know how much a feature resonated with you.
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Monday, February 5, 2018

THOMAS COLE'S Journey: Atlantic Crossing at the Met Museum: Review By Polly Guerin

Thomas Cole, The Oxbow, 1836
The Catskills with its cathedrals of natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes captured on the canvases by Thomas Cole (1801-1848) elude to America as a "new eden" in danger of destruction that Cole himself would shape a new metaphor in words as well as painting."
     I can but humbly remark that Cole's paintings are majestic reminders to remember how the artist did not sway from portraying how civilization would destroy the natural wilderness.
     THOMAS COLE'S JOURNEY: ATLANTIC CROSSINGS, a breathtaking exhibition  at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through May 13, 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Cole's arrival in America in 1818. The exhibition presents a new take on Cole. By exploring the transatlantic career of the renowned founder of the Hudson River School the exhibition examines for the first time the artist's transatlantic career and engagement with European art. 
       With Cole's masterworks The Course of Empire Series (1834-36) and The Oxbow (1836) as its centerpiece, more than three dozen examples of his large-scale paintings, oil studies, and works on paper provide an engaging insight into the artist's expansive oeuvre.  Image: Thomas Cole (American, born England), Lancashire 1801-1848 Catskill, New York). View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts after a thunderstorm--the Oxbow, 1836. Oil on canvas, 51 l/2 x 76 in. Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage 1908. Image (c) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Oxbow is a seminal landscape painting depicting a romantic panorama of Connecticut River Valley,  just after a thunderstorm; interpreted as a confrontation between wilderness and civilization. 
COLE'S JOURNEY His arrival in the United States in 1818, and his embrace of the American Wilderness as a novel subject for landscape art of the New World reveals his prodigious talent, but then, too, he returned to England in 1829-31 and he traveled to Italy in 1831-32.  Cole embraced the on-site landscape oil studies and adopted elements of the European landscape tradition and learned from contemporary painters in England, including Turner, Constable and John Martin, and furthered his studies in landscape and figure painting in Italy. On view comparison study of works by these British masters figure prominent in the show whilst consummate paintings by Cole juxtaposed with those works, highlight Cole as a major figure in the 19th-century landscape art within a global context.
Scene from "The Last of the Mohicans" 1827 
WARNING AMERICA  Cole applied the lessons he had learned abroad to create the five-part series The Course of Empire (1834-36), warning the the American public that the rise and decline of ancient civilizations could be a potential fate for the young nation.  Image: Thomas Cole (American, born England) Lancashire 1801-1848 Catskill New York) Scene from "THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS," Cora kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund, 1827. Oil on Canvas, 25 3/8 x 35 l/8 in, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford , Connecticut. Bequest of Alfred Smith (1868-3) Photo: Allen Phillips\Wadsworth Atheneum. 
      This is a powerful exhibition that takes us to a time and place where the landscape rose with monumental majesty, pristine and abundantly rich in raw vistas of incredible beauty, captured by Cole. A series of educational programs include the MetLiveArts STING: will feature an intimate acoustic performance by Sting in the Museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on April 24 for members only, and on April 25 and 26 (7:30 p.m. for the general public.. Prior to each concert ticket holders will enjoy a special viewing of the exhibition with curators Elizabeth Kornhauser and Tim Barringer.  Several other educational programs are scheduled, visit  Exhibition location: Floor 1, Gallery 746, The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery.
Thomas Cole in Plein Air (1801-1848)
  Of special note, I wish to mention that Elizabeth Kornhauser will moderate a Sunday at The Met discussion on April 15 at 
2 p.m. on Cole's role as a proto-environmental artists with scholars Alan Braddock and Rebecca Bedell and artist Michel Auder. This program is free with Museum Admission. In a gallery performance on April 27 at 6:00 p.m. , exhibition curator Tim Barringer will explore in a slide lecture the musical and literary references that inspired Cole, who was himself an amateur musician. This will be followed by a series of works for soprano and piano from Cole's lifetime, performed by Lucy Fitz Gibbon and Ryan McCullough.  This program is free with Museum admission, advance registration is required. 
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Ti's time to visit not only The Met's Cole exhibit but also to day trip up to the Catskills and visit the Thomas Cole site. The panoramic view from the artist's house is worth the trip just to sit on the veranda and take in the breathtaking landscape. For information contact Fan mail always welcome at  Then, too, visit Polly's home page and in the left hand column are direct links to Polly's Blogs on visionary men, women determined to succeed, poetry and fashion.

Monday, January 29, 2018

PETER HUJAR PHOTOGRAPY at the Morgan: Review by Polly Guerin

Peter Hujar, Self Portrait
Why does the photographer, Peter Hujar deserve the first full-scale retrospective of his work at The Morgan Library and Museum? 
      Good Question!  I'm glad you asked, because there is more merit in the exhibition, SPEED OF Life, than meets the eye. Through May 20, The Morgan presents one hundred and forty photographs of this influential artist.
      To understand Hujar one has to understand the man, the myth and the mystery surrounding Hujar's life (1934-1987). He was a fixture in the downtown New York scene during the 1970s and 1980s, in the East Village, where he lived and worked, at a time when it was a magnet for bohemians, artists, writers, drag queen performers, musicians and iconoclasts. Back in those days, the neighborhood was rough and raw, in perpetual state of poverty that bred the avant-garde. Into this milleu Huger's mature career paralleled the public unfolding of gay life between the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.  Image: Peter Hujar, Self Portrait Jumping, Gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund. The Morgan Library and Museum, 2013. Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francsico.
Susan Sontag 1975
INTO THIS MILLEU: Hugar began his career in the 1950s as a commercial photographer but soon left the market behind, preferring to focus on the creation of art.   In an era when cost of living was cheap he set up a studio in his Twelfth Street loft. 
       He created, in his words, and I quote, "uncomplicated, direct photographs and difficult subjects, immortalizing. moments, individuals and subculture passing at the speed of life"  Best known for his portraits of the most iconic figures of the time, from Susan Sontag, William S. Burroughs, and Gary Indiana to Cindy Darling, David
Wojnarowicz, and other notables, Hugar also created nudes, landscapes, cityscapes, photographs of animals, architectural images and documentary scenes.
Image: Susan Suntag, 1975, Gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endownment Fund, 2013, (c) Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.
      Hujar met Sontag through their mutual friend, artist Paul Thek, in Sicily in 1963. Sontag later contributed to Hujar's 1976 monograph Portraits in Life and Death, which included his iconic reclining portrait of the writer.  The reclining portrait is a genre of photograph that Hujar made his own. He relied on it as a means of reaching something unique in every sitter. To face a camera lens from a reclining position was a provocative experience and evoked different responses. Especially skeptic was his close friend Fran Lebowitz. .  
Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981
Hujar was not not one for self-promotion. It apparently did not suit him at all. Where others like Andy Warhol invented branding strategies way ahead of Madison Avenue, Hujar simply kept to himself doing his work. "One thing I won't answer is anything about why I do what I do,  Huger 
told David Wojnarowicz in 1983." 
      The most photographed person in his body of work, Ethyl Eichelberger, remains an instantly "double" subject, in whom neither actor nor role predominates. The subjects of his art Hujar wrote, were "those who push themselves to any extreme: and those who "cling to the freedom to be themselves." Image: Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981, Gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library and Museum, 2013. (c) The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. 
PUBLIC PROGRAMS visit For instance, An Evening with Fran Lebowitz: on Peter Hujar reflects candidly on the traits and joys of her close friendship with the artist. February 8, 6:30 pm, Tickets $15, $10 members. In addition to several other events the film, Pink Flamingo, is scheduled for March 2, at 7pm and Gallery Talks March 9, 6pm and April 27 at 1pm.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Speed of Life is a thought provoking experience. Be so warned: "This exhibition contains mature content and nudity. Parent/Guardian discretion is advised." Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on