Not on view
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 19 13/16 × 15 7/8in. (50.3 × 40.3 cm) Image: 14 3/4 × 14 13/16in. (37.5 × 37.6 cm) Frame: 23 7/8 × 22 7/8in. (60.6 × 58.1 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee
Rights and reproductions
© The Peter Hujar Archive
Peter Hujar had been chronicling New York’s downtown subculture—often in intimate black-and-white photographic portraits—for almost a decade when he met artist David Wojnarowicz, twenty years his junior and at the beginning of his own career. Their intense, enduring relationship was an affinity of opposites: Wojnarowicz’s fiery, politically charged art belonged to a world far different from Hujar’s slyly seductive, classically composed photographs. But portraiture is a collaborative venture, and this image fuses their disparate sensibilities. In Hujar’s lens, Wojnarowicz’s steady gaze—accentuated by the dramatic shadows on his face and shoulder—is reminiscent of homoerotic youths who appear, lips parted and hair tousled, in Caravaggio’s late sixteenth-century paintings. Wojnarowicz’s expression, at once willful and submissive, suggests the melancholic complexity of a friendship that lasted until Hujar died of an AIDS-related illness in 1987. Wojnarowicz, who tested HIV-positive soon after, died in 1992.