• Beyond the Canvas

“I want to be discussed in hushed tones. When people talk about me, I want them to be whispering.’ - Peter Hujar (b.1934 - d.1987)

With his powerful black & white portraits of people and animals and raw cityscapes in which he captured the unglamorous areas of New York he used to roam, Peter Hujar remains one of the most influential American photographers. He is known for spearheading an avant-garde group of artists and performers active in the Manhattan subculture of the 1970s and early 80s.

Fame came late to Hujar, thirty years after his death, but his iconic photographs have been on show across much of Europe and the USA, and many now belong in some of the most prestigious museums' permanent collections (Met, MOMA, the Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago). Peter Hujar died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1987 at the age of fifty-three.

According to UNAIDS, in 2021 38.4 million people globally were living with HIV, 1.5 million people became infected, 650,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses, 84.2 million people have contracted the virus and a staggering 40.1 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic four decades ago. And while 28.7 million people have access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy, gender, racial, social and economic inequalities are holding the world back in its race to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

#worldaidsday #hiv #aids #peterhujar #photography #blackandwhite #blog #artblog #beyondthecanvasblog

Peter Hujar

Self-portrait, 1980

© The Peter Hujar Archive

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"I like the idea of thinking of femininity as something solid and enduring rather than always something fragile and weak." - Simone Leigh

As the 59th of the Venice Biennale draws to a close, I'm looking at the photos I took (they are decent, for once) of Simone Leigh's large-scale sculptural work and I'm having some belated thoughts.

Leigh's figurative sculptures in bronze and ceramic (the latter is her medium of choice) illustrate her relentless focus on the exploration and celebration of the strenght of Black women across global histories. The artist coined the expression “the creolisation of form” to describe the combination of different cultural languages: 19th-century West African art, Black American material culture and, importantly, the colonial history of international exhibitions with its roots into the appropriation and misuse of African tribal work.

Leigh's archetypal women are beautiful, nurturing, powerful and empowering. They are a hymn to female resilience and to Black women's ability to overcome oppression. These eyeless, sometimes featureless or even headless figures are haunting and majestic, and they ooze an unshakeable spirit of strength and resistance. They are the ultimate beacon of the female experience, which is why the title Sovereignty is so utterly fitting.

There is one more week to see this at the Giardini before the Venice Biennale closes its doors on November 27th.

#simoneleigh #venicebiennale #contemporaryart #americanartist #womanartist #sculpture #ceramic #bronze #artblog #blogger #beyondthecanvasblog

Sphinx, 2022

Anonymous, 2022

Martinique, 2022

Sphinx, 2022

Sharifa, 2022

Sentinel (detail), 2022

Sentinel (detail), 2022

Last Garment, 2022

Cupboard, 2022

© Simone Leigh

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  • Beyond the Canvas

"I hope to stay unemployed as a war photographer till the end of my life." - Robert Capa (1913-1954)

Alas, Capa's hopes were destined to be dashed, time and time again. In the course of his extraordinary career, he would cover no less than five conflicts. After fleeing his native Hungary moving to Berlin, he witnessed the horror and destruction of the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, WWII across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and, lastly, the First Indochina War, where he lost his life stepping on a landmine.

Capa's photos are powerful and poignant, visceral and intimate, historical and personal, often hard to watch as he always seemed to find himself at the heart of the action. It's impossible not to think that he felt something for the subject of his photos, some sort of emotional connection. Be it the last living moment of a Spanish soldier, the lost gaze of a captured invader, the hopeful smile of liberated people, or the arrival of the American troops on the shores of Normandy, Capa's legacy is one of iconic imagery shot through a lens of unparalleled humanity.

A thoughtfully curated show running at MUDEC in Milan until 19/03/2023.

#robertcapa #photography #blackandwhite #milan #mudec #artblog #beyondthecanvasblog

"Death of a Loyalist Soldier", 1936

Sicilian peasant telling an American officer which way the Germans had gone. Near Troina. Italy. August, 1943

Woman gathering a bundle of hay on a collective farm, Ukraine. August, 1947

Crowds celebrating the liberation of Paris. August 25th, 1944.

Moscow, former USSR, 1947

Ukraine, Kiev former USSR, 1947

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