Frieze – June 2021

What to See in East London During Gallery Weekend

Peter Hujar
Maureen Paley
15 May – 13 June

As nightlife resumes in London and New York, Maureen Paley has organized ‘Backstage’ – a collection of Peter Hujar’s behind-the-scenes photographs of performers and friends who worked New York’s clubs in the 1970s and ’80s. Mario Montez, Larry Ree and Georg Osterman vamp and pose (sometimes nervously, to my eye) in various states of dress. Despite their noisy, green-room setting, these are quiet moments for Hujar’s subjects, presented with his characteristic intimacy. David Brintzenhofe applies paint in a 1982 photograph, his face seen in profile, surrounded by dark. In skin-tight trousers, Divine lounges on a divan, head propped up by his hand as he looks off to the side. In a separate room, mostly of photographs of other artists, Paul Thek – once Hujar’s lover – stands on the beach, hands raised as he appears to demonstrate something brilliant. After all, these were exceptional queers, many of whom would perish in an unchecked pandemic a decade or so after they were photographed. As we ‘return to normal’, this show felt like a necessary reminder of what a public health failure can cost us, as well as a quiet exhortation to hold presidents and prime ministers to account. BY ANDREW DURBIN IN CRITIC’S GUIDES UK REVIEWS