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The Shabbiness of Beauty
Moyra Davey and Peter Hujar

The Shabbiness of Beauty Moyra Davey and Peter Hujar

The Shabbiness of Beauty Moyra Davey and Peter HujarThe Shabbiness of Beauty
Moyra Davey and Peter Hujar

Text by Eileen Myles.


128 pages
170 x 240 mm
ISBN 9781913620202


The Shabbiness of Beauty is a visual dialogue that crosses generational divides with the easy intimacy of a late-night phone call. Multidisciplinary artist Moyra Davey delved into Peter Hujar’s archives and emerged mainly with little-known, scarcely seen images. In response to these, Davey created her own images that draw out an idiosyncratic selection of shared subjects. Side by side, the powerfully composed images admire, tease, and enhance one another in the manner of fierce friends, forming a visual exploration of physicality and sexuality that crackles with wit, tenderness, and perspicacity. Spiritually anchored in New York City – even as they range out to rural corners of Quebec and Pennsylvania – these images crystallise tensions between city and country, human and animal. Nudes pose with unruly chickens; human bodies are abstracted toward topography; seascapes and urban landscapes share the same tremulous plasticity. These continuities are punctuated by stark differences of approach: Davey’s self-aware postmodernism against Hujar’s humanism and embrace of darkroom manipulation. The rich dialogue between these photographs is personal and angular, ultimately offering an illuminating reintroduction to each celebrated artist through communion with the other’s work.

About the Artists
Moyra Davey (b. 1958) is a Canadian artist based in New York City. Since the early 1990s, Davey has been making photographs, videos, and publications attuned to the overlooked, poetic details of everyday life and objects. Often working in series, she hones in on individual objects or offers visual snippets of domestic and urban scenes, absent of people but redolent of human presence. In her “Copperheads” series (1990), for example, she photographed pennies at close range, revealing the surprising beauty of their weathered surfaces, suggestive of the countless human hands that have held them.

Peter Hujar (1934 – 1987) was an American photographer best known for his black and white portraits of people in the queer arts community of New York City in the 1970s and 80s. He has been recognised posthumously as a major American photographer of the late-twentieth century, although his work received only marginal public recognition during his lifetime.

About the Publisher
MACK Books are an art and photography publishing house based in London, working with established and emerging artists, writers and curators, and cultural institutions.