MACK, 2021. First edition. Embossed printed hardcover, 128 pp., b/w illustrated throughout, 170 x 240 mm. Photographs by Moyra Davey, Peter Hujar. Design by Morgan Crowcroft-Brown.
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.