Photographer Peter Hujar Captures Queer Bliss in “Cruising Utopia”

Peter Hujar's Christopher Street Pier #2 (Crossed Legs), 1976. ©The Peter Hujar Archive
Peter Hujar's Christopher Street Pier #2 (Crossed Legs), 1976. © The Peter Hujar Archive

The word utopia comes from the Greek outopos, which translates to “no place”—not the bacchanalian land of ambrosia and French kissing that we associate with an idyllic otherworld, but instead the warm bath of nothingness. Though this is the term’s derivation, its pronunciation comes from eutopiā, which means “a good place.” This friction—the opposing wants of nothingness and goodness—is the motor for “Cruising Utopia,” photographer Peter Hujar’s digital exhibition at Pace Gallery. The photographs in “Cruising Utopia” luxuriate in this space of dual meaning. With many of the images taken in the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS window, the photographs function like cartography, mapping the proximity of contradictory urges: our desire for pain is pushed right up against our desire for pleasure; our desire for cleanliness exists inches from our yearning for filth.

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