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Hugh Steers

Hugh Steers's one person exhibition Hugh Steers: Blue Towel, Red Tank, curated by Russell Tovey as part of the More Life series, is presented at David Zwirner Paris.

The institution's press release follows:

David Zwirner is pleased to present Hugh Steers: Blue Towel, Red Tank, curated by Russell Tovey as part of the More Life series, at the gallery’s location in Paris. The exhibition, which is presented in collaboration with Alexander Gray Associates, will be the first dedicated to the artist’s work in Europe and will be on view 4 December 2021 – 29 January 2022.

The painter Hugh Steers produced unapologetically figurative canvases that carried the lineage of American painting into the HIV/AIDS era. Inspired by the likes of Edward Hopper, Thomas Eakins, and French masters such as Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, he imbued his classical compositions with the emotional intensity that characterised a queer community on the brink of destruction. Despite his devastating subject matter, Steers’s canvases are suffused with empathy, pathos, and even humour. Steers himself was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1987 at the age of twenty-five. Although he died when he was only thirty-two years old, Steers managed to create a resolved and mature body of work that illuminated the physical and psychic spaces of sickness to a larger world, despite widespread and deliberate neglect. Embedded with yearning, isolation, and grief, his expressionist and realist portraits incorporated a symbology venerating the nameless denizens of a disintegrating and once raucous New York downtown gay scene, memorialising the loss of both individuals and an entire culture.

Curator Russell Tovey notes:

"In a Hugh Steers painting we witness a sliver of daily existence with such authenticity and truth it vibrates. Working at a time when the figure in art wasn’t deemed cool at all, Steers navigates us into a world of late 1980s/early 1990s New York City that for the artist, and for so many others, was completely shadowed by the spectre of AIDS. Steers has laid the quotidian reality of AIDS completely bare for us to see, forcing us to be witness to it. His raw and articulate renderings shock yet also compel you to stay. You discover that you want to watch them, protect them, and learn from them. To be a conduit for the rediscovery of his work is, of course, a thrill; but to help reintroduce his practice to a much wider and more contemporary audience is an astounding privilege. Just by sitting with a Hugh Steers painting we can understand ourselves better, especially within another global pandemic. We also rediscover queer history and the anonymous histories and daily lives—moments of humour, small joys, and devastating struggles—of our not so distant lost friends.

History is everyone’s—it’s a collective memory."

Hugh Steers: Blue Towel, Red Tank is the first European presentation that is part of More Life, a focused series of curated solo exhibitions shown on the fortieth anniversary of the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis. The series opened in summer 2021 with four exhibitions at David Zwirner’s locations in New York featuring work by Derek Jarman (1942–1994), Mark Morrisroe (1959–1989), Marlon Riggs (1957–1994), and the Silence=Death collective. Presentations followed in early fall in New York of Ching Ho Cheng (1946–1989), Frank Moore (1953–2002), and Jesse Murry (1948–1993).

More Life: Hugh Steers
December 4, 2021 – January 29, 2022
David Zwirner 
Paris, France