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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Hugh Steers: Blue Towel, Red Tank


David Zwirner Paris / Paris / Art

The artist Hugh Steers—or Hugh Auchincloss Steers; he was a distant relation to both Gore Vidal and Jackie Kennedy—made dark paintings of American life at a time when the AIDS epidemic was taking hold in the country. In 1987—at the heartbreaking age of 25—Steers learned he himself was HIV positive, and began painting canvases suffused with suffering. He took inspiration from Edward Hopper, Thomas Eakins, and the French masters Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, creating classical compositions that reverberate with intensity. “Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline—they all had this austere beauty to them,” he wrote in a 1992 essay. “I think that’s what characterizes America, the atmosphere, its culture, its cities and landscape. They all have that soft glow of brutality.” Steers died in 1995, at the age of 32. He left behind dramatic images of mortality, isolation, and defiance. This is his first solo show in Europe. —E.C.

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