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N.Y.U. Steinhardt honors legacy of Gerald Pryor, artist and longtime professor, with exhibition of his work

N.Y.U. Steinhardt presents “G. Pryor/ A Closing,” an exhibition celebrating the life and art of late Steinhardt professor Gerald Pryor, from Sept.8 – 24 in the Commons and Rosenberg Gallery in the Barney Building, at 34 Stuyvesant St., in the East Village.

Pyror inspired students for 44 years as a professor, artist in residence and head of photography for Steinhardt’s department of art and arts professions. He died Feb. 13 at age 76.

Coinciding with the exhibition, N.Y.U. Steinhardt announces the Gerald Pryor Art Award, a scholarship fund for future students.

Pryor started the school’s department of photography in 1979 and served as its head until last year. He taught art in New York, Beijing, Shanghai, Venice and Berlin, and exhibited his work, which included painting, photography, video and performance, around the world. He was the recipient of two National Endowment of the Arts awards, a New York Foundation for the Arts award and a Gottlieb Foundation grant.

Pryor inspired many artists, including Felix Gonzales-Torres and Michael Richards, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. For two decades, Pryor paid tribute to Richards on the anniversary of his death with his performance piece, “Body Slam.”

Artist and Steinhardt professor Marlene McCarty, who taught with Pryor, described him as part of the fiber of the Downtown art scene.

“Committed to tough work that was not easily commodified, he was an artists’ artist,” McCarty wrote in a statement accompanying the exhibition. “He garnered attention performing his signature body slams in off-the-beaten-track venues, such as in an automotive shop or at Duggal, a photo printer’s studio, on rooftops or in the street rather than in museums and big-name galleries. Such energy fueled his career as a professor of photography. Through a collaboration with the International Center for Photography, he created the photography department in Steinhardt N.Y.U., where he invited some of the then-emerging Pictures Generation to teach classes. Gerald Pryor was a significant artist, who kept alive the idea of what an artist could be. Without people like him there is no art world.”

One Comment

  1. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost September 2, 2023

    I would have loved to see a couple of samples of Gerald Pryor’s work here. I’m all curiosity about his work now! He obviously made a valuable contribution to NYU by founding the photography department there. And since he taught in many different places, he must have shared — and gained — much insight that way.

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