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Alvin Baltrop: The Piers
Edited by James Reid, Tom Watt. Foreword by Glenn O'Brien.
Powerful, lyrical and controversial, Alvin Baltrop's photographs are a groundbreaking exploration of clandestine gay culture in New York in the 1970s and 80s. During that era, the derelict warehouses beneath Manhattan's West Side piers became a lawless, forgotten part of the city that played host to gay cruising, drug smuggling, prostitution and suicides.
Baltrop documented this scene, unflinchingly and obsessively capturing everything from fleeting naked figures in mangled architectural environments to scenes of explicit sex and police raids on the piers. His work is little known and underpublished--mainly due to its unflinching subject matter--but while often explicit, his photographs are on a par with those of Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar and Enrique Metenides.
While the outside world saw New York as the glamorous playground of Studio 54, Warhol's gang and the disco era, Baltrop photographed the city's gritty flipside; his work is an important part of both gay culture and the history of New York itself. This clothbound volume compiles the Piers series in one definitive monograph, a powerful tribute to a long-forgotten world at the city's dilapidated margins.
Alvin Baltrop (1948-2004) was born in the Bronx, New York, and spent most of his life living and working in New York City. From 1969 to 1972, he served in the Vietnam War and began photographing his comrades. Upon his return, he enrolled in the School of the Visual Arts in New York, where he studied from 1973 to 1975. After working various jobs--vendor, jewelry designer, printer--he settled on the banks of Manhattan's West Side, where he would produce the bulk of his photographic output.
Featured image is reproduced from Alvin Baltrop: The Piers.
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
The images, while sometimes loose and grainy, contain unsettling, powerful scenes...
Baltrop did more than document the world envisioned at the piers; he helped build it.... Black, queer, and unwilling to play the games necessary for success in the art world, Baltrop and his work - explicit but unabashedly romantic depictions of New York's gay and trans underground - never left the margins during his lifetime….Alvin Baltrop's emergence from obscurity should inspire more than nostalgia; rather, it reminds us that resistance - the insistence on the right to life - often remains unseen.
The Bronx-born photographer never achieved the success of Mapplethorpe or Hujar, but his images from Manhattan's West Side Piers illuminate a forgotten era.
[Alvin Baltrop] captured gay culture on the outskirts in 70s Manhattan and his work is finally receiving the attention it deserves.
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FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 6/14/2020
Featured image is reproduced from Alvin Baltrop: The Piers, collecting the former-sailor-turned-taxi-driver's photographs of the notorious, anonymous NYC cruising spot made 1975–86. Baltrop’s photographs of the piers are "an important, gripping, poignant and often raw series, sitting historically between the Stonewall Riots and the emergence of AIDS in the gay community, and showing a scene long since vanished from New York City," editors James Reid and Tom Watt write in the Introduction. "The images, while sometimes loose and grainy, contain unsettling, powerful scenes—lone figures disappearing into dark spaces, bodies half-glimpsed through windows and doorways, candid male nudes, and clandestine, hardcore sex in mangled metal; and also the darker side of pier life—arson, crime, and death. Ironically it was the powerful content of his photographs which put off most galleries from showing Baltrop’s work during his lifetime, meaning he remained on the fringes of the photographic world until his death, and his images were virtually unseen…" continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 6/28/2019
Featured image is reproduced from Alvin Baltrop: The Piers, TF Editores' classic collection of black-and-white photographs by the former sailor who returned from Vietnam to document the rough, anonymous gay "pier scene" on Manhattan's west side during the 70s and 80s. "Baltrop’s pictures show a gone world," Glenn O'Brien writes in his Foreword, "but the ghosts that inhabit these images retain the power to haunt our own time. In The Spectre of Promiscuity, Christian Klesse wrote, 'The spectre of queer promiscuity haunts the national imagination... Anti-promiscuity discourses are part of a wider and complex network of power that encircles queer sexual and intimate lives.’ In fact anti-promiscuity discourses seem to be an essential part of the power networks that define all sexuality. The tendency is to ignore the evidence, even that of the recent past, while what some call heteronormativity seems to be increasingly mistaken for a sudden leap in evolution. We should be thankful that the art of Alvin Baltrop exists to advocate a history that has yet to be written and to propose questions that are inconvenient and difficult, to say the least."
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USD $65.00 | CAN $87 UK £ 57
Pub Date: 10/27/2015
Active | In stock