Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp

29 June 2017 -
19 August 2017

opening reception on Thursday,
29 June, 6-8 pm

Alvin Baltrop 

 

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp

 

29 June ­- 19 August 2017
opening reception on Thursday, 29 June, 6-8 pm

 

The photographs of Alvin Baltrop (1948-2004) were virtually unknown during the artist’s lifetime. A working-class African American many of whose photographs are sexually explicit, Baltrop encountered only rejection. In the past decade his work has belatedly begun to be exhibited, including at Third Streaming and MoMA/PS1 in New York City, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, and the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston. By far the largest cache of Baltrop’s extant photographs depicts the scene at the dilapidated Hudson River piers adjacent to Greenwich Village and the Meat Packing District. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, when Baltrop photographed there, the piers were a site of pleasure and danger for men seeking sex, sunbathing, making a provisional home, or just hanging out and taking in the splendor of the industrial ruins. More nefarious deeds also took place: theft, gay-bashing, even murder.

 

Baltrop claimed to be terrified of the place initially, but also intrigued; he began taking photographs, he said, as a voyeur. Eventually he became a denizen of the piers, at times living nearby in his moving van, which also provided his source of income. His rapport with certain of the pier’s users is clear enough in the straightforward portraits he made there, including one of Marsha P. Johnson, the beloved trans activist whose dead body would, in 1992, be discovered in the Hudson River near the very place where Baltrop likely took her picture. The rapport is even clearer in photographs of men removing their clothes to pose for Baltrop. And some photographs are so intimate as to suggest that the sex they depict is staged for his camera - or, indeed, that photographing was part of the action. Among these are routine sex acts, but there are pictures of kinky BDSM action, too.

 

Baltrop seems to have wanted above all to portray the environment in which these activities took place, the piers themselves. Sometimes you have to look closely even to locate people within the disintegrating remains of the pier sheds, much less see what they’re up to; and in any case they might simply be sitting on a window ledge or standing on a mooring. Or, more disquieting, they might be prone bodies covered with blankets, presumably sleeping. In many cases, there are no figures at all; Baltrop’s subject is simply the architecture in its vastness and melancholy.

 

Baltrop printed the majority of his photographs small, no more than 5×7 inches (approximately 13×18 centimeters), although he printed a few images considerably larger. There are variant sizes and crops of a few pictures. Because of the small size and density of information in many of the photographs, especially those of one pier taken from the distance of another, adjacent pier, you have to get very close to the picture to really see it. It has been noted that Baltrop’s pier photographs constitute a significant record of a lost era of New York industrial landscape and gay culture’s pre-AIDS history. There is truth in that view, but it suggests that Baltrop’s project was essentially documentary in nature, whereas the intimacy of the pictures, their studied compositions, their attention to the play of light and shadow testify to a wider ambition.

 

Douglas Crimp

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

Title card for Alvin Baltrop’s exhibition at The Glines, 1977
print size: 25 x 31.8 cm
mat size: 27.9 x 35.6 cm

Alvin Baltrop

Self-portrait (looking away), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 7.9 x 11.7 cm
paper size: 8.7 x 12.7 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man undressing), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.8 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 17.8 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man wearing jockstrap, holding shorts), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.9 x 11 cm
paper size: 16.9 x 11 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man sitting on windowsill), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.8 x 17.2 cm
paper size: 11.8 x 17.2 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man wearing jockstrap, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.1 x 11.8 cm
paper size: 17.1 x 11.8 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man wearing jockstrap), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 32.4 x 19 cm
paper size: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (framed: 51.2 x 46.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man wearing jockstrap, holding shorts, walking), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 9.2 x 8.9 cm
paper size: 9.2 x 8.9 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

West Side Highway and pier façade, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.5 x 17 cm
paper size: 11.5 x 17 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man looking in window), 1976
silver gelatin print
image size: 24.2 x 19.5 cm
paper size: 25 x 20.2 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man looking in window), 1976
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.1 x 11.8 cm
paper size: 19.2 x 14.5 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (two men sitting), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 15.2 x 24.1 cm
paper size: 15.2 x 24.1 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (open window), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 18.3 x 12.5 cm
paper size: 18.3 x 12.5 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (exterior view), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.8 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 17.8 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (exterior view), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.3 x 17.7 cm
paper size: 11.3 x 17.7 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (Hudson River through window), n.d. (1975-1986)
c-print
image size: 10.1 x 15.2 cm
paper size: 10.1 x 15.2 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (two men), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.7 x 11.2 cm
paper size: 16.5 x 11.2 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (wreckage), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.8 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 16.8 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (naked body), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 24.1 x 17.8 cm
paper size: 24.1 x 17.8 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (blowjob), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 18.4 x 23.8 cm
paper size: 18.4 x 23.8 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man from behind), 1977-1978
silver gelatin print
image size: 32.7 x 21 cm
paper size: 32.7 x 21 cm (framed: 51.2 x 46.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (body under cloth), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.8 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 17.8 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man lying in room), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.4 x 20 cm
paper size: 11.4 x 20 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (body under cloth), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.4 x 16.8 cm
paper size: 11.4 x 16.8 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (body under cloth, umbrella), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.8 x 16.8 cm
paper size: 11.8 x 16.8 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man in bondage), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.9 x 11.5 cm
paper size: 16.9 x 11.5 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man in handcuffs), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.4 x 17.2 cm
paper size: 11.4 x 17.2 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man hung in bondage), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.6 x 11.5 cm
paper size: 16.6 x 11.5 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (tied genitals), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.2 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 17.2 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (three men on dock), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.5 x 17.8 cm
paper size: 11.5 x 17.8 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (Tava from back), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.5 x 16.6 cm
paper size: 11.5 x 16.6 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (sunbathing platform with Tava mural), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.3 x 16.7 cm
paper size: 11.3 x 16.7 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (Tava mural), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.9 x 11.6 cm
paper size: 16.9 x 11.6 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (exterior with four figures), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 10.5 x 18.1 cm
paper size: 20 x 25.4 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (two people sunbathing), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 24 x 15.8 cm
paper size: 24 x 15.8 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (“watch out for pickpockets”), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.2 x 17 cm
paper size: 11.2 x 17 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (exterior with four figures), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 15.9 x 23.5 cm
paper size: 15.9 x 23.5 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (exterior with couple having sex), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.7 x 18 cm
paper size: 20.5 x 25.5 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (figure at far right), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 10.5 x 20.3 cm
paper size: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (Hudson River), n.d. (1975-1986)
c-print
image size: 14.9 x 10.1 cm
paper size: 14.9 x 10.1 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man going through clothing), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 18.8 x 28.5 cm
paper size: 18.8 x 28.5 cm (framed: 46.4 x 51.2 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man going through clothing), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 19 x 28.5 cm
paper size: 19 x 28.5 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man sitting), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.1 x 11.8 cm
paper size: 25.4 x 20.3 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man sitting, looking down), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 23.8 x 19 cm
paper size: 23.8 x 19 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man sitting and smoking), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.8 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 16.8 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man leaning), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.1 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 17.1 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (collapsed architecture with figure), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.7 x 18 cm
paper size: 20.1 x 25.3 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (collapsed architecture), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.7 x 18 cm
paper size: 20.2 x 25.3 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (collapsed architecture, couple buttfucking), 1979
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.5 x 17 cm
paper size: 20 x 25 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (two men squatting, handjob), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
paper size: 25 x 20 cm
image size: 17 x 12 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (handjob), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.2 x 16.7 cm
paper size: 11.2 x 16.7 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (profile portrait), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 12.5 x 17 cm
paper size: 12.5 x 17 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man lying down with unzipped pants), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.7 x 11.5 cm
paper size: 17.7 x 11.5 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (blowjob), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 24 x 16.5 cm
paper size: 24 x 16.5 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (hole in the wall), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17 x 12 cm
paper size: 17 x 12 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

Marsha P. Johnson, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.3 x 16.8 cm
paper size: 11.3 x 16.8 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (handjobs), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17.2 x 11.8 cm
paper size: 17.2 x 11.8 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (couple having sex), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.8 x 10.9 cm
paper size: 16.8 x 10.9 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (couple having sex), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.6 x 11 cm
paper size: 16.6 x 11 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (body parts), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 10.5 x 16.5 cm
paper size: 10.5 x 16.5 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man from behind), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 17 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 17 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man sitting on ledge), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.1 x 7.3 cm
paper size: 12.7 x 10.2 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man sitting with leg extended), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 7 x 10.8 cm
paper size: 7 x 10.8 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (man lying down on ledge), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 7.2 x 10.5 cm
paper size: 7.2 x 10.5 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

“At the Hudson River Piers”
selected by Douglas Crimp
installation view Galerie Buchholz, New York 2017

Alvin Baltrop

Dismantled elevated West Side Highway, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 16.8 x 11.4 cm
paper size: 16.8 x 11.4 cm (framed: 40.4 x 35.3 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

Pier façade with World Trade Center, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11 x 17.8 cm
paper size: 20.3 x 25 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

Mark, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 11.5 x 17 cm
paper size: 12.5 x 20.2 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

The Piers (Village People), n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 21.9 x 33 cm
paper size: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (framed: 46.4 x 51.2 x 2.8 cm)

Alvin Baltrop

Village People outside The Ramrod, n.d. (1975-1986)
silver gelatin print
image size: 19.5 x 25 cm
paper size: 19.5 x 25 cm (framed: 35.3 x 40.4 x 2.8 cm)