NEW YORK, N.Y.-
In the 1970s, the abandoned piers along the hudson river in manhattan became a conduit and locus for artistic experimentation. while Gordon MattaClark, Vito Acconci, Richard Serra, Dan Graham and many others produced collaborative and multidisciplinary works that radically challenged artistic traditions, Alvin Baltrop (1948 2004) turned his camera to a phenomenon that has been rarely documented and written aboutthe precarious lives of the individuals who gathered and lived at the piers up until their demolition in the late 80s. Baltrop captured intimate portraits of friends, lovers, and strangers; homeless people, runaways and murder victims, sexual encounters; as well as the decaying architecture and the landscape of a manhattan that no longer exists.
The pier photographs are not simply visual documents about an untapped part of the history of New York; they also show how Baltrops practice unfolded during this turbulent period. alvin Baltrop: photographs 1965 2003 features the silver-gelatin prints of the pier series that initiated the artists posthumous fame, images made in the navy during the vietnam war, dozens of other previously unexhibited vintage prints, rare archival materials, and late works shot at various manhattan hospitals up until his death in 2004. The subjects range from military conflicts, lounging soldiers, children, prostitutes, public and private sex, crime scenes, and dilapidated buildings in the deindustrialized neighborhoods of New York. The exhibition is the first extensive overview of the africanamerican photographers work, and aims to show the formation, development, and refinement of a major yet underrecognized artists vision.
Viewed individually and as a body of work, baltrops photographs convey an idiosyncratic hybrid of Classicism and Film Noir. Baltrops ability to record spontaneous action as images with an aesthetic refinement transforms street photography into a probing form of social introspection. With the use of blinding highlights and dark shadows, his photographs depict the familiar as curious, luring abstractions.
Baltrops work was rarely exhibited during his lifetime. It was however the cover story of the February 2008 issue of ARTFORUM, and is included in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Selected exhibitions include Looking Back/The Fifth White Columns Annual, White Columns, New York, NY (2010); Alvin Baltrop: Color Photographs 1971-1991, Brooklyn, NY (2010); Mixed Use, Manhattan: Photography and Related Practices 1970s to the Present, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2010); and Darkside II Photographic Power and Violence, Disease, and Death Photographed, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2009).
On view at Third Streaming from March 16 through May 14, 2011.