New York City during the 1970s was a different animal than it is today. Empty, dilapidated buildings dotted the city, including Manhattan’s West Side piers, where photographer Alvin Baltrop spent a lot of time capturing images of life on the street. ''Perspectives 179 — Alvin Baltrop: Dreams into Glass,'' on exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, is the first major solo museum survey of his work.
The show is filled with images of sexuality in pre-AIDS America. Baltrop, who was bisexual, often turned his lens on the prostitutes, drag queens and gay men cruising the piers. (He constructed a harness so that he could hang from the rafters of empty warehouses and secretly shoot the scenes unfolding beneath him.) The exhibit includes a photo of a trio of young African American men, naked, lounging outside of an industrial building.
Another photo shows a young man standing in an empty warehouse, half of his body bathed in bright white light. With a mop of hair and wearing a pair of short blue jean cutoffs, white knee-high socks and plain sneakers, he isn’t involved in a sexual act, yet sensuality oozes from the image. The same is true for Three Navy Sailors, which shows one young man, his hat at a playful tilt, looking directly at the camera and sticking out his tongue while two other sailors standing nearby look on.
5216 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006
Audio from Baltrop’s interviews with some of his subjects and a slide show of more of his photographs accompanies the exhibit. “Baltrop, who is no longer with us, still has a lot to say,” says CAMH Senior Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, who put together the show.
There’s an opening reception at 6:30 p.m. July 19. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. 5216 Montrose.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: July 20. Continues through Oct. 21, 2012