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.
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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.
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