Thursday, November 12, 2015

Alvin Baltrop at MoMA PS1's Greater New York (revised)

This year, rather than focusing on new works by new (and often lesser-known) artists, or even new works by older, established artists, the Greater New York show at MoMA PS1 aimed its focus back in time to the decade it was founded: in the mid-70s, the counter-culture was active, and many artists were working outside margins of society.

A group that was possibly beyond the margins of society was the gay community. Even before the AIDS epidemic, some people saw homosexuality as an illness. For many men to satisfy their sexual desires, they had to retreat to a life of secrecy, meeting in the shadows of dilapidated corners of the city.

Alvin Baltrop’s photographs from the West Side provide a both voyeuristic and intimate look at this life. This series is displayed as small photographs framed with large mounts. While some of the scenes are portraits, the subjects aware of Baltrop’s presence, others are taken from a distance, a picture of the warehouse landscape, where only close inspection reveals the subject.

The distancing scale of these images forces the viewer to lean close to the photographs to see what is happening: scenes of love or passion, or occasionally fetishized hate in the form of extreme bondage, all within the realm of secret lives Baltrop brings to light in these images. This is an eye-opening and moving collection of photos that is at home within the Greater New York show.


  1. Hi Sophie!

    Your introduction of the exhibition is very concise and informative with how the curators changed who Greater New York features. Your thoughts are very fluid from one point to the next, and how you break down your account to the position of viewing the artwork is excellent and provides great clarity for the reader. Near the end of your article you introduce the category of “fetishized hate,” I am interested in understanding what that means exactly? I love your focus on this specific artist, but I am interested to know who Baltrop was curated with in the room?

  2. The Greater New York at MoMA PS1 is perhaps my favorite show lately, because of the good quality and diverse artworks on show. I am grateful that you introduce Alvin Baltrop’s photographs so well. The way you introduce is informative but not boring at all. To be honest I did not pay much attention to these photographs when I was at the show, and certainly did not know about much the historically background. Thank you Sophie!