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.