Perspectives 179: Alvin Baltrop is the first major museum exhibition of work by this African-American photographer. Baltrop’s practice unfolded in the late 1960s amid a period of turbulent cultural, social, and political upheaval. As a young man, the artist was given a twin-lens Yashica camera that he would subsequently use to create an intimate visual diary as well as to chronicle the fleeting world around him. During his enlistment in the Navy, Baltrop created a body of experimental and documentary photographic work that would later inform his most recognized body of photographs, those of the Westside piers of New York. Upon returning to New York in the early 1970s, Baltrop immersed himself into the decaying, urban landscape and in doing so, created an extensive body of work of street scenes reminiscent of Helen Levitt’s New York of the 1940s. Unlike that era, the city had become a post-industrial wasteland with many manufacturing buildings left vacant. No other site embodied this more than the piers located along the Hudson River in lower Manhattan.
This survey features vintage photographs and rare archival material created by the New York-based artist from the late 1960s until his death in 2004. This exhibition serves to introduce audiences to Baltrop’s visionary talent as a photographer who captured the beauty and decay of some of this country’s most iconic urban landscapes. Perspectives 179: Alvin Baltrop is organized by Senior Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Alvin Baltrop was born in Bronx, New York in 1948 where he died in 2004. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and from 1973-75, and he studied photography at the School of Visual Arts New York. Baltrop’s work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Watermill Center, both New York. Selected exhibitions include Alvin Baltrop: Selected Works, Watermill Center, New York; Alvin Baltrop: Photographs 1965 – 2003, Third Streaming, New York (2011); Looking Back/The Fifth White Columns Annual, White Columns, New York (2010); Alvin Baltrop: Color Photographs 1971-1991, Famous Accountants, Brooklyn, New York (2010); Mixed Use, Manhattan: Photography and Related Practices 1970s to the Present, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2010); and Darkside II – Photographic Power and Violence, Disease, and Death Photographed, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2009).