Alvin Baltrop, Untitled, 1969–72, black-and-white photograph.

Alvin Baltrop

Third Streaming

Alvin Baltrop, Untitled, 1969–72, black-and-white photograph.

Alvin Baltrop is that unsurprising wonder: an unsupported artist fully in touch with the preoccupations of his time. When he died of cancer at age fifty-five, in 2004, he had shown sporadically, at such places as the gay arts nonprofit the Glines, and the Bar, a dive on the Lower East Side. In a brief piece after his death, the New York Times profiled him as a neighborhood character, referring to his photographs of sunbathers, cruisers, and homeless kids on the West Side piers—but the paper did not, of course, reproduce riskier images of pulchritudinous booty, sex acts in progress, or corpses fished from the Hudson. At last, in 2008, a feature by Douglas Crimp put one of Baltrop’s black-and-white studies of a half-wrecked pier on the cover of this magazine; glimpsed between rivet-studded I beams and sprung planks, a couple in flagrante make carnal the unstable architecture.

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