"The Piers: Art and Sex along the New York Waterfront" Exibition

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

poster for "The Piers: Art and Sex along the New York Waterfront" Exibition

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The Piers: Art and Sex along the New York Waterfront is the first museum exhibition to focus exclusively on the uses of the Hudson River docks by artists and a newly emerging gay subculture. It presents over 70 works of art that demonstrate how the gay liberation movement--spurred by the 1969 Stonewall riots--transformed the cultural and social landscape of New York. For the first time such seminal works of the New York avant-garde as Vito Acconci's Untitled Project for Pier 17, Gordon Matta-Clark's, Day's End and David Wojnarowicz's series Arthur Rimbaud in New York, will be shown alongside little known photographs of the gay cruising scene by Leonard Fink, Frank Hallam, Lee Snider, and Rich Wandel.

After years of persecution and repression in the 1950s and 60s, the counter-culture revolution of the late 1960s brought about many cultural changes; this was especially true of changes in sexual attitudes. Public nudity and sex were becoming more accepted, especially as subject matter for artists seeking new forms of expression. In the post-Stonewall era, these new-found freedoms were swept up into a changing socio-political and historical landscape that gave rise to the gay rights movement. The New York Piers, where many gay New Yorkers gathered in the late 1960s and 1970s, where these new sexual freedoms were often played out, became the crossroads for an emerging gay subculture and for artists of that period.

Between 1971 and 1983, the piers were the site of an enormous range of works by artists as different as Acconci and Peter Hujar, Shelley Seccombe and Tava, Matta-Clark and Arthur Tress. Many of these same dilapidated structures were a locus for gay men to sunbathe naked, cruise and have sex. At the edge of Greenwich Village, this "arena for sexual theater," became the backdrop for elaborate photographic tableaus by Fink, Stanley Stellar and Tress. The Italian filmmaker Ivan Galietti saw the piers as an updated version of the ruins of Pompeii. These same ruins provided abackdrop for Jack Smith to perform Sinbad Glick for Uzí Parnes's camera.

In 1983 Wojnarowicz and Mike Bidlo took over Pier 34 and made it an extension of the East Village scene. In Andres Sterzing's photographs of the projects by such artists as Louis Frangella, John Fekner, David Finn, and Judy Glantzman, there is a marvelous sense of freedom and community. In general, the piers below Fourteenth Street, were in Gordon Matta-Clark's words a site of "interest, fascination and value," but also risk and sexual adventure.

Jonathan Weinberg, Ph.D. is a painter, and author of Ambition and Love in Modern American. He is a recipient of a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship. He won a grant from the Creative Capital/AndyWarhol Foundation to pursue his research on the piers and is currently writing a book entitled Pier Groups: Art and Identity along the New York Waterfront, 1971-1983.

Darren Jones is a Scottish artist, based in New York. He received a BA (Hons) from Central Saint Martins, London (1997) and his MFA from Hunter College, New York (2009). He has had several national and international exhibitions. Jones also works as a curator and is a contributing writer for ArtUS.



from April 05, 2012 to July 07, 2012
A panel discussion with the artists and curators will be held at the NYU Fales Library on April 12, from 6-7:30pm.

Opening Reception on 2012-04-04 from 18:00 to 20:00

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