[img_assist|nid=10529|title=Alvin Baltrop, Untitled - The Piers (two men on dock), 1972-1975|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=520|height=353]
Open Eye Gallery brings together, for the first time in the UK, the work of photographer Alvin Baltrop (1948 – 2004) and that of the ‘anarchitect’ Gordon Matta-Clark (1943 – 1978), whose pivotal role in the field of photography has been often overlooked.
The exhibition focuses on the area of the Piers in New York City during the mid 1970s, and speaks of the state of abandonment and dilapidation these underwent as a consequence of the oil crisis that reconfigured the geography of the city as well as the international market and trading system.
The New York piers act as a mirror or counterpart of the Liverpool’s docklands. Historically linked via the transatlantic route that since Colonial times, connected Europe to the Americas, the Piers in New York and the docks in Liverpool experienced a similar process of transformation. Being unproductive and deserted, these were gradually reclaimed by an invisible population who used them for a variety of activities, from gay cruising, drug-dealing and smuggling to prostitution, but also bringing together an underground community of visual artists, musicians, film-makers, performers and photographers.
Whilst Gordon Matta-Clark was pursuing the idea that art could act as a catalyst for urban regeneration and land re-appropriation, Baltrop investigated the life at the margins, mapping hedonistic displays of flesh, occasional sexual intercourse, corpses that could be mistaken for sleeping squatters (and vice versa) and other traces of humanity hidden amongst the interstices of society, notwithstanding the sense of freedom and liberation originating in the sexual revolution.
In 1975 Gordon Matta-Clark illegally entered and took over Pier 52, a huge corrugated iron structure, almost classic in its majesty and to put it in Gordon’s words “completely overrun by the gays”. There he created one of his famous ‘cuts’ entitled Day’s End, a spectacular anti-monumental intervention brought to life by the rotation of the sun, that could enter the building thus reflecting in the water of Hudson River. As Matta-Clark was creating this architectural installation made of light, shadows and water, Alvin Baltrop kept documenting the activity of the only other occupants at the Piers. The encounter resulting from their different approaches is documented in this exhibition, that represents an occasion to look back at those years, reflecting on gentrification and regeneration across the ocean and at the simultaneous disappearance of the underground (sub)culture.