Cover image for Pier Groups: Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront By Jonathan Weinberg

Pier Groups

Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront

Jonathan Weinberg

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Was: $34.95 Now: $24.47 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08217-2

232 pages
7" × 9"
34 color/66 b&w illustrations
2019

Pier Groups

Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront

Jonathan Weinberg

“An alluring homage to a time, a community, and a landscape that have long since vanished.”

 

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Subjects
In 1970s New York City, the abandoned piers of the Hudson River became a site for extraordinary works of art and a popular place for nude sunbathing and anonymous sex. Jonathan Weinberg’s provocative book—part art history, part memoir—weaves interviews, documentary photographs, literary texts, artworks, and film stills to show how avant-garde practices competed and mingled with queer identities along the Manhattan waterfront.

Artists as varied as Vito Acconci, Alvin Baltrop, Shelley Seccombe, and David Wojnarowicz made work in and about the fire-ravaged structures that only twenty years before had been at the center of the world’s busiest shipping port. At the same time, the fight for the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people, spurred by the 1969 Stonewall riots, was dramatically transforming the cultural and social landscape of New York City. Gay men suddenly felt free to sunbathe on the piers naked, cruise, and have sex in public. While artists collaborated to transform the buildings of Pier 34 into makeshift art studios and exhibition spaces, gay men were converting Pier 46 into what Delmas Howe calls an “arena for sexual theater.”

Featuring one hundred exemplary works from the era and drawing from a rich variety of source material, interviews, and Weinberg’s personal experience, Pier Groups breaks new ground to look at the relationship of avant-garde art to resistant subcultures and radical sexuality.

“An alluring homage to a time, a community, and a landscape that have long since vanished.”
“Eminent queer art historian Jonathan Weinberg makes the case for how powerfully gay male social life, cruising, and public sex were of a piece in the early days of LGBT liberation. In the wake of oppression that brutally enforced queer invisibility, a newly burgeoning movement sought to colonize public spaces for queer desires. Merging the political with the erotic, queer public spaces such as the piers have become quasi-mythic embodiments of gay life before AIDS changed everything. Weinberg here strips away the myth with a careful social history of the most influential, if unseen, crucible of gay liberation at the moment when the full meaning of that term was only beginning to be realized.”
“Powerfully moving and full of life, Pier Groups immerses the reader in an episode on the literal fringe, the derelict Hudson waterfront of lower Manhattan, and makes it central to the legendary art scenes of the 1970s and 1980s. Vividly illustrated with new photographic discoveries, Jonathan Weinberg’s fluent and searching work captures a vibrant lost community in which he plays a part as chronicler, interpreter, and participant.”
“Weinberg looks deeply into sexual cultures and artistic practices unfolding on the piers in the 1970s and considers the ways the art and cruising scenes are intercalated. His understanding of history, which rejects the logic of cause and effect, and his nonlinear approach to historical narration open new perspectives on artists about whom much has already been written.”

Jonathan Weinberg is the curator of the Maurice Sendak Foundation and teaches at the Yale School of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is the author of Male Desire: The Homoerotic in American Art and Ambition and Love in Modern American Art and a coeditor, with Alejandro Anreus and Diana Linden, of The Social and the Real, also published by Penn State University Press. He is the lead curator for the touring exhibition Art After Stonewall, 1969–1989, organized by the Columbus Museum of Art to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. His paintings are in many public and private collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Montclair Art Museum.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Initiations

2. Material for Blackmail

3. Degenerate Structure

4. David Wojnarowicz in New York

5. The Pickup Machine

6. Something Possible Everywhere

Epilogue

Notes

Index