‘The Piers: Art And Sex Along The New York Waterfront’ Explores Manhattan’s Gay Subculture Of Yesteryear
They might not date back as far as Athens’ Acropolis or Egypt’s pyramids, but according to Jonathan D. Katz, the piers which line New York’s riverfront serve as evidence of a lost civilization — particularly for the city’s gay community.
“This group of queers built this beautiful utopia and inhabited it,” recalled Katz, the president of the Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. “To see 4,000 naked men laying outside on a Sunday afternoon…it’s kind of inconceivable today.”
Katz is describing “The Piers: Art and Sex along the New York Waterfront,” the Leslie/Lohman’s provocative new exhibit which debuted April 4. Curated by Jonathan Weinberg and Darren Jones, the show is essentially a photographic homage to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) subculture that emerged in and among Manhattan’s crumbling Hudson River docks from the mid-1970s to the early ’80s.
“What needs to be understood is that what was going on was very much an act of dissidence and resistance,” he said, shrugging off the suggestion that some in New York’s gay community have over-romanticized the period. “It was a place where horniness and politics converged…every blowjob was a blowjob for queer rights. For those of us who had grown up outside of the New York City…it was the first time we ever felt like part of a significant segment of the population.”- Jonathan Katz