is an essayistic, textured retrospective of the critic and art historian Douglas Crimp
's adventures in Seventies New York, where he dialectically seesawed between the art and gay-liberation worlds. Crimp is well-known and widely admired for his activist writings on the AIDS crisis and for his work as the curator of the 1977 "Pictures" exhibition at Artists Space — remembered now as a signpost of the arrival of quotation-heavy postmodernists like Cindy Sherman, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, and Robert Longo. (Never mind that Sherman, the most famous of the so-called Pictures Generation artists, didn't actually number among the artists exhibited in the show.) The young Crimp's motile personal, aesthetic, and intellectual attachments — spanning disco and poststructuralist theory, Balanchine's ballets and experimental film — give coherence and meaning to "Before Pictures'" eclectic assortment of artworks and ephemera, ranging in mood from the Apollonian chastity of Agnes Martin's watercolor and graphite stripes to the libidinal and architectural abandon of Alvin Baltrop's gorgeous black-and-white photographs
of young men fucking alfresco (to steal Crimp's choice phrase) on the decaying West Side piers.
Photograph: © The Estate of Peter Hujar / Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Fraenkel Gallery, and Pace/MacGill Gallery.
Annotated with excerpts from his profound, delectably gossipy memoir,