Before Pictures is a memoir of the art world and the gay world, their connections and disconnects, in New York during the first ten years Douglas Crimp lived in the city, 1967–77. It covers the period when Crimp was finding his way as an art critic, and it ends with the event for which he first became known: the Pictures show at Artists Space, which he organized in 1977, the year he also began working as an editor for the journal October. The book is structured around aspects of his early career—working as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim Museum, organizing a show of Agnes Martin’s paintings, reviewing for ARTnews and Art International, writing about Joan Jonas’s early performances, and learning about Balanchine’s ballets, photography, and poststructuralist theory in the company of his fellow graduate student Craig Owens. Combining autobiography and criticism, he returns to earlier experiences as a means of engaging with both a not-too-distant historical moment and still-current issues.
Douglas Crimp received a PhD in art history from the Graduate Center, CUNY and is currently Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester. He began publishing art criticism in 1970, working originally as a reviewer for ARTnews and Art International. Between 1977 and 1990 he was an editor for the journal October, for which he edited the landmark issue on AIDS in 1987. Crimp was the curator of the “Pictures” exhibition at Artists Space in 1977 and, with Lynne Cooke, he co-curated “Mixed Use, Manhattan” for the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid in 2010. He is the author of On the Museum’s Ruins (MIT Press, 1993), Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (MIT Press, 2002), and “Our Kind of Movie”: The Films of Andy Warhol (MIT Press, 2012). Crimp writes regularly for Artforum.