Monday, December 13, 2010

Poland, part 3

Belatedly, here is part 3 of the account of my recent Polish art trip.

A name that should be mentioned in any discussion on Polish photography is Karolina Lewandowska. Ms Lewandowska was a curator at the National Gallery where, among other shows, she was responsible for an exhibition with a related catalog about the history of female documentary photographers in Poland. It is a shame that this book is not distributed in the US as it would have a significant audience across a wide spectrum of the photo world. Her focus now is in a foundation,  Archeologia Fotografii, which is devoted to historical Polish photography. The foundation is doing important work to preserve whole archives of Polish photographers often rescued from family members or institutions who don't have the knowledge or facilities to care for them. They do this on a shoestring budget that would shock even a US non-profit. She confided to me that they lacked the funds to by a bigger cold storage unit needed to house a growing collection of archival negatives. When I asked how much was needed, I was astounded to learn that the figure was $1500! Philanthropically minded folks out there, you could have a significant impact on the preservation of a photographic culture for under 5 figures! Where else could you have such an effect for so little. Think about supporting them.

A related but separate entity is Galeria Asymetria run my Karolina's husband, Rafał Lewandowski. Asymetria is also concerned with historical Polish photographers - and shares a few names with Archeologia - but unlike the foundation they have works for sale and feature some artists not in the foundation. Their publishing program is also worth a look.

I was treated to a personal guided tour or Yours Gallery, one of the most high profile galleries in Warsaw. Yours has a dual mission of representing Polish photographers as well as introducing non-Polish artists to the Polish art scene. On the Polish side of the roster, I was particularly intrigued by a one-name artist called Bownik who is working on a series of portraits about online gamers. Some of the work is a little too beholden to Avedon's American West aesthetic, but overall it's a strong body of work which explores a particularly contemporary population. Check it out.

The strangest piece of serendipity evolved around my introduction to Katarzyna Majak. While I was in Bratislava, I met my Hungarian friend, Lilla Szasz, who wanted to introduce me to a friend of hers who was a reviewer at the Bratislava Photomonth portfolio reviews. When she asked me if I had ever heard of Katarzyna Majak, the answer was yes but from an unlikely source. I had just finished acting as a judge in Raandesk Gallery's online photo competition, and my fellow juror and I had just awarded Ms Majak with first place! I had the pleasure of informing Ms Majak that she had won the competition, and we made plans to meet in Warsaw in the coming days. Ms Majak wears many hats in the Polish art scene. She has a complex, multimedia art practice, curates shows, teaches, and writes for the only Polish photo magazine, Fotografia. By all means check out her work. I send thanks to her as her guidance and stewardship were invaluable to my trip.

In part 4, a visit with a photo-reportage collective called NAPO and an all-too-brief visit to Poznan.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A brief Poland report-related detour

Yes, parts 3 and 4 of my Polish trip are coming, as well as posts about my weekend in Berlin and Paris Photo. But in the meantime, I want to plug an exhibit curated by Martha Kirszenbaum. I met Martha in Warsaw where she's completing a curatorial residency at the Center for Contomporary Art. She has a Project coming up in Brooklyn, NY the 11th and 12th of December that sounds exciting and intriguing called The Missing Link. Check out the website here. Check out her amazing bio here. More Poland on the way soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Poland, part 2

It's not like Poland doesn't have books and printed material ready to go. One of the first things that struck me when I started snooping around museum bookstores in Warsaw was that there are already quite a few scholarly anthologies in print, many of them in bilingual editions. Monographs, too, are in abundance and not just for the big names. But there is absolutely no distribution system for these books, and actually kind of a hidebound bureaucracy in place that resists sending the books out of Poland! I asked everyone I met if they knew this was the case and what they thought about it. For most of those I spoke with, it was not news that the books didn't get out but they were surprised that there was a ready and eager market for it if they did. More on that to come. But happily, one book did reach me a few years ago, a slim volume by Nicholas Grospierre. I'd been impressed by what I'd seen -- I even had him on a roster for a show I was considering -- but I just assumed he was French. It turns out Nicholas is half Polish and has spent much of his adult life in Warsaw. When Jan said this was going to be the first stop on the first day, I was pleasantly surprised that it was an artist I knew of and had been curious about for years. Nicholas has a number of satisfying and exciting projects, but I think the best are his explorations of how photography can be sculptural. His installations in 1:1 ratios of the original object, such as "The Library", are equal parts essay, sculpture, and photo. I'm less excited by his documentary work, but all of it is of a consistently high quality. He has a solid, well-developed body of work that is just waiting for some smart US gallery to snap him up.

The Centre for Contemporary Art is a beacon in the Warsaw art scene. Situated in a former castle overlooking the city, it is one of the few institutions dedicated to contemporary art. From my perspective, it is significant because it is the first Polish art institution to name a full-time curator of Photography. (Photography is still the poor cousin in the mind of the Polish art establishment. It is under-recognized, under-funded, not well researched, and often poorly archived.) The curator of photography at the CCA is Adam Mazur. Adam is an articulate and intense advocate for all things photographic in Poland. He's keenly aware of the deficit of information about the history of Polish photography both inside and outside of Polish borders. He's published a number of books and has curated numerous well-regarded shows highlighting Polish work. Here's a link with Adam talking about his book, "The Histories of Photography in Poland 1839–2009", from Krakow Month of Photography site. And another link with details about his exhibition of 21st Century Polish Photography, "The Red Eye Effect", which also had a published catalog. He's virtually alone in his position in Polish photography. Definitely someone to watch; he's smart, ambitious, and ready for prime-time.

One of the artists in the Red Eye show is named Wojciech Wilczyk. His website, for some reason I can't explain, doesn't list the book he did, called "There's No Such Thing As An Innocent Eye", which creates a typology of structures in Poland that had been Synagogues or Jewish prayer houses and are now something else. It's a super book, and yet another example of a publication that could sold in a hundred US venues to commercial and critical success.

Raster is an independent art space in Warsaw, established in 2001, exhibiting and representing emerging artists from Poland and abroad. They are one of the most well-known and well-funded of the galleries that consistently show in the West. There is also a Raster Foundation which follows generally the same program as the gallery but doesn't have the commercial component. The program of Raster is not merely focused on visual art but also includes screenings, discussions, literature events, concerts as well as informal meetings focused on the local community. Raster is run by Lukasz Gorczyca and Michal Kaczynski who have been established in the art community for some time due to their dynamic activity as critics and curators.I met with Lukasz and had a lively discussion about the Polish art scene and about the roster of his gallery. He was eager to introduce me to the opus of Aneta Grzeszykowska. I'd seen (and disliked) her "Untitled Film Stills" at Basel Statements 3 years ago, but there are a number of projects which I found satisfying and complex. The best for me is a photo album work which is culled from her actual personal family archives, but in which she has carefully edited out any trace of herself. I also liked her riff on Thomas Ruff portraits made entirely out of manufactured, fictitious physiognomies.

Coming next, more from Warsaw and 24 hours in Poznan.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Poland, part 1

Poland has been on my mind for a few years now. Asia Zak of Zak/Branicka Gallery in Berlin was the first guide to show me that there were interesting Polish artists beyond the stars we know from the big galleries. Her gallery (originally on her own and then teaming with Polish art scholar Monica Branicka) has become an ambassador for Polish art outside of Poland. Since meeting Asia, I've been keeping an eye out for Polish galleries at fairs and Polish artists showing with Western galleries. The fact that the art I was seeing -- in a variety of media, styles, and perspectives -- was all of a remarkably high standard and complexity, whetted my appetite to know more. I was developing a curiosity about what art I wasn't seeing; what art hadn't found a gallery or was not being taken to fairs. It seemed unlikely that a culture and art scene that had developed so many art stars would have, to use a sports metaphor, no bench.

Of course, there are names that are familiar to many of us through museum shows, art fairs, and high profile gallery affiliations.  Paweł Althamer, Wilhelm Sasnal, Monika Sosnowska, Piotr Uklanski, Robert Kuśmirowski, and Paulina Ołowska are to name but a few. Perhaps less well-known to US art consumers are Tomasz Kowalski, Katarzyna Kozyra, Zofia Kulik, and Joanna Rajkowska. Along with Zak/Branicka, there have been a few seminal Polish galleries that have had a presence at the big fairs -- Raster and Foksal, for example -- who have had an impact on the awareness in the West of Polish artists. But despite the high profile of these galleries in Poland and at major art fairs, I'm betting that most US art lovers are unaware of them or are under-informed about their rosters and programs.

Readers of this blog will remember that I visited Krakow a few years ago. That was my first foray within the borders of Poland which yielded, with the help of Galeria Zpaf i s-ka, 3 of the artists that I used in my Camera Club show in September. Zpaf i s-ka may be less off the radar after their participation in Paris Photo next week, but even then you couldn't say that they were unknown. For some years they were organizing Krakow Month of Photography, which (along with Lodz MoP) has been developing a loyal following every May. From Zpaf i s-ka and the gallery scene in Krakow, I was really starting to get a taste that there's more going on in Poland than we see in the US. I was determined to go back and make a more thorough investigation.

Before I really dive into the substance of my week in Poland, I need to say some thanks. Karol Hordziej from Zpaf i s-ka was my primary resource who got me started off with some introductions to galleries and institutions. Artist and curator Katarzyna Majak, who I met through a friend in Bratislava, was also a generous resource and translator. Martha Kierszenbaum, whom I met briefly at an opening at the Contemporary Art Center in Warsaw, is a young curator of French/Polish background who is working now in Poland but has experience in the US at the Whitney and the New Museum. She led me to some galleries and artists I wouldn't have found otherwise, and seems to be someone to watch for on the curatorial scene in the coming years. Her perspective is right on the money.

But my biggest debt of gratitude goes to Jan Dziaczkowski. Jan has been written about a few times on this blog and I included him in my Camera Club show last September. He's a talented and intuitive artist. I simply could not have done this trip without him. He spent whole days with me leading me from gallery to museum, to artist studio, to artist café. Needless to say, my Polish language skills are not, shall we say, fluent, so even if his contribution had only been as translator, I would be in his debt. But he was so much more. Jan is tied into the scene as a relatively recent graduate of the Warsaw Art Academy, so he knows who's doing what and where they're doing it.

Rather than make this an endless, run-on post, I've decided to break Poland up into multiple parts. I'm still struggling to digest all that I saw, so I can't say that I yet have a cohesive, overall impression of what I experienced. Perhaps that will come with time and maybe a few more visits (I'll go back in May for MoP in Krakow and Lodz). For now, I'll tell you about the places I saw and a few of the people I met (mostly with links to explore). Perhaps a picture will develop as I replay the trip for you. As always, I welcome your comments, impressions, and amendments. More to come.....


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bratislava Month of Photography 2010

Last week was the opening week of the Month of Photography in Bratislava. This is their 20th anniversary season so I expected big things. When I had been here 2 years ago, the festival had a few really first-rate shows, but the whole operation suffered from some shoddy administration and not a little bit of crony-ism. Still, there seemed to be a different perspective at play in this sleepy post-Soviet appendix of Vienna plus I saw some artists that don’t really get west all that much, so I hoped this anniversary edition would hold some hidden treasures for me. For the most part, no such luck.

Administration was again the principle roadblock. This is not a big festival – much smaller than the likes of Arles or Photo España – so one should be able to take in virtually every exhibit in one, well-planned day. But you can’t. Venues are open sporadically, and even sometimes not open when the schedule said they would be. Also, the festival has a tradition of sequential vernissages, so the whole festival doesn’t open on opening day. You have to wait until the official opening or after – which sometimes happens 3 days after opening day – to see the show. I would follow my trusty festival map, with its address and opening hours clearly printed, only to find the venue locked up tight with no one in sight. Arles gets this part right. All of the exhibits of the Rencontre are accessible from the opening bell, but there are celebratory vernissages spaced out over the course of the first week.

But finding the place when it was closed was, it turns out, a kind of victory. There were 3 venues I never found at all. There was a Witcacy portrait show I really wanted to see which was not exactly in the center of town. But I trekked out to find it and spent an hour hunting to no avail. Then I went back 2 days later with a friend who had more language skills than me. She, too, asked questions, pointed at the map, showed the page in the festival materials. No luck. We never found the show. It’s not like I can’t read a map or find an address in a foreign city. I found galleries in Tokyo, for heaven’s sake, but Bratislava didn’t give up its secrets. I wasted 3 hours, at least, looking for various exhibits, and heard similar complaints about phantom exhibits from other attendees. This is a failure on the part of the festival planners no two ways about it. I don’t think I’m setting the bar too high to expect that I should be able to find the shows using the festival map.

Ok, enough about logistical challenges, what about the art? There were some good shows. The best were three historical shows. The first was a Frantisek Drtikol essay from Czech archives. It really yielded no surprises but it was good to see some vintage prints of images I hadn't seen before along with some quotes by Drtikol and a few biographical details. 

The second was a fun assortment of work spanning the years 1840-1950 culled from the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art. The work ranged from early wet collodion glass plate prints made by Russian photographers to 1rst rate constructions and photograms by El Lissitzky. It was an uneven and loosely connected exhibit -- the only real thread was that they are all stored in the same archive -- but a pleasure to see nonetheless. 

The best was a super exhibit called “In the Shadow of the Third Reich” which were official photos of the Slovak State from 1939-1945. This was dramatic documentary footage of Slovaks eagerly accepting the Nazi program and forming their own units and paramilitary groups to support the German aggression. The photography was of a very high level and the message packed a wallop. 

On a more contemporary front, winners of World Press Photo 10 were predictably moving and powerful. As strong as the pictures were, the indelible image in this show came from the comment of one of the jurors. He stated that even the tens of thousands of images submitted for the competition did not give an adequate sense of the amount of suffering in the world. I am humbled by the thought.

The most contemporary work was part of group shows highlighting work done by students from two Eastern European art schools. The first, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Creative Photography at the Silesian University in Opava, yielded little pleasure. But the show from the Poznan Academy of Fine Arts was chock full of exciting and promising work. As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room in Poznan looking forward to a meeting tomorrow morning with the director of the Academy. I'd heard that Poznan was the one of the best art schools in Poland (if not the best), so I shouldn't have been surprised by the show. I'll wait to comment on individual artists until I've gotten more background from the director, and I'll weave it into my larger overview of the Polish part of my trip which will be coming soon. 

I'm sure I'd have more to talk about if I'd been able to find and see all the exhibits I'd hoped to see. Oh well! You can follow the hyperlink to the festival site to see what was on offer and to perhaps get a sense of what was in the program. I'll take a pass on commenting on the shows I didn't like. Suffice it to say that the problem wasn't that they were bad (for the most part) or provocative, but that they were so bland and predictable as to not inspire comment. I think my disappointment in Bratislava is partly because I feel it could be so much more. I strongly believe in regional differences of style and perspective, a perspective which Bratislava has an opportunity to highlight and celebrate. I know that there are talented and accomplished Slovak artists that are excluded from the Festival, but that quibble is only a fraction of a larger gripe at the curatorial choices of the festival as a whole. Arles is a long way from perfect, but their choice to have a guest Commissaire who lends a guiding principle to each year is perhaps something Bratislava should investigate. In  any case, I hope future editions of the show will begin to provide a forum for that which is most important and new in photography especially work which originates from that part of the world. If that could happen, it would be a must-see stop on any curator's itinerary.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dear Readers:

It has been some time since my last substantive post. I've had a lot of questions about the value of Fugitive Vision and of blogs in general, so there's been a bit of a moratorium on my contributions here. But I'm at the front end of the kind of trip that inspired Fugitive Vision in the first place; an art excursion that touches spots that many are unable to see themselves. Starting at the opening week of the Month of Photography Festival in Bratislava, I travel in a large counter-clockwise circle touching Warsaw, Poznan, and Berlin before finishing with a week at Paris Photo. It seemed a good time to start the dialogue once again. But before I start my Bratislava report, I'd like to share a few thoughts and questions about the blog itself.

I've spoken with a few of you about why you read Fugitive Vision, but I've failed to come away with a distinct sense of who my readers are and why they visit the site. There's so much content out there, so much information fighting for screentime, what makes Fugitive Vision a destination for you? Ferdinand Brüggemann, of Priska Pasquer gallery says he only posts a few times a year because he views his blog as a kind of archive. He knows that when the artists he writes about come up in searches, people find his blog. As opposed to Twitter and Facebook -- which he characterizes correctly as writing that has, at most, a 24 hour lifespan -- a blog post lives in search engines long after its original publication. Perhaps this is the answer for me. I've noticed that my "hits" numbers don't change much no matter how much or little I post. So perhaps a regular contribution doesn't really add much to the site. Should I email a reader list when I do a new post? Should I only post on, for example, the first day of the month so you know when to check the site? I don't want this site to be an onanistic enterprise (as most blogs are), and I really began to question my goals in writing here.

So I turn the question over to you, dear readers. Please post your comments here telling me what you can about what makes Fugitive Vision useful for you or what you'd like to see in the future. If I can read a consensus in the responses, that will be my path for the future. I'm eager for your input. If you don't want to write publicly or navigate the Blogspot spam filter, you can write to me directly at With luck, the address won't get trampled by spam after I've posted it in an open forum.

Coming soon, a report from Bratislava. I'll post 3-5 entries about this trip after which I trust I'll have some responses from this post. From there, we'll see........

Friday, September 3, 2010

My curatorial debut.

Press release and link below:

You Can’t Get There From Here
Curated by Evan Mirapaul

Featuring work by:
Stephen Berkman, Marco Citron,
Jan Dziaczkowski and Joanna Rajkowska

September 10 – October 30, 2010
Opening reception: Friday, September 10, 6 – 8pm

CCNY is proud to present You Can’t Get There From Here, an exhibition of four contemporary photographers who challenge our perceptions of time and place. The world as depicted by these photographers may seem familiar and real, but is, in fact, constructed or deliberately out of synch with our expectations. These artists, using a variety of techniques such as collage, antiquarian processes, and color shifts, create a visual reality that seems tangible and real, but is inaccessible to us in every way except our imaginations. Upon closer examination certain elements in these pictures are jarring or anachronistic, forcing viewers to reconsider their preconceptions about each scene, and, by extension, assumptions about how we see the world. You Can’t Get There From Here, is the fourth in a series of guest-curated exhibitions at CCNY.

Stephen Berkman’s work is rooted in another age. As he says, “My objective is to make my photographic works as timely and as relevant to the 19th century as I possibly can. ” Indeed, his portraits seem to be the lost work of a time-traveling tintype or Daguerrotype maker, one who brings his anachronistic modern aesthetic to an antique process. Like many artists in this exhibit, Berkman views history as a plastic and malleable concept.

Jan Dziaczkowski (pronounced: jotch-kov-skee) imagines a different history for Western Europe. What if the Iron Curtain had extended through the UK? How would Western European capitals look if the socialist architecture of the Cold War had taken root across Europe? Jan Dziaczkowski uses period postcards as base material that he collages into cityscapes that look realistic and familiar. These postcards come from a European vacation that didn’t happen, but is easily imaginable.

Marco Citron is also inspired by postcards, notably the Martin Parr collection titled Boring Postcards. Mr. Citron seeks out locations and vantage points in Eastern Europe that seem to have never moved beyond the 1950s or 60s aesthetic, which he then photographs in that period’s flat postcard style. Artificial coloring is added to heighten the effect of a place suspended in time. Though we could actually visit these places (they are the only photographs in the show that present an unaltered contemporary landscape), Citron’s perspective places them firmly in another era, one unavailable to us photographically, politically, and physically.

In her series Postcards From Switzerland, Joanna Rajkowska (pronounced: rye-kov-ska) uses Photoshop to combine two wildly disparate urban environments. Uniting images from public spaces in Bern, Switzerland with images from places of conflict in the Middle East, the surprise is not how different these places look, but how unnoticeable many of the additions are. The artist says, “Israeli checkpoints and blockades fit almost imperceptibly into a ‘Western European cityscape’. ” Despite how far away and foreign the armed hotspots of the world may seem to us, Ms. Rajkowska shows us how quickly and easily they could be made a part of our own familiar terrain.

Gallery hours: Monday – Saturday 12 - 6 pm

CCNY‘s guest–curated exhibitions are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

CCNY is celebrating over 125 years serving the photographic and art community through this and upcoming exhibitions, lectures, and special events. For more information, contact John Stanley at or by phone at 212–260–9927.

Friday, May 7, 2010

China redux

Is it possible to tell the difference between Fugitive Vision silence because of my laziness and silence because of internet control? I hope so, because I'm about to leave a period of the former and re-enter a period of the latter. I hope this next 2 week period of silence will not be tallied in the laziness column.

I've just spent the last 2 weeks in Germany and have much to report. I started off at the Berlin Gallery Weekend where, in addition to dozens of gallery openings, I had the pleasure to visit a number of public collections including the inauguration of the Olbricht Collection, the Sammlung Hoffmann, the Düsseldorf School focused de Ganay Collection, Daimler-Chrysler Collection, and Sammlung Roosen-Trinks. All of this will be reported on at a later date.

The reason for the enforced silence is that I am returning to China. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I will be a judge in the Shanghai International Photo Competition starting next week. If my trip last December is any guide, I will not have access to this blog while I'm on mainland China. I have no doubt there will be much to tell once I return from radio silence.

This trip was supposed to be: Berlin, Bratislava, Vienna, Frankfurt, and Shanghai. However, I did a VERY stupid thing. I forgot to get my Chinese visa before I left for Germany. Stupid, right? How could I forget this? The fact has really trashed my last week. I just got my passport back today from the visa expediter I use in NYC. I was without it for a week. Hence I didn't go to Bratislava to do the studio visits I had planned, and I didn't go to Vienna to participate in Vienna Fair with my gallery friends. Bummed. But I have the passport and the visa now, so at least the China portion of the trip has been salvaged. Sigh. It all cost me a bundle plus I really lost out by not going to Vienna and Slovakia.I ended up spending the week in Frankfurt with a day trip to Köln. Köln was especially satisfying including a visit to Schaden Books, Priska Pasquer Gallery, and Kolumba Museum. Reports on all of this and more when I get back. There are even some artist discoveries to make up for the lost Slovakian opportunities (Bratislava artist reviews WILL come at a later date). 

Stay tuned and be patient with me. Mid May will see a volcano of blog postings. Flights may have to be canceled..........

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Houston Fotofest

I spent the week of March 22 in Houston as a reviewer for Fotofest. This was my second time at the festival but my first as an official participant. The first time I went, I was bowled over by the abundance of art Houston offered me. Museum of Fine Art Houston, The Menil (which includes the Rothko Chapel and the Twombly Gallery), Houston Center for Photography, not to mention dozens of galleries are all worth a trip by themselves, and we haven't even started to mention the program that Fotofest puts together. Make no mistake, Houston is an art lover's destination.

The Menil Collection is an idyll for an art lover. I was smitten the first time I went, and time hasn't dulled my infatuation. Renzo Piano's building is an oasis for art, and the Menil fills it with examples from antiquity to contemporary that satisfy any thirst. It's my luck that every day I've visited has been a perfect spring day. Ambling along Michael Heizer's land sculpture in the front lawn, gazing at Mark di Suvero's sculpture from a bench under blossoming cherry trees, or simply marveling at how Piano's architecture seamlessly blends with the neighborhood, the experience comes close to perfection.  Maurizio Cattelan was a guest curator for the installation that was up while I was there interweaving his own works into the holdings of the collection with wit and intelligence.

Anne Wilkes Tucker has few peers in the photographic museum community. In Houston at the MFA, she has built one of the great collections of photography in the American museum canon. I've had the pleasure of meeting her in a number of cities around the world where I've benefited from her quiet and generous pedagogical spirit, so it's a special treat to be on her home court. I won't labor the details of the exhibit I saw this time, I only mention that this, too, is a Houston treasure worth a special visit.

But the reason we all trek down to Houston every two years is Fotofest itself. And the soul of Fotofest is the portfolio review. Four full-on weeks of them. Hundreds of photographers and dozens upon dozens of reviewers. The sheer quantity of work being looked at boggles the mind. In addition to the official review sessions, photographers roam the lobby of the hotel asking for extra sessions. I'd been warned before I went the first time that I should choose carefully which bathroom to use because one might be asked to look at work mid-stream, so to speak. I wasn't accosted like that, but there many requests for extra time. I figure that's the reason I'm there, so I usually say yes, but it's an exhausting schedule even without the extras. The size of the event, in a funny way, is one of the few disappointments of the festival. Unless you attend the full four weeks, there's no telling what interesting artist you missed in a previous or succeeding week. But that's a quibble. There's plenty of visual nourishment in any given week. Fotofest also mounts exhibitions. They usually contain a mix of established and less seen artists. The lesser known artists are either younger or are from places less well-served by a gallery scene. I count these introductions as highly as the ones I make at the reviewer tables. The following recommendations are a combination of work I saw in the exhibits and work I saw at the official review sessions.

Portfolio review is a funny animal. Both artist and reviewer come to the table with expectations and assumptions. Some of these are reasonable and helpful, and others are....well....something else. I'll leave it to a future post to air my (highly subjective) thoughts on review sessions, but suffice it to say I heard about some mind-boggling behavior from both sides of the equation. My philosophy about reviews is that the artist has paid a fee and deserves something back for that fee. Unless the artist specifically asks my opinion about the work, I usually restrict my comments to practical suggestions for career advancement and professional opportunities. That is what most of the artists have paid their fees to receive. Of course, it goes without saying that there's work which speaks to me more personally that others. Below you'll find a list of the work I found most satisfying - both in the reviews and in the shows - with a short description and a website. My apologies to those of you whom I met and are not listed. This is a highly edited and personal list which excludes much very fine work.

Houston Center for Photography had a solo show for Anthony Goicolea. Mr. Goicolea needs no introduction from me, but I wanted to mention him for two reasons. The first reason is that I have underestimated him. I was completely unimpressed with the early series that chronicled teenage boys in metaphorical tableaux, but subsequently I have been won over. The last 2 shows at Postmasters Gallery have been spectacular and unassailable. The second reason is that the HCP show was also a marvel. In particular, the diptychs from the "Related" series are masterpieces. From the artist's website: Goicolea has executed a series of portraits based on old photographs of family members, known and unknown, while they were still living in Cuba. By drawing and painting these portraits, Goicolea creates a reinterpreted, second-generation reproduction of their likenesses. These images are drawn to resemble daguerreotypes and are executed in negative on layered Mylar and glass. After drawing his own negatives, Goicolea then inverts them to create a positive photographic mirror of each drawing.
This is an artist to follow. I am a convert. If you haven't already, check him out. he's the real deal.

Matthew Brandt was included in one of the Fotofest shows highlighting young artists from Southern California. I was impressed by his integrated use of substances taken from the subject of his photograph (lake water, body fluids) and antiquarian processes.

Myra Greene has a gorgeously realized and completed project of ambrotype self-portraits that explore the representation of cultural stereotypes in 19th century photo objects. Super.

Jason Lazarus and Richard Mosse were part of a Fotofest show, "Whatever Was Splendid: New American Photographs". Mr. Lazarus' use of fictionalized narratives paired with found photos blown up to epic size were new (at least to me) and very effective. Mr. Mosse had eerily beautiful portraits of car carcasses demolished by warfare in Iraq in addition to a terrifying video which united wounded American vets playing violent video games at Walter Reade with video game-like footage of actual airstrikes. Not to be missed.,

Andrew Buurman was showing a fine series highlighting people in positions of worship and devotion while gazing at schedule boards in transit hubs. He's also the creator of a fine book called "Allotments" which is available on Amazon.

Greta Pratt has a CV which would lead you to believe she's better known than she is. A solo show at the Smithsonian including a catalog, a solo show at MassMoCA, and a Steidl book to count just a few high points. She has a number of finely developed projects -- my favorite is Lincoln portraits -- that are ripe picking for a smart gallery. Collectors take note, too. Prints are available and are inexplicably undersold.

Erika Diettes is a sensitive yet unsentimental Colombian artist who was showing powerful work about the Disappeared Ones from Colombia's drug wars. Ms Diettes understood that many bodies were disposed of in lakes and rivers, so frequently the only way family knew of the loved one's death was when an article of clothing washed ashore. In her "Rio Abajo" series she photographed pieces of the found clothing submerged in water, then mounted the photo to a body-sized glass panel which is suspended from the ceiling. Simple and powerful. In some ways it's reminiscent of that other important Colombian artist, Oscar Muñoz (a link she happily admits), but the work stands easily apart and for itself.

Amy Eckert brought some small, intellectually engaging collages which discussed architecture and our ideas of home. They combine magazine images with her own photographs in a way that left me completely convinced. I plan to buy.

David Rochkind had a compelling documentary series about the effect of the drug trade on rural Mexican cities. By his own admission it's a wok in progress, but worth a look for fans of tough, clear-eyed documentary work.

Dennis Yermoshin showed an autobiographical/documentary series about his immigrant Azerbaijani family which was solid and compelling. He's young and maybe a tad unseasoned, but he's super talented and one to watch.

I saw Chris Sims' work as a juror for Critical Mass last year. I reviewed it highly there, and I continue to be impressed. The series he showed me here was about faux Iraqi villages built on US Army bases to "acclimate" soldiers to life in a middle eastern combat zone. If they weren't terrifyingly surreal they'd be funny.

I'm in Germany now. Posts from Berlin's Gallery Weekend coming soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yes, I'm overdue for a post......

Sorry for the month without a post. I'm overdue to do my recap of what I saw while reviewing at Fotofest as well as a few shows in Houston and NYC. Coming soon as well are details from my upcoming trip to Berlin, Bratislava, and Vienna. That trip ends with a 9 day stay in Shanghai. I was invited to be a juror for the 10th International Shanghai Photo Competition. They wrote to me a few days ago to inform me that there were fewer Western artists in the mix this year over last year, and that they would like to spread the word that it's not too late to apply. Check out this link if you're a photographer to see if this is something you'd like to be a part of. As a juror, I'd love to see the greatest diversity possible in the applicant pool. Check it out.

More soon.....

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Photography Dead? SFMoMA tries to answer....

San Francisco Museum of Art is hosting a provocative seminar titled "Is Photography Over?". They've assembled an impressive roster of panelists to debate the topic. You can read more about it here:

I mention it here - fully aware that most of us won't be able to go - because of the wise format of the seminar. The topic question has been asked in advance to all of the participants, and their answers are posted online here. It's one of the pithiest collections of photographically themed essays I've read in a long time. Highly recommended. None of them are more than a few paragraphs, and a few are gems. Check it out.

Houston Fotofest report coming soon.....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Evan's AIPAD Overview.

Better too late than never is an aphorism I've always enjoyed, so here now, too late, are my first impressions of the 2010 edition of the AIPAD show. Perhaps those of you heading to the fair on the weekend will get some benefit from the overview, though I suspect most of my readers have already been at least once and made their own first impressions.

Attendance seems good and the energy was high in the first days. Even during work hours on Thursday and Friday, the aisles were never empty. AIPAD is not the place to find the most cutting edge work in the field, but I was happy to see a few examples of forward thinking art. For example, Stephen Bulger from Toronto was doing brisk business with Alison Rossiter's "lament" series. Ms Rossiter has been working with expired photo paper in a variety of ways over the last few years exploring the material's rich surface as well as damage that has accrued to the paper. Some pieces chart only the damage as she prints the unexposed paper revealing scars from mold, light, and handling. Other paper is put into contact directly with developer chemical by dipping or pouring. The result is a remarkable "photogram" that is achieved without the use of light communicating sadness at the loss of photographic materials that is quite poignant.

On the classic front, there are many more superb examples to illustrate. Charles Schwartz can always be counted on to bring an array of stunning 19th century work. In addition to some intriguing Orientalia, his pride of place went to a fine example of Robert Howlett's portrait of a ship owner from 1857. Another amazing example is at the Met as part of the Gilman Paper Collection.

[Isambard Kingdom Brunel Standing Before the Launching Chains of the Great Eastern]  
Robert Howlett (English, 1831–1858)

The Weston Gallery had a marvelous anonymous diptych featuring a cyanotype photogram of a pair of ferns paired with the actual botanical examples used to make the print. I have no idea how these fragile little plants have survived 180 years, but here they are for us to see:

Gary Edwards brought another set of brilliant hand-tinted tintypes and salt prints. Featured were a set of soldiers and another set of African-American portraits. Gorgeous, subtle, and rare. Take a close look.

Moving forward in history a bit, Charles Isaacs had praiseworthy photos both on his walls and in his bins. On the walls, one is treated to a Brancusi portrait of his own iconic scupture, Bird in Space. Though conservation has been done to this print, it's still a stunning object. Details and provenance below:
Constantin Brancusi: Bird in Space. Vintage silver print, 11-1/4 x 8-9/16 in. (287 x 218 mm), c. 1930/1945, unmounted. w1589. Gift of the artist to the photographer Bernhard Moosbrugger in 1955, when he and journalist Gladys Weigner made eight visits to the artist.  

Also in the booth at Isaacs' is a solarized nude by Blanc & Demilly. It's already sold, so take a look before it disappears:
In the bins and available upon request are a deceptively modern Pompeii study attributed to Giorgio Sommer, William Larson fax pieces and figure studies, and a Nathan Lerner study in light on paper titled, "Car Light Study #7". It's a vintage silver print from 1939. Lerner (1913-1999) was one of the original students at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and later became the Head of the Photography Department at the School of Design, and then Dean of Faculty and Students. If you're interested in Chicago School work, ask Chuck to bring it out.

Continuing our march up the photo history timeline, Hemphill Gallery has a wall of vintage William Christenberry Kodak Brownie color landscapes, L. Parker Stephenson has a fun Umbo photogram of stockings (as well as my friend Raphael Dallaporta's Antipersonnel series),
And Paul Hertzmann had a lovely 1935 solarized nude by Osamu Shiiara.

Steven Kasher's booth was full of unexpected pleasures and treasures. Top on my list was a collection of hand-tinted, vernacular portraits of African-Americans from the 60s. Vernacular may be an erroneous term here since the pictures show a sure professional hand, so perhaps anonymous is a more apt description. In any case, I loved their quirky flavor:

Deborah Bell always delivers with great examples from still-under-appreciated Gerard P. Fieret. If I had the cash, I would buy a box of them. I'm confused why they don't catch on:

Laurence Miller also was pitching to my wheelhouse with a striking example of a nude composite from my perennial favorite, Ray K. Metzker along with a wall vintage Helen Levitt that deserves close attention.
Also in Miller's booth were film strip explorations by Barbara Blondeau. Blondeau died young and left us little work to admire, but what she accomplished shows that she would have been a keen contributor to the Chicago legacy along with her Philadelphia compatriots Ray Metzker and William Larson. Sorry for the particularly crappy jpeg:

I was helping Tom Gitterman in his booth this year, so I can't say I'm neutral, but I'm a big fan of his selection of both Kenneth Josephson and Ferenc Berko. There are prime examples on the walls and in the bins.

Last, and not least, is the booth for AXA art insurance. While they were not intentionally displaying artwork, the examples they brought of burned and destroyed art was sublime and beautiful perhaps above anything else I saw at the fair. If you put a wall label of an established artist like Thomas Zipp under either of these works, you could have sold them at last week's Armory fair for high 5 figures. Take a look when you pass by:
More to come. Comments welcome and encouraged......

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A plug for my own event

Here's a quick notice about an interview I'll be doing at the NYPL this Saturday. I thought I'd post it before the madness of AIPAD starts. I'll be busy with dispatches from the fairs over the next few days, so I wanted to be sure I let everyone know about this which I copy from a NYPL press release:

M i d - M a n h a t t a n L i b r a r y
  An Artist Dialogue Series Event  
Christian Erroi and Evan Mirapaul
  Saturday March 20, 2010
2:30 p.m. on the 6th floor
Mid-Manhattan Library
The New York Public Library
40th Street and 5th Avenue
New York , NY 10016
Elevators access the 6th floor after 2p.m.
All events are FREE and subject to last minute change or cancellation.
Evan Mirapaul, contemporary art collector, will join artist Christian Erroi to talk about art and life and to discuss his site-specific Art in the Windows exhibition Leads and Traces .
Christian Erroi is a photographer who lives and works in New York . His wellsprings of inspiration have long been from nature and introspection about his own physiological studies. Since 2001, his personal work has ranged from abstracted landscapes to calligraphic figure studies. He studied at the International Center of Photography in New York. His work was selected for two Art + Commerce Festivals of Emerging Photographers. In 2008, he had his first solo exhibition in the United States, at Poissant Gallery in Houston, as part of Houston Fotofest. He has exhibited his work in numerous group shows in the U.S. and Europe, and also in several solo exhibitions in Switzerland. In 2009 he was a featured artist in the LiShui Photo Festival in China . His work is held in many private collections worldwide, and in the collection of Museum of Modern Art , New York; the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; the Museo Cantonale di Lugano and the Musee de l'Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Initiated in 2004, the Artist Dialogues provide a forum for understanding and appreciation of contemporary art. Artists are paired with critics, curators, writers or other artists to converse about art and the potential of new ideas.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dispatches - 3/12/10

It seems I've gotten some good response from posting more often even without extensive commentary from me (maybe because of less commentary from me?!). So, I'm trying to keep up the pace for awhile. Thursday, I hit Chelsea for a few hours and then headed uptown for a few openings. In no particular order:

The Frederick Sommer show at Bruce Silverstein remains one of my favorite shows in the current cycle. I was a Sommer fan before, and this exhibit cemented his status for me, as well as introduced me to facets of Sommer's practice of which I was unaware. An artist whose life spanned the century, his work shows dadaist and surrealist influences while maintaining a rigorously personal style. My favorite is a pairing of two of the musical drawings - one is a traditional drawing and the other is a photogram drawn with fixer on photo paper. They encapsulate for me the diverse yet focused practice of a still too unknown artist. Not to be missed.

Rick Wester has a solo exhibit of the work of Sharon Harper's One Month, Weather Permitting. As the press release notes, cameras have turned towards the heavens since the invention of the medium. One recalls Quentin Bajac's show and book, Dans le champ des étoiles - Les photographes et le ciel, 1850-2000 just to name one particularly fine overview. Ms Harper's series is a satisfying addition to the canon as it engages simultaneously the medium itself and the act of taking a picture. Her picture-taking responds both to indexical control as well as the embrace of chance and improvisation. Visually, the work recalls Misrach, Hans-Christian Schink ("One Hour" series), and Chris McCaw. But emotionally and conceptually it stands on its own feet. Ms Harper is an artist who had remarkable success 10 years ago and has fallen somewhat off the radar since then. I hope this show will mark a return of her star on the horizon.

Two shows that disappointed were by marquee artists at high profile galleries: Daido Moriyama at Luhring Augistine and Wolfgang Tillmans at Andrea Rosen. In the case of Moriyama, the older work in the back gallery reminded why he is an important photographer. The large scale b/w prints in the front room seemed emotionally blank to me; a jazz trumpeter riffing on a song he's played too often. Tillmans I sometimes just don't get. I am a fan of the abstract work and assorted other series. But his "slice of life" work that tries to mimic casual, personal photography leaves me flat. While I am engaged by the intellectual intention, I don't find the intention embodied in the pictures. Still from such an important artist, the show's worth a look. You should make up your own mind.

Matthew Marks Gallery has a vintage show of Robert Adams' Summer Nights, Walking project. Mr. Adams revisited the prints from which he chose the original book and decided that less was not more in this case. It's subtle, ephemeral photography -- as we would expect from this artist -- and well worth walking through on a quiet, early spring afternoon.

Back uptown, I stopped in again at 764 Madison for two openings. Higher Pictures had the first US solo exhibit of Japanese master Issei Suda, and Parker Stephenson had the opening of Yuichi Hibi's Shanghai show that I mentioned in a previous post. Both qualify, for different reasons, as work you've probably not seen before. They're wonderful exhibits on their own merits, but for freshness alone they make my must see list.

Last, there is a delightful, quirky show of wallpaper (yes, wallpaper) at the International Print Center of NY. It is not an important show in any way but is a treat to see if you're fan of design, usable art, or the history of printmaking. The link and short press release are below with a sample image. Check it out:

Contemporary Pictorial Wallpapers

Curated by Sarah Richards
On view: March 11 - April 24, 2010, Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am - 6 pm
International Print Center New York announces the presentation of Wallworks: Contemporary Pictorial Wallpapers, opening on Thursday, March 11th and remaining on view through Saturday, April 24, 2010 in IPCNY’s gallery at 526 West 26th Street, Room 824.

Wallworks contextualizes contemporary wallpaper design by examining its evolution over a period of some two hundred years. Curated by decorative arts specialist Sarah Richards, it will include 35-40 examples of commercially available wallpaper illustrating the intersection of the decorative arts and culture at large.  The range of technologies included in the exhibition will illuminate the commercial application of fine art printmaking techniques. Traditional mediums, such as woodcut and screenprint, will be shown along with mechanical reproduction and modern digital techniques.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2 openings and a collection visit

After a much needed respite from the art fair tsunami last week, I'm back in the water eager to swim through more of the events of an art-packed month of March. Looking back on the profusion of fairs, I see positives and negatives. We've heard the negatives already; fairs are too commercial, boring, crowded, safe, anti-artist, numbing, elitist, etc., etc., etc. It's all true. But there's a positive side, too. I look at fairs as a kind of précis. I can't investigate every work I see, but I can take a visual overview; a summary. One artist I know had a good first impression at one fair he attended, but, as he waded farther into the booths, his view turned sour as he realized much of what he was seeing were versions of better known work he'd seen at other fairs. This aerial picture of a vast collection of art gives us perspectives like this. I think it's a neglected positive view. I lkearn alot from fairs, even when I don't enjoy them. But I digress.....

I started my evening at an ICP sponsored collection visit at the home of Alice Zimet. Ms Zimet is the founder of Arts + Business Partners, and has been a presence in the photography world for a generation. Her collection is eclectic and personal, spanning styles, periods, and genres with ease. From Berenice Abbott to Vik Muniz, from Brassai to Ingvar Krauss, it was a pleasure to see a collection so lovingly assembled.

Next was Ryuji Miyamoto's opening at Amador Gallery. Pardon me while I gush just a bit -- I just love this photographer's work. It's passionate and emotional without a whisper of sentimentality. It's formally precise, yet feels free and spontaneous. The iconic Kyoto earthquake photos are here to be marvelled at as well as brilliantly deceptive photograms of insects that are right up my alley. Definitely a show to see.

Last stop was to see Martin Parr's "Luxury" opening at Janet Borden Gallery. Mr. Parr's signature visual wit was out in force highlighting the anomalies and quirks of the wealthy and their high society events. It's the kind of thing you'll like if you like that sort of thing, as a friend of mine was fond of saying. If you're a fan of smart, witty visual commentary, this show should be high on your list.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Armory week, day 4. Humble Arts, EFA Open Studios, & Scope.

Ok, I'll admit it. You didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway: I'm getting a bit grumpy. I don't know if it's because of the Clockwork Orange-like deluge of art I've subjected myself to over the last few days, but I'm definitely feeling a bit snarky. Is it me? Always possible. Is it the art? Well, yes, that's always a possibility, too. There have been highs and lows (I love either extreme for the way they challenge me), but there have been way too many "nothings". No reaction. I get snarky when I see truck load after truck load of art that just leaves me without comment. So maybe it's time to take a breath. Take a pause. Let some of the metaphorical meal digest.

A quick overview of my Saturday:

Scope is a shadow of the fair it once was. It made me sad to walk through. The only ray of light was at Witzenhausen Gallery which was showing Jowhara Alsaud. Aperture Magazine recently featured her work and have released a photo of hers through their print program, so I'm not exactly Paul Revere on this one. Still I like the work. Ms Alsaud's work is also part of a group show at the Camera Club of New York. The revelation for me there was the "Representations" series by Cynthia Greig. Ms Greig whitewashes ordinary, everyday objects, then traces their outlines with marker. The end result is photographed. The end result is not what you would expect from my description and is both delightful and complex (a rare duo). Check out the show and definitely ask Stephen Bulger about her at the upcoming AIPAD show.

I always enjoy making my way through the open studio dates at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. I've written about my favorites in the past, so there's no need to revisit them here. Suffice it to say that you should add your name to their mailing list and check it out for yourself. Some great work has come out of that building.

Humble Arts produced a show called "31 Women in Photography" which is on display in the Affirmation Arts building on 37th St. The title is hard to argue with as there are indeed 31 female artists represented in the show. If there is any other trend, interpretation, curatorial position, or overview to be gleaned from the works chosen, it was lost on me. I have always found fault with Humble's choice to show only one example of any artist's work. It is a curatorial practice which shorts both the artist and the viewer. It's like reading the first-line index of a poetry anthology without access to the anthology. But I seem to be in the minority in this view as the organization has been wildly popular. I'm also surprised to see Charlotte Cotton's name connected with the show as I've always found her view of photography to be pithily grounded. I'm curious what her contribution was exactly.

But all of that adds up to the kind of snark that I mentioned in paragraph one, and I don't really want to be snarky. I wish success to any artistic endeavor even if their approach is not one that I would choose myself. So, I'll take a few days off, catch my breath, rest my feet, and come back with a fresh view of some of the other events happening around town in this art-filled month of March.

Tomorrow: a walk in the park.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Armory week, day 3. ADAA, Independent, and a couple of galleries.

I was back out on the pavement early this morning starting with three collection visits in upper Manhattan. I prefer not to gossip about privately held work, so, even though these homes were opened to the public, I will remain silent on thir identities and content. The last collection was on the Upper East Side which made for a convenient bridge to the ADAA show.

In the past, ADAA fair has been a museum-level display of some of the finest examples of 20th century art on the market. The fair had a bit of a musty, private club kind of feel, but there was no doubt that the work was consistently of the first order. I still remember an exquisite, small Rothko I saw at Greenberg van Doren Gallery. I still wish I'd had the million dollars on hand it would have required to take it home with me.

The buzz I'd heard was that ADAA was trying to update their image to include more living artists and to evince a snappier vibe. It did seem a brighter, livelier atmosphere than last year, but perhaps at a price. While there were still fine examples by A-list artists, the sense that one was seeing the best possible examples available was very much absent. But I digress from the photographic. As one would expect, the Princes of the photo gallery world were on hand with some great work in tow. Fraenkel Gallery devoted their booth to Hiroshi Sugimoto making the case yet again why he is an important artist. Howard Greenberg had his usual exemplary examples of mid-century masters. And Hans P. Kraus showed a stunning Taj Mahal diptych by Dr. John Murray showing an albumen print above the 1864 waxed paper negative of the same image. Not cutting edge contemporary work, but a spectacular piece that any photography lover would swoon over.

Across town, things could not have been more different at the Independent Fair. Or....I should say, we were being told by fair organizers that things could not have been more different. As Holland Cotter mentioned in his New York Times review on March 4th, 2010, many of the galleries and much of the art was quite well-known and frequently seen at A-list galleries around town. I am very happy to see works by Roe Etheridge, Eileen Quinlan, and Liz Deschenes any day of the week (they are all personal favorites), but I can and have seen them at Andrew Kreps and Miguel Abreu on a regular basis. I feel misled to find them at a fair billing itself as alternative and edgy. Same deal at McCaffrey Fine Art where I saw more Jiro Takamatsu after his solo show there earlier this year. I love the work, but....

Continuing on a theme, John Stezaker's collages always deserve a look. I've written about them on these pages many times. London gallery "The Approach" had a fine small set. New? A world apart from other fairs?
Ditto Jose Davila from Renwick Gallery:
Somewhat less familiar were the works of Roman Ondak at gb Agency. Worth a look and I wish they'd brought more. Sorry, no pic.

One work at the fair which knocked my socks off was not a photo though it's source was a newspaper photograph. A drawing by Andrea Bowers used densely packed pencil marks to define negative space with obsessive force, leaving the the scene limned in the lower right hand corner to stand out with quiet power.

In between ADAA and Independent, I hit a few Upper East Side Galleries. I had been meaning to see the Sam Falls show at Higher Pictures for weeks. It closes tomorrow, so I just caught it. Owner Kim Bourus stole the show last year at AIPAD with her low-priced, highly reviewed show of Jaimie Warren. Expect Sam Falls work to fly off the walls in the same way. This young MFA candidate at ICP is looking strong in a well-selected group by the gimlet-eyed Ms Bourus. In what is very much a personal visual style, Falls is still ironing out a few stray influences. But have no doubts, the work is very good and will make a splash at the upcoming AIPAD fair.

I also stopped upstairs to preview L. Parker Stephenson's Yuichi Hibi Shanghai series. It looks wonderful. This artist, who has had a vibrant publishing career with 4 highly acclaimed books from Nazraeli Press, has had scant exposure in New York Galleries. Ms Stephenson is looking to change that, and the work argues that we should see much, much more of Hibi's work. 

Tomorrow: Humble Arts at Affirmation, EFA studios, and whatever fairs I can make it to that I haven't yet seen.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Armory week, day 2. Volta, Pulse, Verge.

Feet still aching from 6 hours at the piers yesterday, I slogged back into the belly of the beast, face still black with art soot. Today's art-coalmine schedule would start with Volta, the sister-by-marriage of the Armory Show. Volta, as many of you know, has a solo show philosophy; one artist per booth. This makes for an artist friendly atmosphere, and definitely ramps up the focus on which artist the gallery chooses from their roster. I usually enjoy Volta as an experience, but find it wanting in the art satisfaction department. This year was no different. I find I am usually somewhat in the minority opinion when I poll my art friends about Volta. Again, this year was no different. Many voices I trust found this to be a satisfying, nourishing fair, so take my view with the shaker of salt it deserves.

The day as a whole yielded very little in the way of photography I felt compelled to include here. My favorite of this fair (though not without reservations) was Svätopluk Mikyta at Emannuel Walderdorff Galerie. Mr. Mikyta takes photos from found sources like yearbooks and catalogs then modifies and transforms them with various overlaying techniques. Like David Maljkovic, who I mentioned yesterday, this artist references memory (or the fading thereof) in a distinctly eastern european accent. The artist professes no political bent to the work, but it's hard for me to see them without projecting a Stalin-era veneer on those faces. I will be eager to follow this artist's career. Worth a look.
 Also worth a look were Roberto Pellegrinuzzi's layered photo-based works at Pierre-François Ouelette Fine Art.  Though I wish this artist would embrace a subject more suited to his layering process than landscapes, I find the work visually stimulating, and I enjoy its tension between obliterated abstraction and simple representation. The work is complex to reproduce, so it's best seen on the gallery's website.

On to Pulse Fair. Baer-Ridgway, who rarely disappoint, had photo collage work from Brion Nuda Rosch. Though they strongly recalled John Stezaker in many ways, the best examples held their own. 

My favorite photo-based work at Pulse was by Sam Messenger at Davidson Contemporary.
I loved how the artist has crammed imagery into a space but made it inaccessible in every way except as a promise. This promise would only be important to collectors and galleries which fires this wonderful tension between the images we'll never see and his promise of uniqueness and exclusivity. Great. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

There were some other galleries at Volta showing photography, but I think you've heard me comment on them before or you've seen them yourself. The same cannot be said of Verge Fair. I have never commented in this blog on anything I saw there, and I suspect you've never seen any of the work on display. This is as it should be. That's all I'll say on the subject. Attend at your own peril.

Tomorrow: ADAA, Independent, and Scope.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Armory week, day 1. All day at the piers.

Well, we're off and running. As promised, here is installment number 1 of my personal preferences for the photographic work I saw  in my 6 hour slog through piers 92 and 94. In no particular order and without much elaboration, definition, or comment from me:

Iran do Espirito Santo had 4 photograms at Sean Kelly which were overlaid with graphite pencil. The photogram was on a mirrored surface, so the silver of the backing referred to the silver of the emulsion, which referred to the silver in the graphite. Very satisfying and a beautiful counterpoint to the mirrored wall constructions next to it by the same artist.
Jack Shainman had his usual spectacular booth. I never tire of seeing new Nick Cave soundsuits or El Anatsui wall hangings. The Rashid Rana photo construction was a bit disappointing, though. We've seen too much of this kind of computer generated photomontage, and Joan Fontcuberta still did it best.
Gallery Sfeier-Semler showed a typology easily mistaken for a Becher grid. But instead of watertowers, we were looking at Israeli watchtowers - heavily armed and fortified - by Palestinian artist, Taysir Batniji. A wonderful political twist on the flat, formal constructions of the Bechers.
 I saw some of the photo collage and video of Croat artist David Maljkovic at one of the Berlin Biennials. I was impressed and wrote a brief paragraph here in May of 2008. Galerie Georg Kargl from Vienna has a solid display of new work which continues to explore architecture and it's role in memory. Take a look. My crappy jpegs really don't communicate the work:
London's Corvi-Mora had Anne Collier's ongoing exploration of representations of the eye. The work continues to speak to me and impress.

Zeno-X from Antwerp had a few Dirk Braeckmans. These photos break no new ground, but I always love to see them.
 Barbara Probst was the principal photo artist at Murray Guy, but there was also an intriguing series from Moyra Davey(whose work deserves wider play). I have not always been a fan of Probst's work, but she continues to grow within her practice of multiple perspectives from multiple cameras fired simultaneously. I liked these especially:
 Galerie Filomena Soares had a few examples from Helena Almeida. I love many of the explorations this artist creates with photos, but this was not high on my list. Still, an artist not seen enough in the US.

Seventeen Gallery was showing Graham Dolphin which is not strictly photographic but a personal favorite. On the photo front, they had Abigail Reynolds' collages; manipulated constructions made of found pages from guide books and atlases. She successfully breaks the 2 dimensional plane of a photograph while simultaneously traversing multiple moments of time. Great work.

If more proof were needed that San Francisco has a vibrant gallery scene, Altman Siegel would be fine evidence. Trevor Paglen's cosmic musings (introduced to me by Becky Smith of the departed Bellwether Gallery) and Matt Keegan's photo deletions were both examples of the excellent program at this gallery. Sorry, no pics.

Last and by no means least I would like to praise Sicardi Gallery from Houston. Year after year this gallery puts together a remarkable booth with spectacular examples from Latin America especially the op-artists. Leon Ferrari, Jesus Rafael Soto, and Carlos Cruz-Diez are particular favorites of mine, but there were others as well. On the photographic front, I was introduced to the modernist work of Geraldo de Barros. The negatives date from the 50s and are made from visually arresting combinations of photogram, negative manipulation, and reflection. Unfortunately, these were not vintage prints, but perhaps this can be forgiven in the cause of wider posthumous distribution for a neglected artist. If I'm the only one who hasn't heard of him (I hope so!), then I'll enjoy my new, personal find. If he's new to you, too, check it out. Great work.

Tomorrow, Volta and whatever other fairs I can cover. Comments and additions welcome.