Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Checklist: 1/31/13

Current New York Photography Shows
New reviews added this week in red.
(Rating: Artist/Title: Venue: Closing Date: link to review)

Uptown

ONE STAR: After Photoshop: Met: May 27: review

Midtown

ONE STAR: New Photography 2012: MoMA: February 4: review
ONE STAR: Sissi Farassat: Edwynn Houk: February 16: review
ONE STAR: Philip Trager: NY Public Library: February 17: review
TWO STARS: The Shaping of New Visions: MoMA: April 21: review

Chelsea

ONE STAR: Thomas Barrow: Derek Eller: February 9: review
ONE STAR: Diana Cooper: Postmasters: February 9: review
ONE STAR: David Hilliard: Yancey Richardson: February 16: review
TWO STARS: Hendrik Kerstens: Danziger: February 16: review
ONE STAR: Niko Luoma: Bryce Wolkowitz: February 16: review
ONE STAR: Distance and Desire, Part II: Walther Collection: March 9: review

SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown

ONE STAR: Jaimie Warren: The Hole: February 9: review
ONE STAR: Narcissister: Envoy Enterprises: February 10: review

Elsewhere Nearby

No reviews at this time.

Forward Auction Calendar
New auctions added this week in red.
(Sale Date: Sale Title: Auction House: link to catalog)

February 12: Contemporary Art (Evening): Sotheby's (London): catalog
February 13: Contemporary Art (Day): Sotheby's (London): catalog
February 13: Post-War and Contemporary Art (Evening): Christie's (London): catalog
February 14: Post-War and Contemporary Art (Day): Christie's (London): catalog
February 14: Contemporary Art (Evening): Phillips (London): catalog
February 15: Contemporary Art (Day): Phillips (London): catalog
February 26-March 5: Andy Warhol: Christie's (Online): catalog

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

David Hilliard, The Tale is True @Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 multi-panel photographic works, mounted and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the back project room. All of the works are made up of between 2 and 4 archival pigment print panels and were made in 2011 and 2012. The individual panels come in two sizes: 20x24 or reverse (the works in editions of 12) and 40x30 or reverse (the works in editions of 7). The are 9 small panel works and 4 large panel works on display. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: David Hilliard's newest works have a uniquely East Coast American feel. Set in and around his family's Cape Cod house, his quiet narratives capture the essence of Yankee thriftiness and its deeply held belief in the simple, the functional, and the unassuming. The pictures are rooted in the charm of the unchanging and the patina of age, but also tell the story of unspoken familial distance and stubborn ritual.

The word panorama tends to get thrown around a lot when describing Hilliard's multi-panel works, but I'm not convinced that this characterization is entirely accurate. A panorama sweeps and pans, moving from edge to edge in one continuous motion. What Hilliard is doing is something more akin to standing in one place and letting your attention wander - your eye turns along a single axis, connecting adjacent but discrete frames into one perception. Each scene has multiple parts, where details come to the forefront in sequence. In these pictures, the details are richly emblematic of a certain kind of life. Inside the house, it's dusty sailing paintings, mismatched crockery, worn threadbare rugs, faded toile wallpaper, and the practicality of a tea kettle and a crackling wood stove. Outside, it's weathered shingles, rusty yard tools, and a wicker chair pulled down onto the dock. The bright light of the morning is never far away, streaming in through the crackled paint of the window frames and offering an ever present vista to the sea.

Hilliard uses the trappings of the house to help chart the emotional landscape of the family, particularly the tenuous, formal relationship between father and son. Lone figures rattle around in the old empty rooms, following the patterns and common behaviours of past generations. The connections are few and far between and time is slowed down to a crawl, where a solitary swim, a slowly smoked cigarette, or a rest on the dock is a moment of reflection or meditation. Reading a left behind book fills the afternoon, and rebellion is measured out by taking one impractical bite from every fruit on the table.

I like the restraint found in these new photographs, where the muted tones of the enduring setting are part and parcel of the subdued human relationships. Hilliard's narratives are often open ended, but their mood here is surprisingly complex and conflicted, built on the steadiness of a family that is at once comforting and stifling.

Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced based on the size and number of panels in the work. For the works based on 24x20 panels, prices are $3100 (2 panels), $4600 (3 panels), or $6200 (4 panels). For the works based on 40x30 panels, prices are either $5600 (2 panels) or $8300 (3 panels). Hilliard's work has recently begun to show up in the secondary markets, with prices ranging between roughly $2000 and $6000.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Feature/Review: New Yorker (here
 
David Hilliard, The Tale is True
Through February 16th

Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hendrik Kerstens @Danziger

JTF (just the facts): A total of 17 large scale color photographs, mounted and unframed, and hung against white walls in the two room gallery space. All of the works are pigment prints face mounted to Diasec, made between 1994 and 2012. The prints are shown in three different sizes: 24x20 (in editions of 5 or 6+2AP), 40x30 (in editions of 6 or 10+2AP) and 60x50 (in editions of 5 or 6+2AP). there are 6 prints in the largest size, 7 prints in the middle size, and 4 prints in the smallest size on display. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: I have seen and written about the work of the Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens several times over the past few years, so I was certainly aware of what I would likely encounter when visiting his newest show (post Sandy flooding) at Danziger Gallery. But I have to say I was totally and utterly surprised when I walked into the gallery. His portraits have been transformed into glossy objects - rather than being shown in traditional nondescript black frames, they are printed large and face mounted to Diasec like the work of many of the Dusseldorf and Helsinki school graduates. For me, it was an electric wow moment, the push and pull of old and new in his photographs energized and amplified by the modern presentation.

The show is a mini-retrospective sampler of Kerstens' work, going all the way back to his early portraits of his daughter Paula and mixing in brand new images from the past year or two. It traces both her transformation (from young girl into young woman) and his ongoing refinement of craft and technique. For those unfamiliar with Kerstens' approach, suffice it to say that he has brewed up an original alchemical mix of painting and photography, borrowing traditional dark background poses, the careful handling of light, and the subtle treatment of skin from the masters of Dutch portraiture and blending them together with anachronistic modern props and accessories, creating graceful photographic portraits that look and feel like museum treasures and then abruptly upend your sense of order. At this point, the Marie Antoinette bubble wrap headdress, the plastic shopping bag cap, the cloth napkin wimple, and the paper towel roll turban have all become contemporary classics.
 
The good news is that Kerstens' pictures are getting better and better. New portraits of Paula find her sporting a drooped cake icing spout, a thick stack of paper doilies that perfectly mimics a starched lace collar, and a flyaway high pointed bonnet in silvery aluminum foil. There's even a rearing equestrian portrait (with a nod to David) with Paula calmly looking over her shoulder. Given the large size of these prints and the new mounting approach, the works hold the wall with tremendous authority, while still retaining their sense of reserve and refinement.
 
I think the durable excitement of these works lies in their uncertain, shifting dialogue between competing forces: painting and photography, traditional cultural icons and modern realities, sober seriousness and sly wit, celebrating and undermining. They are at once classically beautiful and sublimely ridiculous, which ensures they won't ever be boring.
 
Collector's POV: The images in this show are priced based on size and place in the edition. The 24x20 prints range from $8000 to $18000, the 40x30 prints start at $12000 and go up to $75000, and the 60x50 prints begin at $22000 and rise to a lofty $160000. These prices are a significant step up from previous prices I have seen and likely represent broadening demand for his work. Kerstens' work has not yet reached the secondary markets with any regularity, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
 
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here) and Facebook page (here)
  • Feature/Review: New Yorker (here)

Hendrik Kerstens
Through February 16th

Danziger Gallery
527 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

Monday, January 28, 2013

Narcissister, Narcissister is You @Envoy Enterprises

JTF (just the facts): A total of 8 large scale color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are c-prints made in 2012. Each is sized 40x30 and comes in an edition of 2+1AP. The exhibit also includes 2 sculptures (masks arranged in front of mirrors) and 1 video. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: At first glance, it might be tempting to label the photographic self-portraits of the performance artist Narcissister as contemporary derivatives of Cindy Sherman and dismiss them outright without much consideration. And while the kinship with Sherman's work is undeniable (particularly the challenging late 1980s/early 1990s work which was largely left out of the recent touring retrospective), I found Narcissister's parade of thrown together personas to be authentically creepy, beginning with a playful campy lightness, and with further looking, slowly becoming quietly pathetic and disturbing. It may seem like we've seen this work before, but I think there's a nugget of something new here worth exploring.

All of Narcissister's self-portraits feature the blocking mechanism of a facial mask, in this case a Barbie-style, flat-eyed painted plastic face, often broken, roughly cut in half, or taped together along scarred edges. The obscuring effect is straightforward (we can't see who she really is), but somehow the glamorous mannequin mask ends up being off-putting, the sitters trying so hard to be perfect but ultimately failing. Her characters are all exercises in personal exaggeration (the overbig afro, the gaudy pink nails, the matchy matchy hat and dress, the enormous fake breasts, the platinum blonde wig, the big gold earrings), and her backgrounds are rumpled and makeshift, as though the studio was a thrown together afterthought. The whole set-up flows neatly into the obsessive, distracted world of narcissism, of self-interest taken to extremes and of excessiveness that turns into something a bit ugly. The two sculptures allow the viewer to fleetingly peer into this world, to see out through the eyes of the Narcissiter masks - and yes, that's me in the bottom image, sporting an enticingly grotesque new look.

In the end, I liked the balance between hiding and revealing in these pictures and the undercurrent of broken desperation that palpably flows from each constructed character. While photography may not be Narcissister's primary artistic mode, each of her personas arrives with a subtle jolt: flashy, eye catching, and unexpectedly emotionally layered.
 
Collector's POV: The photographs in this show are priced at either $4000 or $4500, depending on the place in the edition. The sculptures are priced at $5000 each and the video is NFS. Narcissister's work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is still likely the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.
 
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
 
Transit Hub:

Narcissister, Narcissister is You
Through February 10th

Envoy Enterprises
87 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jaimie Warren, The Whoas of Female Tragedy II @The Hole

JTF (just the facts): A total of 33 photographic works, generally framed in white and unmatted, and hung in the multi-room main gallery space. 21 of the works are single image digital c-prints; sizes include 20x24/20x30 (in editions of 8), 30x40 (in editions of 5), and 40x53 (in editions of 3). 11 of the works are digital c-print diptychs, in 20x24/20x30 (edition of 8) and 30x40 (edition of 5) sizes. The final work is a large four panel digital print on canvas mural, sized 8x4 feet. All of the works were made in 2011 and 2012. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: What is it about fine art photography, and perhaps fine art more broadly, that seems to make it immune from the kind of rampant, viral Internet spreading that has overtaken other cultural genres? We now routinely uncover fresh faces in books, music, and videos that have grown up outside the existing "normal" distribution systems and brazenly charge into our consciousness on the back of a tidal wave of social interchange. Aside from a single image photographic meme that flashes and then disappears, or the video phenomenon that was Hennessy Youngman/Jayson Musson, I can't point to very many examples of artists/photographers who have built a following Gangnam Style. And yet, the Internet is all about disintermediation and connection, so the potential certainly exists for viral exchange, if we can get over the rigidities in how we look at, discuss, share, and ultimately "consume" art.

Against these odds, Jaimie Warren's photographs feel like kind of work that could create a viral sensation. They swirl together unpretentious humor, sketch comedy goofiness, and an avalanche of pop culture references into images that beg to be forwarded on to your friends. In a smart conceptual inversion, she takes Photoshopped images found on the Internet and then restages them with makeshift sets and costumes (using herself as the primary model), making self-portraits that put her personal stamp on the scavenged cleverness of bored people everywhere. Yoda photoshopped into a leafy Bouguereau gathering of nudes was probably funny to start with, but with Warren sporting big green ears and her friends playing the other roles, the crass campiness is turned up a notch further.

The show combines several different subject matter projects, each built on multiple levels of ridiculous celebrity distortion. Warren's art history insertions find her naked in a Rembrandt, dressed as Data from Star Trek in a Bellini, or posing as Santa in an Egyptian papyrus. Recreations of breadpeople and food'lebrities memes have her covered in strawberry rainbow sprinkle icing as Madonut, sporting a pastry face as JonBeignet Ramsay, and neck stretched into Pretzel Rod Stewart. Borrowings from totallylooksalike.com pair Warren as Grilled Cheese Virgin Mary and Bernadette Peters, a dog and Shelley Duvall in The Shining, and Female Gremlin and Li'l Kim. Each constructed performance is wacky, imperfect, and low-tech genuine.

Lest my comments come off as a kind of backhanded low culture compliment, there is an entirely different but equally valid review to be written of this show that places Warren in the academic context of Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing, centering on performance and female identity, and expanding on the traditions of staged self-portraiture in a celebrity-driven Internet age. But such high minded self-important talk, however well intentioned or thoughtfully reasoned, drains all the life out of these pictures and misses the joy of their oddball absurdity. Photographic humor is surprisingly rare, and Warren's best pictures deliver unexpectedly layered farce with an endearingly personal touch. Let the contagious forwarding begin.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows, generally based on size. The single image prints range in price from $580 to $3000, the diptychs start at $900 and move up to $1400, and the four panel mural is $7500. Warren's work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is still likely the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Interview: Huffington Post (here)
 
Through February 9th

The Hole
312 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Checklist: 1/24/13

Current New York Photography Shows
New reviews added this week in red.
(Rating: Artist/Title: Venue: Closing Date: link to review)

Uptown

ONE STAR: Letha Wilson: Higher Pictures: January 26: review
TWO STARS: Faking It: Met: January 27: review
ONE STAR: After Photoshop: Met: May 27: review

Midtown

ONE STAR: New Photography 2012: MoMA: February 4: review
ONE STAR: Sissi Farassat: Edwynn Houk: February 16: review
ONE STAR: Philip Trager: NY Public Library: February 17: review
TWO STARS: The Shaping of New Visions: MoMA: April 21: review

Chelsea

ONE STAR: Thomas Barrow: Derek Eller: February 9: review
ONE STAR: Diana Cooper: Postmasters: February 9: review
ONE STAR: Niko Luoma: Bryce Wolkowitz: February 16: review
ONE STAR: Distance and Desire, Part II: Walther Collection: March 9: review

SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown

TWO STARS: Mary Ellen Mark: Janet Borden: January 26: review

Elsewhere Nearby

No reviews at this time.

Forward Auction Calendar
New auctions added this week in red.
(Sale Date: Sale Title: Auction House: link to catalog)

No sales at this time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Niko Luoma, And Time is No Longer an Obstacle @Wolkowitz

JTF (just the facts): A total of 18 large scale photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung in the entry gallery, the hallway, and the main gallery space in the back. 13 of the works are archival pigment prints, unframed and mounted on Diasec, and made between 2009 and 2012. These prints are sized 67x55 or reverse and are available in editions of 5+2AP. The show also includes 5 smaller archival pigment prints, framed in black and unmatted, and made in 2011. These prints are sized 14x13 and are also available in editions of 5+2AP. A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Hatje Cantz (here). This is Luoma's first solo show in the United States. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: "Drawing with light" is one of those overly mystical honeyed chestnuts I associate with bad writing about photography. But in the case of Finnish photographer Niko Luoma, drawing with light may indeed be an apt description of what he is actually doing. Using an entirely analog process, he methodically exposes his negatives to hundreds of individual lines of light, building up dense thickets of pulsing linear abstraction. His works have faint echoes of Minimalism, iteratively evolved into compositions brimming with futuristic energy.

The smaller works displayed in the hallway of the gallery have the most direct connection to a familiar Minimalist aesthetic. Thin almost invisible white lines arrange themselves with mathematical precision against a dark black background, becoming intimate arrays of horizontal and vertical stripes. It's easy to see a conceptual kinship with Frank Stella's black paintings or with Agnes Martin's delicate strips and bands.

Luoma's larger works are presented as glossy objects, scaled up in wall power and intensity. Straight school bus yellow lines radiate outward from a criss-crossed center and circular black swirls overlap into a bird's nest of interlocked basket weave curves. Most of the works play on ram rod straight horizontals and verticals, piled up and layered into symmetrical thatched rectangles and woven angled patterns. Their color is pure and electric, almost as if it is backlit or lasered, from blinding monochrome contrast to intense multicolored lines in rainbow hues. The works feel modern and machined, like the output of code running open loop or a controlled, systematized process that has been allowed to wander.

I think Luoma's brand of geometric abstraction is full of freshness and vitality. His lines flutter and palpitate with a precise cadence, drawing the viewer into their seemingly endless mathematical repetitions. And it is this mix of brashness and order that gives them their originality and punch, keeping them from becoming something we have seen before.

Collector's POV:  The works in this show are priced as follows. The large 67x55 prints are $17000 each, and the smaller 14x13 prints are $6500 each. These prices represent a small bump up from prices I have encountered at recent art fairs. Luoma's work is not yet consistently available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is still likely the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
 
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
 
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Feature: Photo District News (here)
 
Through February 16th
 
505 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thomas Barrow, Works: 1974-2010 @Eller

JTF (just the facts): A total of 24 photographs and mixed media works, variously framed/matted or unframed, and hung/displayed in the entry area, the main gallery space, and the smaller North gallery. 9 of the works are toned gelatin silver prints made in 1974 or 1975; they are each sized 11x14 and come in editions of 5 or 10. The rest of the works combine toned gelatin silver prints, Polaroids, and photograms with silicone caulk, spray paint, and other found materials; they range in size from 14x12 to 28x25 and are each unique. All of the works on view were made between 1974 and 2010. A monograph of the Cancellations series was recently published by powerHouse Books (here). (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: While the current crop of gallery shows has us all thinking about the evolving intersections of photography and sculpture, Thomas Barrow has been experimenting with many of these same ideas for the better part of the last 40 years. This show provides a succinct sampler of his investigations, from a healthy group of works from his Cancellations series from the mid 1970s (for which he is likely best known) to a handful of increasingly three dimensional pieces from each of the following decades. Taken as a whole, it's an eclectic, uneven body of work, but it certainly provides a broad catalog of original ideas of how the object quality of photographs can be exploited in art making.

When I first encountered Barrow's Cancellations at AIPAD several years ago, my initial reaction to them was that they seemed conceptually flip, the slashing X across the images a kind of academic joke. But seeing them again here and looking more closely this time, I found them much richer and more intriguing than I had originally understood. The images themselves traverse now familiar 1970s New Topographics ground: roadsides, construction sites, chain link fencing, and ugly strip malls, captured in elegant black and white. Barrow then took his negatives and carved urgent gestural lines across the images, making variations on straight and squiggled Xs (along with a few dark circular dots), often playing against the planes and lines in the underlying image. The effect is two-fold: it's a bold negation/rejection of the content of the pictures, and it simultaneously transforms the photographs from being windows on a particular suburban landscape into physical objects with a conscious element of surface texture. It's an unexpected and smart intervention that gives the works a jolt of conceptual vigor.

In the early 1980s, Barrow extended this cancellation idea by physically tearing his photographs into pieces and reassembling them with thick gooey silicon caulk; the effect is even more deconstructed and Matta-Clark incised, the images falling apart and being held together. He then turned to messy overlapped photograms often covered with spray paint, stencils, and attached Polaroids, starting to build up from the flatness of the picture plane with the collaged snapshots. In subsequent works, he has left the safety of the frame entirely for heaps and clusters of Polaroids glued together into squishy agglomerations. Peeping Tom connects images of TV screens, eyes, and faces, while Hare Reliquary heads for overstuffed Joseph Cornell, with a vertical box full of bunnies and marshmallow Peeps, decorated with Polaroids clothes-pinned to the sides. His most recent works are rebus-like bags of random discarded stuff, with photographs just one of the many objects thrown into the visual and cultural blender.

What I like about this show and about Barrow's work in general is that it isn't afraid to take risks and cross boundaries. Not all of it entirely succeeds for me, but I am intellectually interested by his fits and starts, his experiments and his innovations. His view of photography is tangled and snarled up, increasingly a part of a media saturated whole rather than an end in and of itself. Those looking for the physical edges of our changing medium would be well advised to dig in and analyze what's here, as it's a map of iterative extensions and fanciful speculations.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The prints from the Cancellations series are either $4500 or $5500 each, and the larger, more sculptural works range from $7500 to $9500 each. Barrow's work has very little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up. Barrow is also represented by Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla (here).

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Interview: finitefoto (here)

Thomas Barrow, Works: 1974-2010
Through February 9th

Derek Eller Gallery
615 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001

Monday, January 21, 2013

Diana Cooper, My Eye Travels* @Postmasters

JTF (just the facts): A total of 32 photographic works/installations, unframed and adhered directly to the walls, and hung in the entry area and the front and back gallery spaces. 15 of the works are photographs (digital c-prints?), ranging in size from 6x7 to 150x59; these prints are available in editions of 5. The rest of the works are mixed media sculptures/collages, ranging in size from 5x5 to 148x118; these works are either unique or available in editions of 2. All of the works were made in 2012-2013. (Installation shots at right.)
 
Comments/Context: With digital photography now increasingly ubiquitous and malleable as a medium, many artists that have traditionally spent their time exploring the boundaries of other materials have quietly begun to add a camera to their proverbial toolboxes. Given her history, Diana Cooper can in no way be rightfully categorized as a photographer; her previous works have generally lived in the realms of sculpture and installation, with a dash of painting and drawing thrown in for good measure. And yet, in her newest show, every single work is in some shape or form meaningfully photographic, and many are what we might call straightforward prints. It is clear that photography has been wholly absorbed into her artistic practice, offering her new methods for generating patterns and playing with space.
 
In her large mixed media installations, Cooper uses the flatness of photographs to provide a foundation layer for three dimensional building, where the rich textures of found objects are employed as collaged structural imagery. Pictures of bulbous green moss morph into real Astroturf, while photographs of tactile bales of recycled cans and paper and towers of stacked bins grow into plastic meshes of construction netting and rigid geometric filters and screens. In some cases, the photographs are used in layers of recursive reference, where images of red pipes and mirrors sit underneath physical manifestations of those same objects, pushing on notions of scale and repetition. In others, Cooper is drawn to simple ordered patterns, where candy colored stadium seats are piled into a flattened uneven kaleidoscope of multiplied visual motifs. In every case, the photographs fit seamlessly into her systematic approach to construction, mixing the crispness of man made images with the organic overlapped chaos of her open ended installations.
 
The rest of the works on view play with the trompe l'oeil properties of photography, adding extra air vents and skylights to the gallery space. Flat security cameras and monitors float on walls and in corners, while a fake security gate is pulled down near the door. She even adds extra metal plates to the floor and jams in a few stand pipes along one wall. Overall, it's an effective, mind bending manipulation of the space. I didn't see these photographs as particularly durable stand alone works, but more as if she had made the whole gallery into one big Diana Cooper installation, with the jittering space bending in on itself.
 
I think there is a fascinating short term difference between contemporary photographers who add sculptural qualities to their work and sculptors who add photographic qualities to theirs. It seems to me that the photographer still tends to see the boundaries of the traditional print as sacred, building up with three dimensional textures and physical collaging/manipulations ("sculptural photography"), while the sculptor tends to see photography as something less fixed, to be employed in the more adaptable and extensible form of digital imagination ("photographic sculpture"). Eventually, I think they'll both end up in the same place, but for now, the approaches still have an intellectual point of view gap that separates them. Diana Cooper is clearly on the side of the sculptors, less interested in photography as an end point in and of itself, and more concerned with how photographic imagery can be used to extend and enhance her already complex artistic investigations. But those of us interested in the future of photography need to track artists like her, as she's showing us an alternate path, and one that will ultimately merge with the one we're following.

Collector's POV: The works in this show range in price from $1000 for the smallest single image photographs to $40000 for the largest mixed media installations. Cooper's work has very little secondary market history (and none at all in the markets for photography), so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
 
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
 
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Works lost in Hurricane Sandy (here)
  • Features/Reviews: ARTnews (here), TimeOut New York (here), Artinfo (here)
 
Diana Cooper, My Eye Travels*
Through February 9th
 
459 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book: Elad Lassry, On Onions

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2012 by Primary Information (here) and distributed by DAP (here). Paperback, 240 pages, with 112 color images. Arranged by Stuart Bailey and includes an essay by Angie Keefer. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Elad Lassry's On Onions is the kind of clever photobook that I wish the artist had made earlier in his career, as it would have helped me to find a more obvious entry point into his work. In the past few years, Lassry has become something of a rising star, with the requisite museum group shows, gallery solos, curator favor, and buzz in the press. His color saturated commercial-style still lifes with their matching frames have become an instantly recognizable signature look. And yet, at least for me, Lassry's photographs have heretofore been a bit of a head scratching mystery - original to be sure, but their seductiveness more often outweighed in my mind by lack of context and a mystifying randomness. I had a hard time trying to decipher their obtuse puzzle, or perhaps there was no puzzle at all and the images were purposefully campy and vapid.

What I like very much about this well designed book is that there is an underlying conceptual framework that holds these particular photographs together. The book balances two sets of imagery (onions and eyes), moving back and forth between the two groups in mixed bunches. Lassry's deadpan still life onions cover the entire taxonomy of types and colors (white, yellow, brown, red, green, pearl, and sweet) as well as depciting a selection of presentation and knife skills (chopped, sliced, sectioned, halved, peeled, grouped, and bunched). These forms are matched with variations on objectified eyes - contact lenses, arrays of colored lenses, sections of an eye, prosthetic eyes, and multiple black background retina scans that look alarmingly like veined onions or moons.

The parade of right-hand side images is tied together by a wandering meditative essay on tears that is interleaved among the pictures. It's an eclectic, brainy study, from a story about dysfunctional tear ducts and lacrimal glands to an examination of the different chemical properties of emotional and reflex tears. Along the way, we follow the path of the magical tear that changes a stuffed animal into a real rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbit and track the career of Hollywood director Douglas Sirk and his melodramas of hopeless situations and happy endings. The result is a smart sense of rhythm and wry purpose that was completely absent from my previous encounters with Lassry's work. It's not exactly an underlying narrative, but it's certainly a defining structure that provides logic and meaning to the sequence of pictures. In the end, it's still a quirky, open-ended project, but for the first time, there is a trail of bread crumbs to follow.

Collector’s POV: Elad Lassry is represented by David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles (here). He was included in MoMA's New Photography exhibit in 2010 (review here), had a show at Luhring Augustine in New York later that year, and recently had one of his images displayed on the High Line billboard.
 
Transit Hub:
  • Various reviews: NY Times, 2012 (here), LA Times, 2012 (here), Art in America, 2011 (here)







Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Checklist: 1/17/13

Current New York Photography Shows
New reviews added this week in red.
(Rating: Artist/Title: Venue: Closing Date: link to review)

Uptown

ONE STAR: Letha Wilson: Higher Pictures: January 26: review
TWO STARS: Faking It: Met: January 27: review
ONE STAR: After Photoshop: Met: May 27: review

Midtown

ONE STAR: New Photography 2012: MoMA: February 4: review
ONE STAR: Sissi Farassat: Edwynn Houk: February 16: review
ONE STAR: Philip Trager: NY Public Library: February 17: review
TWO STARS: The Shaping of New Visions: MoMA: April 21: review

Chelsea

ONE STAR: Chris McCaw: Yossi Milo: January 19: review
ONE STAR: Distance and Desire, Part II: Walther Collection: March 9: review

SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown

TWO STARS: Mary Ellen Mark: Janet Borden: January 26: review

Elsewhere Nearby

No reviews at this time.

Forward Auction Calendar
New auctions added this week in red.
(Sale Date: Sale Title: Auction House: link to catalog)

No sales at this time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Distance and Desire, Encounters with the African Archive, Part II: Contemporary Reconfigurations @Walther Collection

JTF (just the facts): A group show consisting of total of 26 photographs and 2 videos by 11 different artists/photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung in the main gallery space (with one glass case) and the side book alcove. The works in the show were made between 1994 and 2012. The exhibit was curated by Tamar Garb, and is the second installment of a larger three-part series. (Installation shots at right.)

The following artists/photographers have been included in the show, with the number of works on view and their details in parentheses:

Philip Kwame Apagya (2 chromogenic prints, 1998, 2000)
Sammy Baloji (1 archival digital photograph on satin matte paper, 2006)
Candice Breitz (1 chromogenic print, 1994-1996)
Samuel Fosso (2 chromogenic prints, 1997)
Pieter Hugo (8 archival pigment prints on Warmtone Baryta Fibre paper, 2011, 2012)
Sabelo Mlangeni (4 gelatin silver prints, 2011)
Zwelethu Mthethwa (1 digital c-print, 2010)
Zanele Muholi (1 chromogenic print and 2 lambda prints, 2006, 2007, 2010)
Andrew Putter (1 video installation, 2007)
Berni Searle (1 two channel video projection, 2001)
Carrie Mae Weems (4 chromogenic prints with sandblasted text on glass, 1995-1996)

Comments/Context: In spite of its tucked away location on the 7th floor in the rabbit warren of galleries at 526 West 26th in Chelsea (now with an out of service elevator), the Walther Collection has quietly become one of the best places in the city to see thoughtfully curated, high quality African photography. Over the course of nearly a year, the venue is putting on a three part series of scholarly exhibits that revolve around questions derived from the "African Archive", the aggregation of photographic imagery (from ethnographic and anthropological studies to tourist snapshots and classic studio portraiture) that makes up the visual history of the region and its people. This show is the second part in this ongoing dialogue and gathers together a smart selection of contemporary works that react to and often undermine the stereotypes and cliches that run through the archival material.

The loosely posed portrait of tribal men and women, bare chested and wearing traditional beads and skins, standing against a background of thatched huts or wide open bush is likely the most common trope of African photography, so it's not at all surprising that contemporary artists have found countless ways to subvert this genre. Zanele Muholi has substituted androgynous young men for the usual subjects, outfitting them in portions of traditional garb and throwing in a splash of modern cross dressing gender uncertainty. Zwelethu Mthethwa has captured the predictable grassland scene celebrating a religious ceremony, but has documented boys dressed in the kilts of Scottish missionaries rather than the standard loin cloths and spears. Sammy Baloji has collaged together an archival portrait of tribesmen with color landscapes of the ugly hills of mining slag that have replaced the previously unspoiled lands. And Candace Breitz has appropriated a postcard view of a tribal woman and overpainted her skin in ghostly zinc white, highlighting how we might see this kind of image if the skin tones were different.

Staged studio portraiture has been disrupted with equal verve and intelligence. Pieter Hugo darkens the skin of his sitters to the point where the varying skin types all look black, making the old ways of separation and classification impossible. Andrew Putter's video portrait of a Dutch settler in her headscarf and lacy shawl appears conventional, that is until you put on the headphones and hear her singing a lullaby in Khoikhoi with its clicks and glottal stops. And Samuel Fosso exaggerates the styles of Keïta and Sidibé, dressing himself in a patchwork technicolor dreamcoat with high heels, necklaces, and a cowboy hat, or styles himself as a funky colonial chief, with space age sunglasses, a leather handbag and fancy shoes.

In the best possible way, this is a teaching show. It sets up our inherent biases and derived opinions about African imagery and knocks them down with meticulous well-edited precision, while at the same time exposing us more fully to a diverse and talented group of contemporary African artists who are engaging the past with knowledge and purpose.

Collector's POV: Since this is a non-commercial space, no prices were available for the works on view. Gallery representation for the various artists (where available) is listed below:

Philip Kwame Apagya: 51 Fine Art Photography (here)
Sammy Baloji: Axis Gallery (here)
Candice Breitz: White Cube (here)
Samuel Fosso: work available at Jack Shainman Gallery (here)
Pieter Hugo: Yossi Milo Gallery (here)
Sabelo Mlangeni: Stevenson Gallery (here)
Zwelethu Mthethwa: Jack Shainman Gallery (here)
Zanele Muholi: Stevenson Gallery (here)
Andrew Putter: Stevenson Gallery (here)
Berni Searle: Stevenson Gallery (here)
Carrie Mae Weems: Jack Shainman Gallery (here)

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Features/Reviews: New Yorker (here)

Distance and Desire, Encounters with the African Archive, Part II: Contemporary Reconfigurations
Through March 9th

The Walther Collection
526 West 26th Street
Suite 718
New York, NY 10001

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sissi Farassat @Houk

JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against almond colored walls in the main gallery space and the smaller side room. All of the works are chromogenic prints with added tinsel, carpet thread, Swarovski crystals, or sequins, made between 2004 and 2012. Physical dimensions range from roughly 8x10 to 40x60 and each work is unique. This is the artist's first solo show in New York. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: My first reaction to Sissi Farassat's show was that it announced the arrival of photographic bling. Her casual snapshot-style photographs are densely encrusted with crystals, sequins, and other sparkly things, grabbing your attention with their flash and daring you to look away from their glamour. They initially seemed pretty and vacuously decorative, especially the ones covered in happy colorful polka dots.

But as I circled the gallery, I started to see what Farassat was doing was not some over-the-top exercise in inane craftiness, but instead an investigation of the boundaries of photographic surface and texture. Her clear sequins let the background show through while breaking it up into overlapping round bits; one might even call it analog pixelization. When the sequins are opaque (in shiny black and silver), the backgrounds are completely obscured, leaving cut out women to pose against swirling Starry Night whorls of geometric complexity. And when the sequins are used in complementary shades of color (greens and blues in one work), the circles crowd into competing bubbles.

Farassat employs carpet threads with equal grace. White fibers act like transparent gauzy lace, echoing a female form silhouetted against a light filled window; those same tiny strands are then transformed into a soft snowstorm when placed over a long dark coat. Green fibers over a garden scene add a layer of wispy, prickly texture, like blowing, scattered evergreen needles. These images are crisp and photographic, but somehow also mysterious and sculptural at the same time. The additions are well integrated and expanding, rather than simply glued on for extra obvious dazzle.

The idea that photographs can have unexpected surface, and that that surface can be augmented and disrupted is exciting. The trick for Farassat will be to consistently find methods and materials that do this in ways that are challenging and surprising rather than cloying and heavy handed. The best of the works on view here prove that she's headed off in an original direction.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced between $7500 and $18500, based on size and applied material. Farassat's works have very little secondary market history in the US (there have been a handful of sales in the Austrian auction houses), so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Features/Reviews: ARTslant (here)
 
Through February 16th
 
745 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10151

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chris McCaw, Marking Time @Milo

JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 black and white photographic works, framed in black and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the East and West gallery spaces. All of the works are made up of gelatin silver print paper negatives, consisting of between one and thirteen panels. Individual panels range in size from 5x4 to 40x30, and each of the works is unique. The images were taken between 2009 and 2012. A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Candela Books (here). (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Chris McCaw's photographs turn away from the traditional shutter-click decisive moment and measure time in much longer and more extended intervals. Using antique papers and custom built cameras, he patiently traces the path of the sun across the sky, mixing scientific precision with age-old elemental wonder. As the hours pass, the images overexpose and eventually burn, leaving seared holes and charred browned edges as evidence of something not only pleasingly visual but verifiably physical.
 
McCaw's works have the feel of experiments, starting with a calculated journey to some far off locale and ending with a trial of endurance between the artist and the sun. Depending on the location, the camera angle, and the special event (equinox, eclipse, etc.), the solar movements manifest themselves as variations of arcs and curves slashing across the sky, grounded by ghosts of mountain ranges or softly reflecting seascapes. At the equator, the sun streak is completely vertical; up above the Arctic Circle, the 24 hour line follows an undulatingly perfect up and down sine curve. When McCaw opts for intermittent exposures rather than continuous ones, the sun becomes a series of dots, like a string of ping pong balls following a controlled mathematical trajectory.
 
In many ways, McCaw's approach is a throwback to the 19th century, with its paper negatives, its can-do process centrism, and its amateur astronomy. Seen from the 21st century, his works seem more like a conscious reaction to the digital revolution, a celebration of what is still timeless and mysterious in this world. Even today, the strength of the sun is too much for our unprotected eyes to take in. McCaw's cameras show us the patterns and flows of things we can't otherwise see, the elegant scorched edges and burned scars reminding us of forces much larger and more powerful than ourselves.

Collector's POV: The works in this show were priced between $5000 and $42000, roughly based on size and number of panels. I use the past tense since nearly all of the works were already sold when I visited the gallery. McCaw's work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Features/Reviews: NY Times (here), New Yorker (here)

Chris McCaw, Marking Time
Through January 19th

Yossi Milo Gallery
245 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Friday, January 11, 2013

Letha Wilson @Higher Pictures

JTF (just the facts): A total of 10 photo-based sculptures, framed in white and unmatted or mounted without framing and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. The works are either c-prints or gelatin silver prints, with additional concrete, white portland cement, wood dowel, or paint. They generally range in size from 24x17 to 28x28, with one larger column piece at 106x17. All are unique and were made in 2012. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Vistas of the Grand Tetons, the flat expanse of salt flats, the rumble of storm clouds, the wave patterns of eroded canyons, these awe inspiring natural treasures have now become the territory of landscape photography cliche. We have already "seen" them, the past masters of the medium having expertly captured these places with any number of emotions and mindsets: grandeur, reverence, joy, picture postcard banality, disappointment, anger, and even irony. But Letha Wilson's unconventional photo-based sculptures have done something I wouldn't have thought likely - they've brought tactile physicality back to landscape photography, and in doing so, have made the old tropes we've generally written off surprisingly fresh and immediate.

Wilson's photographic raw material is entirely forgettable: photograms of evergreen branches, views of the Badlands, lonely plants in sand dunes and sagebrush underfoot. But her sculptural interventions are unexpected and invigorating. The black and white evergreen silhouettes are geometrically cut through and pulled back, revealing backside images in color. The rocky hills of the Badlands are interrupted by flows of rough concrete, slashing through like thick strips of sediment. The endless dryness of salt flats is covered in a thin white scrim of cement, hovering like a delicate crusted veil. And the swirls and whorls of pink canyons are twisted like a fan, the image folded again and again, but on a turning axis that mirrors the flow of the walls. Each material intrusion matches its subject, and by reminding us of its tangible presence, each manipulation enhances our experience of the land. It's photography unafraid of its objectness, mixing visual elegance with physical, textural grit.

Wilson is yet another example of a contemporary photographer who is smartly disassembling genre boundaries. Her works find an easy structural balance between photography and sculpture, allowing her photographs to be both representative imagery and paper based things that can be cut, torn, slashed, and filled. The best of these works have an effortless combination of natural beauty and man made construction that settles into an unsteady but harmonious equilibrium. All in, a plenty promising debut.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are generally priced between $4000 and $6500, with the large concrete column priced at $18000. At this early point in her career, Wilson's work has no secondary market history, so gallery retail is the only option for those collectors interested in following up.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Interview: Hyperallergic (here)
Letha Wilson
Through January 26th

Higher Pictures
980 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10075

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Checklist: 1/10/13

Current New York Photography Shows
New reviews added this week in red.
(Rating: Artist/Title: Venue: Closing Date: link to review)

Uptown

TWO STARS: Faking It: Met: January 27: review
ONE STAR: After Photoshop: Met: May 27: review

Midtown

ONE STAR: New Photography 2012: MoMA: February 4: review
ONE STAR: Philip Trager: NY Public Library: February 17: review
TWO STARS: The Shaping of New Visions: MoMA: April 21: review

Chelsea

ONE STAR: Julie Blackmon: Robert Mann: January 12: review

SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown

TWO STARS: Mary Ellen Mark: Janet Borden: January 26: review

Elsewhere Nearby

No reviews at this time.

Forward Auction Calendar
New auctions added this week in red.
(Sale Date: Sale Title: Auction House: link to catalog)

No sales at this time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Trends, Newcomers, and Open Questions


As the third and final installment of my 2012 summary (top New York shows and venues are here and here respectively), I think it's worth trying to take stock of the important new ideas that emerged during the year. For the most part, these themes did not come from the blockbuster retrospectives or the obvious big name shows, as these crowd pleasers tend to reinforce what we already know. Instead, they came from the fuzzy front edge of the medium, as expressed by first solos, out of the way galleries, and eclectic group exhibits, where boundaries are being challenged by fearless newcomers (however defined). Using a handful of shows as examples, I've teased out a few patterns that I saw coalesce out of the swirl of innovation and noise this past year. My goal here is to take an on-the-record snapshot of my preliminary conclusions at this point and time, so that we can look back in a few years and measure whether this data was actually pointing where I thought it was. At a minimum, I hope these themes will be a starting point for putting an analytical framework around some currently amorphous areas of photographic exploration.

Software is the Future of Photography

The digital revolution has been percolating along for the better part of two decades now, so saying that software is the future of the medium is perhaps patently obvious. But for this first time this year, I began to see a deeper, likely permanent shift in mindset, away from software as a digital replacement for an analog darkroom and toward software as a broad scale enabler of artistic expression. Of course, photographers have been playing with the features of Photoshop for years now, so what I'm getting at is more of a wholesale rethinking about the process of photography, and how software is now inextricably woven into that artistic endeavor, so much so that we're beginning to see more photographic art that is truly software driven, rather than camera driven.

A few examples to illustrate my line of thinking. John Houck's Aggregates start with purpose-built code used to output complete sets of color combinations, which cover large sheets with striations of abstract pattern (review here). He then folds the sheets and repeatedly rephotographs them, mixing images of folds and actual physical creases into layers of illusion. The works are photographic, but rooted in the mind of an engineer. Artie Vierkant's works live entirely in the realm of software, building up geometric forms and colored gradients into overlapped abstractions (review here). His thinking finally breaks down the age old idea that there is one best copy, putting a machine cut, physical manifestation and an electronic file on the same footing. Melanie Willhide pushes the expected perfection of digital photography to the point where the glitches start to emerge (review here). Her images stutter and jitter with unexpected, uncontrolled digital bugs and greebles. And Alfred Leslie has taken the white space of the paint program seriously, using his talents as a painter and the features of the software to reconsider digital first painterly input (review here). His works use layers of flatness and detail in completely new visual combinations.

My point here is that we must begin to better understand, define and embrace the connection points between contemporary digital photography and computer-based, network and software-driven digital art making. I expect that these two mediums are going to continue to bleed together, and that photography will ultimately evolve to absorb the new functionality. Photography has always been a technology driven medium, so our collective attention needs to move to where the action is - it's the software and how it is changing the way artists think.

Appropriation is Underdefined

My second light bulb-over-the-head revelation of this past year is that we are lost in a deepening muddle of "appropriation" without a map to give us a sense for what is really going on. If we look back at the Pictures Generation, appropriation was generally defined as taking photographic imagery from magazines, newspapers, and to some extent television (the media of the day) and repurposing it, relying on the change of context to bring out underlying meaning. It often mixed an inherent critique of media with irony and conceptual wit.

Fast forward to today and we're still using the word appropriation to help explain contemporary digital image reuse, and I'm coming to see this as a definitional disaster. First, we need to end the debate about whether digital appropriation is or is not photography or even artistic in some way. It is. Full stop. Move on. Second, we need to broaden the definitions of what we mean when we use the word appropriation, mostly because our problem is only going to get exponentially worse with continued digitization of everything in sight. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I think there is an important difference to be clarified between appropriation that is driven by undermining the image's original context and appropriation that is purely digital raw material for a new downstream artistic effort; one is predicated on friction while the other is essentially frictionless. We also now have dozens of media sources, from surveillance cameras and space satellites to archive digitization and family snapshots, each with differing levels of machine and human intent and widely divergent sources and uses. Seung Woo Back's reuse of random flea market photographs (review here) and Doug Rickard's mining of the Google Street View database (review here) need to be defined separately and with more useful granularity. I think this is the single most important semantic problem we now face in contemporary photography, so let's collectively find richer ways to define image reuse, as it will inevitably become a larger and larger part of how we think about the medium.

The Slow End of Flatness

My last insight from 2012 is that the sculptural properties of photography are finally being explored with more innovation; the boundaries between the two mediums are gradually becoming less distinct. I'm not referring to straightforward photographs of sculpture, but to thinking about photography in three dimensions rather than two. I marveled at Sigrid Viir's constructed frames with jutting cantilevers and rolling wheels (review here) and at Kate Steciw's addition of tape, stickers and other objects adhered directly to the photographs and frames (review here). This thread of thinking is moving away from traditional flatness and instead building up surface and playing with photography in space, not as a gimmick, but as a reconsideration of how we experience imagery. Perhaps we can also see this as an inevitable reaction against the tyranny of the ubiquitous flat screen, and a desire to interact with photography in a more physical way. While this idea has been slowly gathering steam for a while now, I'm definitely ready for more complexity and risk taking in this area.

Overall, I think my key takeaway from 2012 is that the trends are now being driven from edges of the medium back into the center, and the only way to see the new patterns is to get right out to the boundary lines and peer over the edges. While there will always be time for appreciating the greatness of our masters, we are witnessing a time where the entire landscape of photography is in chaotic flux. I for one plan to get out to more off the beaten path galleries this coming year to make sure I don't miss the action.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top Photography Venues in New York in 2012

In the annual battle for venue dominance in the New York photography world, there were two clear winners: the International Center of Photography and eclectic, evolving diversity. While the ICP re-cemented its position of strength with a consistently engaging year of photography programming, perhaps the more exciting development of 2012 was the emergence of the Lower East Side as viable, energetic cluster for photography viewing.

As a reminder, these statistics are built using simple arithmetic, adding up the total number of rating stars I awarded to shows at a particular venue throughout the course of the year. This approach rewards both quality (in the form of 3 STAR shows) and consistent quantity (a solid program of 1 STAR shows month after month) in relatively equal measure. The one kink in the hose comes from venues (both galleries and museums) that support multiple viewing spaces that are filled simultaneously; this scale gives these "bigger" venues an advantage in terms of having more opportunities to show us something brilliant. Caveats aside, I do think the numbers provide a pretty accurate reflection of the past year's best places to enjoy superlative photography.

I reviewed a total of 159 photography shows at 93 different venues in and and around New York in 2012, awarding a total of 204 stars to these exhibits large and small. The International Center of Photography took home 12 stars, besting its rivals by a meaningful margin. It was the only place in the city to deliver two 3 STAR shows (Weegee and Apartheid) and 7 different exhibits at the museum received at least a 1 STAR rating. As a benchmark for the ICP's overall quality this year, last year's winner, Pace/MacGill Gallery, won with a tally of 8 stars. And the ICP's well earned triumph comes against much stiffer competition this year - MoMA, Howard Greenberg Gallery, Yancey Richardson Gallery, and Janet Borden all posted a total of 8 stars or more.

While the data compiled below doesn't include any Lower East Side galleries (none brought in at least 2 stars in aggregate), the emergence of the neighborhood as a location worth visiting for photography was undeniable. Two or three years ago, I reluctantly trekked down to the LES once or twice a year and often came away underwhelmed; at this point, the LES is fixed into my itinerary every two weeks or so. I reviewed worthwhile 1 STAR photography shows at no less than 12 different LES venues in the past year and my crazy tracking spreadsheet has 60+ LES venues that I'm watching for signs of intermittent photographic life. With the recent moves of Sasha Wolf Gallery and Foley Gallery to the neighborhood and the continued conversion of storefronts into risk-taking young galleries, I expect things will continue to heat up. As Chelsea becomes more brittle and corporate, the LES is picking up the mantle as the place for the fresh and unexpected. Virtually all the new (or new to me) spaces I visited for the first time in 2012 were located in and around the LES.

The complete 2012 venue data set is below, with gallery name, followed by total number of review stars earned over the course of the year (including only those 40 venues with a sum total of 2 stars or more):

Specialist Photography Galleries
Howard Greenberg Gallery (here): 9
Yancey Richardson Gallery (here): 9
Janet Borden (here): 8
Yossi Milo Gallery (here): 7
Aperture Gallery (here): 5
Higher Pictures (here): 4
Edwynn Houk Gallery (here): 4
Pace/MacGill Gallery (here): 4
Bonni Benrubi Gallery (here): 3
Steven Kasher Gallery (here): 3
Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): 3
Danziger Gallery (here): 2
Robert Mann Gallery (here): 2
Walther Collection (here): 2

Contemporary Art Galleries
Pace Gallery (here): 6
Gagosian Gallery (here): 4
Marian Goodman Gallery (here): 4
Sonnabend Gallery (here): 4
Lehmann Maupin (here): 3
Team Gallery (here): 3
Flowers Gallery (here): 2
Gladstone Gallery (here): 2
Sean Kelly Gallery (here): 2
Luhring Augustine (here): 2
Matthew Marks Gallery (here): 2
Metro Pictures (here): 2
Mitchell-Innes & Nash (here): 2
Von Lintel Gallery (here): 2
Winkleman Gallery (here): 2
David Zwirner (here): 2

Museums
International Center of Photography (here): 12
Museum of Modern Art (here): 9
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (here): 5
Metropolitan Museum of Art (here): 5
Yale University Art Gallery (here): 3
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (here): 2
High Line (here): 2
Katonah Museum of Art (here): 2
Neue Galerie (here): 2
Wadsworth Athaneum (here): 2