Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Checklist: 03/31/11

Checklist 03/31/11

New reviews added this week in red.


TWO STARS: Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand: Met: April 10: review


TWO STARS: Pictures By Women: MoMA: April 4: review
ONE STAR: Abstract Expressionism New York: MoMA: April 25: review
TWO STARS: The Mexican Suitcase: ICP: May 8: review
TWO STARS: Wang Qingsong: ICP: May 8: review
ONE STAR: Staging Action: MoMA: May 9: review


TWO STARS: Phyllis Galembo: Steven Kasher: April 2: review
TWO STARS: Sze Tsung Leong: Yossi Milo: April 2: review
ONE STAR: David Nadel: Sasha Wolf: April 2: review
ONE STAR: Sarah Anne Johnson: Julie Saul: April 9: review
ONE STAR: Frederick Sommer: Bruce Silverstein/20: April 9: review

SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown

No current reviews

Elsewhere Nearby

No current reviews

Frederick Sommer: Choice and chance, structure art and nature @Silverstein 20

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 black and white photographs, framed in silver and matted, and hung in a small single room gallery space just off the reception area (the main body of the exhibit includes a large number of Sommer's collages, as well as few sculptures, and continues into the adjacent gallery space of Ricco Maresca Gallery (here)). All of the photographic works are gelatin silver prints, made between 1939 and 1951 (the single nude is an outlier and was made in 1963). The prints are a mix of vintage and later prints, with physical dimensions ranging between 9x8 and 11x7 or reverse, with most 10x8. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Following up on the success of the excellent Circumnavigation show last year (here), Bruce Silverstein has come back with a deep dive exhibit focused mostly on Sommer's output of collages. What I liked best about last year's show was that it put Sommer's photography in the context of his other artistic endeavors, mixing photographs with drawings, musical scores, collages, and paintings, using both chronology and commonality of form to make exciting connections. This show goes back to the old formula of separating the different media, sequestering the photographs into a single small room, primarily as background material. This mutes the interplay of the pieces and makes it harder to follow the intellectual and visual threads. But no matter, the photographs are outstanding, as always.
Nearly all of the photographs on display are assemblages of found objects, layered groups of textural items that have been carefully combined into compositions that border on the surreal. Chicken beaks and gizzards, a bloody amputated foot with exposed tendons, melted rock formations, cut paper illustrations, random doll parts, and swirling wood panels come together in unexpected, often indecipherable installations. Sommer's meticulous control of the juxtaposition of forms and textures generates sublime pairings of tactile surfaces and crisp detail, and his masterful control over the gelatin silver printing process heightens the contrasts between the adjacent materials.
I continue to find Sommer's photographic assemblages astounding, even after seeing many over the years; the quality of the craftsmanship is so shockingly high that there is always something new to discover. This exhibit is really about Sommer's cut paper collages, but don't fail to swing into the side room and fall under the spell of these few splendid photographs.

Collector's POV: The photographs in this show are generally priced between $40000 and $50000, with one image at $90000; the nude is $28000. Sommer's photographs are intermittently available in the secondary markets, with prices ranging between $5000 and $85000 in recent years.

My favorite image in the show was Flower & Frog, 1947-48; it's second from the right in the top installation shot. It's a classic Sommer arrangement of seemingly unrelated textural items: a frog, a dress cutout, a small origami flower (is that what it is?), and some other unidentifiable objects, all set against a grainy, cracked wood background.

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

Transit Hub:

  • Foundation site (here)
Frederick Sommer: Choice and chance, structure art and nature
Through April 9th

Bruce Silverstein/20
529 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sarah Anne Johnson, Arctic Wonderland @Saul

JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 color photographs, generally framed in white with no mat, and hung in the entry and both gallery spaces. All of the works are chromogenic prints, most of which have been variously photospotted, painted with acrylic inks and gouache, scratched, embossed and screen printed. Physical dimensions range from 16x24 to 30x165, with several images printed in the 28x42 size. Edition sizes are either 3 or 7. The works on display were made on an artist residency trip to the Arctic Circle, and completed between 2010 and 2011. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: In the past decade, iceberg photography has almost become its own sub genre of the contemporary photographic landscape. Nearly all of these images have had a similar point of view, mixing the otherworldly beauty of the pure, abstract blue and white forms with the harsh, dirty environmental evidence of global warming actually happening. As such, these pictures have often edged toward earnestness, warning us that these natural treasures were indeed melting fast. Sarah Anne Johnson's recent images of the Arctic are something quite different - they take the same vanishing white landscape and instead infuse it with a jolt of whimsy and irony, bringing imagination and folly to the uninhabited ice.

Johnson's works begin with the kind of nearly monochrome land and waterscapes you might expect; snow and dirt intermingled in frosty rock piles, icy glaciers and islands floating in calm waters, huge grey skies reaching to the horizon, and a few intrepid souls in heavy parkas resisting the obvious cold. The conceptual twist here is that Johnson has taken her documentary images of science-based Arctic truth and overpainted them with dreams, visions, and flights of fancy. Geometric solids (triangles, rectangles, and the like) perch like futuristic buildings in previously empty vistas, massive bubbles enclose entire islands and ripple from the surface of the water, impressionistic confetti covers pipelines and rains down on travelers, and watery fireworks explode in the sky and block out the sun. There is a sense of human ridiculousness to it all, the antics being cooly watched by the expansive and indifferent land.

While I will admit that I have never been much of a fan of overpainting in photography, I think Johnson's subtle inclusions of relative absurdity and simple joy give these pictures a lightness that is new and attractive. She has replaced the artful seriousness of the iconic iceberg shots with a "what if" creativity that delivers much the same message about the effects of human intervention in the Arctic ecosystem.
Collector's POV: The prints on display in this show range in price from $4800 to $30000, with many intermediate prices, most under $15000. Johnson's work has not yet entered the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
My favorite image in the show was Black Box, 2010; it's on the right in the bottom installation shot. I liked the way she has transformed an image of small figures trudging across the bleak, featureless tundra into something unexpected by introducing a massive black monolith like the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but even bigger in relative scale. It's a science fiction caricature, delivered with just the right mix of apparent truth and clear fakery.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Guggenheim collection (here)
  • Review: NYTimes, 2005 (here)
Through April 9th
Julie Saul Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Phyllis Galembo: Maske @Kasher

JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 large scale color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung in the divided gallery spaces. All of the works are Ilfachrome prints, made between 2004 and 2009. The images come in three sizes: 20x20 (in editions of 12), 30x30 (in editions of 5), and 50x50 (in editions of 3). There are 11 medium sized prints and 5 large sized prints in the show. A monograph of this body of work has been published by Chris Boot Ltd. (here) and is availble from the gallery for $45. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Phyllis Galembo's vibrant images of African and Haitian figures in indigenous masquerade costumes inhabit the convergence point of three rivers of photographic practice: anthropological documentary, fashion photography, and formal portraiture. Each image can be read in all three modes, providing a depth of experience that goes far beyond the eye-catching, fun exoticism of the exuberant bright colors and the hand crafted found materials.

The most straightforward interpretation of these photographs is to see them as simple facts, as evidence of the diverse social and cultural traditions of particular peoples, brought back from afar for our education. In the larger context of rituals, festivals and ceremonies, they show how different groups have approached common human questions of the power of spirituality, the battle of good and evil, and our interconnected relationship to the natural/animal world. As such, these masquerade costumes represent a form of shared experience, even if they seem foreign and even perplexing to our Western eyes.
If we were to take these images out of this obvious anthropological context and place them amidst pictures of haute couture fashion, I think they would take on a different set of meanings; the line between fashion and costume is altogether blurry wherever you live. These costumes were creatively made from a dizzying variety of materials, from shredded bags to intricately woven cloth, with adornments of antlers, feathers, and exaggerated painted headpieces; colors and textures have been carefully placed together for maximum impact. The skill on display is impressive, and the results are often overtly theatrical, the costumes an integral part of a larger cultural framework of story telling and myth making. Like any genre of fashion, they allow the wearer to inhabit an alternate personality, or to symbolize some facet of life applicable to all, while highlighting beauty in its many forms. 
Galembo's photographs are of course more than deadpan images of costumes; they are portraits of individuals, not unlike Irving Penn's portraits of Moroccan guedras or mudmen from New Guinea, or even his images of rock groups, Hell's Angels, and small tradesmen. In each case, we see a formal portrait against a non-descript background, where the attire of the subject informs our understanding of who they are and what they believe. Galembo's portraits are full of respect and genuine curiosity, taken with a sense of honor and trust, rather than an exploitative search for the extremes of wild and weird.
All in, I think these photographs are quite a bit more powerful than just an anthropological catalogue. They merge the documentary and the artistic in complementary ways, allowing the viewer to get beyond the vivid colors and patterns to more durable levels of understanding and empathy.
Collector's POV: The prints in the show are priced as follows. Ratcheting editions are used for the two larger sizes; the 50x50 prints are either $8500 or $10000, and the 30x30 prints are either $5000, $6500, or $7500, depending on the place in the edition. The 20x20 prints are $3000 each. Galembo's work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

While I liked many of the images in this show, my favorite was Ringo (Big Deer) Masquerade, Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone, 2008; it's the smaller middle image in the top installation shot. I liked the sharp color contrast of the yellow circles that cover the body of the costume and the electric blue wall in the background.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews: Time LightBox (here), Telegraph (here)
Through April 2nd
521 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Auction Results: Fine Photographs, March 24, 2011 @Swann

The results of Swann's various owner photographs sale last week were refreshingly solid, with an overall Buy-In rate just over 20% and Total Sale Proceeds that fell near the top end of the estimate range. The top six lots all found buyers above their high estimates.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Total Lots: 162
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $794600
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $1137300
Total Lots Sold: 127
Total Lots Bought In: 35
Buy In %: 21.60%
Total Sale Proceeds: $1024774

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post, here):

Low Total Lots: 143
Low Sold: 110
Low Bought In: 33
Buy In %: 23.08%
Total Low Estimate: $742300
Total Low Sold: $563974

Mid Total Lots: 19
Mid Sold: 17
Mid Bought In: 2
Buy In %: 10.53%
Total Mid Estimate: $395000
Total Mid Sold: $460800

High Total Lots: 0
High Sold: NA
High Bought In: NA
Buy In %: NA
Total High Estimate: $0
Total High Sold: NA

The top lot by High estimate was lot 9, Linnaeus Tripe, Photographs of the Elliot Marbles; and Other Subjects; in the Central Museum Madras, 1858-1859, at $35000-45000; it sold for $57600. The top outcome of the sale was lot 38, Adam Clark Vroman, Arizona and New Mexico, Volume II, 1897, at $62400.

73.23% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range, and there were a total of 4 surprises in this sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate):
Lot 103, Margaret Bourke-White, Untitled (TWA plane in flight), 1934-35, at $31200 (image at right, middle, via Swann)
Lot 105, O. Winston Link, Mr. and Mrs. Pope Watching the Last Steam Powered Passenger Train, Max Meadows, Virginia, 1957/1987, at $9600
Lot 128, Robert Silvers, Anne Frank, 2002, at $13200 (image at right, bottom, via Swann)
Lot 146, Susan Derges, The Observer and the Observed #6, 1992, at $28800 (image at right, top, via Swann)

Complete lot by lot results can be found linked from here.

Swann Galleries
104 East 25th Street
New York, NY 10010

Sze Tsung Leong, Cities @Milo

JTF (just the facts): A total of 20 color photographs, framed in brown wood and unmatted/matted based on size, and hung in the main gallery space and back alcove. All of the works are chromogenic color prints, made between 2006 and 2010. The prints come in two sizes: 48x59 (in editions of 5+2AP) and 20x24 (in editions of 10+2AP). The show includes 10 images in the large size and 10 images in the small size. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Sze Tsung Leong's elevated images of some of the world's great cities add a new layer of deceptive conceptual rigor to the familiar genre of the broad expansive city view. At first glance, his images bring us back to the famous 19th century panoramas of San Francisco or Hong Kong harbor taken from nearby mountain tops, where impressive and vast industry were captured as history. But Leong's works go several steps further, placing diverse 21st century cities into a compositional framework that allows for easier side by side comparison, where a city is now simultaneously a very specific individual location and an iterative example of an abstract concept.

All of Leong's cityscapes have been composed using a similar formula, regardless of whether he was in Paris or Quito, Shenzen or Cairo. In every case, the camera has been positioned so that the breadth of the city is seen from above, with close up detail in the foreground of the image, and broader urban pattern and the larger geographical setting in the background, all in one self contained front to back continuum (the top quarter of the image is always undifferentiated sky with a generally flat horizon line). Each image contains a complete range of scales, from recognizable objects and buildings to more uniform geometries and textures of the overall aggregate architecture and site.

Seen in this context, each city has its own eccentricities and visual personality: the red tile roofs of Lisboa, the sand colored apartment blocks of Cairo, the peeling grey density of Havana, the modern glass and steel of Tokyo, the car culture flatness of Houston. Not all would qualify as beautiful exactly, but seen together, they seem like members of the same species, where quirks of geography, history, culture and zoning have created widely different endpoints; each city is like a formal natural selection experiment, where the underlying rules and constraints are generally the same, but the local conditions have forced the individuals to evolve in unexpected directions.

As a result, while I think there are several images in this series that offer the viewer an opportunity to get lost in their nooks an crannies (especially when printed in the large size), in general, I think this body of work will be more intriguing and instructive in book form, where the sequenced comparisons between widely divergent cities can be used highlight similarities and differences. Taken together, the project can almost be seen as the basis for an urban planning textbook, where lessons and variations from medieval to modern can be discovered from picture to picture. Most impressively, with a subtle sleight of hand, Leong has taken a cliche (the bird's eye city view) and remade it into an effective tool for exploring the evolution and ultimate meaning of our contemporary cities. All in, the series is a cerebral and quietly contrarian approach to a hackneyed photographic motif.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The large 48x59 prints are available in ratcheting editions, starting at $12000, and moving up through $15000, $22000, and $25000. I'm assuming the smaller 20x24 prints also ratchet upwards, although they were all priced at $6000 on the checklist. Leong's work has not yet reached the secondary markets with any regularity, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

My favorite image in the show was La Paz, 2010; it's on the left in the second installation shot. I liked the dense tactile texture of the city, nestled in the bottom of the valley. I also think this image was the most successful in capturing the impact of the specific local geography on the evolving sprawl of the city.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews: Conscientious (here), TimeOut New York (here), Time LightBox (here)
Sze Tsung Leong, Cities
April 2nd

Yossi Milo Gallery
525 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

Monday, March 21, 2011

2011 AIPAD Review, Part 2 of 2

The 2nd and final portion of our 2011 AIPAD Review is below. Part 1 of the summary (which includes an explanation of the format) can be found here.

Galerie Priska Pasquer (here): Lieko Shiga (3), August Sander (4), Shomei Tomatsu (4), Shin Yanagisawa (2), Daido Moriyama (1), Issei Suda (2), Rinko Kawauchi (5), Nobuyoshi Araki (2), Yutaka Takanashi (6). The Pasquer booth was one of the best edited displays at AIPAD, with a strong mix of vintage and contemporary Japanese photography (with a few vintage Sanders on an inside wall). Takanashi (one of the founders of Provoke) was a discovery for me; the modern prints below were priced at $4900 each. There were also some excellent early prints by Kawauchi and a superb Araki portrait.

M+B (here): Matthew Porter (4), Anthony Lepore (4), Hugh Holland (3), Mike Brodie (6), Alex Prager (1).

L. Parker Stephenson Photographs (here): Jan Yoors (3), Louis Faurer (1), Harold Roth (2), Lisette Model (1), Edward Steichen (1), Irving Penn (1), Erwin Blumenfeld (1), Umbo (2), Charlotte Rudolph (1), Zdenek Tmej (1), Raphael Dallaporta (6). I was intrigued by the scale and ornate detail of these Dallaporta pipe organ images. The large print was reminiscent of Candida Höfer for me, although the level of detail up close was even more meticulously precise; the smaller images were almost like post cards, yet with an astounding level of visual depth and granular accuracy. Prices were $15000 for the large print, $3500 for the smaller ones.

Stephen Daiter Gallery (here): Joseph Sterling (6), Aaron Siskind (5), Ken Josephson (2), Andre Kertesz (3), Berenice Abbott (1), Walter Peterhans (1), Herbert Bayer (1), Stanley Kubrick (1), Eliott Erwitt (3), Weegee (4), John Gossage (3), Lynne Cohen (4), Danny Lyon (2), Ruth Orkin (1), Dawoud Bey (1), Yasuhiro Ishimoto (1), Robert Frank (3), Alex Webb (2).

Michael Shapiro Photographs (here): Irving Penn (1), Helen Levitt (1), Robert Frank (3), Harry Callahan (1), Manuel Alvarez Bravo (8), Eugen Wiskovsky (1), Jaromir Funke (1), Josef Sudek (6), Pierre Dubreuil (1), Charles Sheeler (1), Man Ray (1), Robert Imandt (1), Fletcher Gould (1), Elmer Blew (1), R. Owen Shrader (1), Pirkle Jones (1), Lewis Baltz (6), Ansel Adams, (1), Brett Weston (1), Imogen Cunningham (1), Anonymous (8), Jefferson Hayman (group on outside wall). Shapiro's booth had two of my favorite vintage prints at the fair, hanging right next to each other. The Dubreuil study of spectacles and shadows was simply masterful, full stop. And I don't think I've seen more than a handful of River Rouge Sheelers out in the market since we started collecting, so it was terrific to look at this one up close. The amounts weren't labeled and the booth was crowded, so I didn't get prices for these two gems.

Yossi Milo Gallery (here): Pieter Hugo (2), Alison Rossiter (12), Sze Tsung Leong (2), Ezra Stoller (2), Simen Johan (1), Loretta Lux (2), Yuki Onodera (14).

Higher Pictures (here): Yvon (6), Sam Falls (1), Claire Pentecost (4), Jill Freedman (64), LaToya Ruby Frazier (1). Fall's image disregards all the distinctions that we normally make about the where the edges of the photographic process lie. He starts with photographic imagery, adds a layer of painterly Photoshop effects, and then overlays the resulting print with even more layers of acrylic and pastel. The mixed media result is an abstract hybrid, jolted by splashes of color; it's priced at $4500.

Eric Franck Fine Art (here): Robert Bergman (5), Richard Avedon (1), Antanas Sutkus (2), Rimaldis Vikstraitis (2), Marketa Luskacova (2), Martine Franck (2), Charlotte Bracegirdle (4), Josef Koudelka (1), Geraldo de Barros (4), Erwin Blumenfeld (2), Henri Cartier-Bresson (1), Graham Smith (4), Chris Killip (4), Layla Love (2), Karen Knorr (2), Katarzyna Mirczak (16), Norman Parkinson (6), Lottie Davies (2). Mirczak's grid of Polish prisoner tattoos on preserved skin fragments is an unsettling mix of the memorably grisy and the surprisingly symbolic. The set is priced at $15000.

Bonni Benrubi Gallery (here): Massimo Vitali (1), Georges Dambier (4), Abelardo Morell (7), Matthew Pillsbury (3), Andreas Feininger (12), Paolo Pellegrin (3).

Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): Shinichi Maruyama (2), Michael Wolf (3), Andre Kertesz (12), Man Ray (2), Irving Penn (1), Marie Cosindas (1), Trine Sondergaard (4), Frederick Sommer (4, collage, drawing, painting), Aaron Siskind (3), John Wood (1), Arthur Siegel (1), Henry Moore (1), Nathan Lyons (5 diptychs), Todd Hido (1), Edward Weston (2). I though this early Siegel light drawing was fantastic, with its abstract waves of rhythmic saturated color; this is the kind of image that should have been in the photography room of MoMA's AbEx show, but wasn't. It was priced at $25000.

Scheinbaum & Russek (here): Luis Gonzalez-Palma (2), Eliot Porter (4), Harry Callahan (2), Edward Weston (4), Ruth Bernhard (2), Andre Kertesz (1), Walter Chappell (1), Manuel Alvarez Bravo (3), Edward Curtis (2), Ansel Adams (4), Paul Caponigro (3), Aaron Siskind (1), Minor White (1), William Garnett (1), Lee Friedlander (2), Diane Arbus (1), Henri Cartier-Bresson (1), plus two bins.

Laurence Miller Gallery (here): Simone Rosenbauer (2), Daido Moriyama (1), Toshio Shibata (1), Fan Ho (1), Fred Herzog (1), Ray Metzker (4), Denis Darzacq (2), Lee Friedlander (2), Stephane Couturier (1), Bruce Wrighton (15), Michael Spano (3), Jessica Backhaus (10). This is a 2010 image from Darzacq's Hyper series; this time his young subject is floating through what appears to be a carpet store; it was priced at $7500.

Robert Morat Galerie (here): Christian Patterson (5), Richard Renaldi (2), Richard Rothman (5).

William L. Schaeffer Photographs (no website): Edouard Loydreau (1), Carleton Watkins (1), Eugene Cuvelier (2), Minor White (1), Harry Callahan (1), Clarence White (1), Heinrich Kuhn (1), Walker Evans (1), Margaret Bourke-White (2), Robert Frank (1), NW Gibbons (2), plus three bins and one case of daguerrotypes. This is the kind of 19th century print that makes you rethink everything you think you know about 19th century photography; the massive Watkins tree is seen in crisp dark detail, almost with a modernist sensibility; it was priced at $75000, with a lifetime's worth of enjoyment thrown in for good measure.

Howard Greenberg Gallery (here): Ilse Bing (1), Martin Munkacsi (3), Edward Steichen (1), Charles Sheeler (1), Albert Renger-Patzsch (1), Arnold Newman (1), Minor White (2), Ansel Adams (1), Bruce Davidson (4), Saul Leiter (2), Peter Sekaer (5), David Goldblatt (5), William Klein (1).

James Hyman Photography (here): William Henry Fox Talbot (1), Horatio Ross (3), Roger Fenton (2), Hill & Adamson (3), Julia Margaret Cameron (1), Paul Reas (4), Ken Grant (2), Jem Southam (2), Anna Fox (4), Karen Knorr (4), Thomas Annan (2), Bert Hardy (1), Caroline Coon (2), Cecil Beaton (2), Roger Mayne (2), Lucien Clergue (1), JH Lartigue (1), Eugene Atget (1), Brassai (1), Andre Kertesz (1), Bill Brandt (1), Edward Weston (1), plus four bins. As flower collectors, this rich, dark Fox Talbot study is near the apex of the genre for us; no wonder it was $450000 (the shadow is from the velvet cover being pulled back).

Robert Mann Gallery (here): Kevin Kay (9), Jeff Brouws (33), Holly Andres (1), Julie Blackmon (2), John Mack (2), O. Winston Link (1), Fred Stein (2), Ansel Adams (1), David Vestal (2), Aaron Siskind (2), Joe Deal (2), Chip Hooper (2), Michael Kenna (4), Mario Giacomelli (3).
ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: For the rest of this week, we'll be on spring break. We'll be back next Monday with a backlog of gallery show reviews and auction previews for the upcoming New York photographs season.

2011 AIPAD Review, Part 1 of 2

For collectors like us, a visit to the annual AIPAD Photography Show in New York is like being a kid in a candy store; it combines countless moments of wonder with a mind-numbing case of weary visual overload. The show remains the single best annual gathering of photography in the United States, and this year's 82 exhibitors crisscrossed from 19th century to contemporary work, with a heavy dose of vintage black and white material in between.

Unlike previous years when I have had more time to linger, I only had one afternoon to enjoy the booths this year; no opening night gala, no intimate dinners or cocktail receptions, no leisurely repeat visits on succeeding days. So my experience of the 2011 version of AIPAD was more focused and less methodical than other incarnations; a targeted visit to those booths whose gallery owners I wanted to see or who had work I was particularly interested in, and a cursory swing through the rest. As the years pass, I am more and more struck by the sense of community to be found in these halls: collectors large and small, working photographers, museum curators, gallery owners/dealers, all slowly becoming a dense network of international friends to catch up with, all sharing a common passion for those pictures that make our eyes light up, wherever and whatever they may be. This blog has woven me into the fabric of this community more deeply than I had imagined, and I thoroughly enjoyed having a few quick moments with good friends from afar and putting faces with many personalities I had only known via email. I only wish I had had more time to sift through each and every bin.

This 2011 AIPAD Review will be split into 2 parts, with our customary booth reports, lists of the photographers on view (the number of pictures by each in parentheses) and some additional commentary or a specific image as further illustration. Given my limited time, I only tallied details on 33 booths; those that have been omitted were not necessarily any less compelling, I just didn't have the time to dive deeper and explore the fringes with more care. I'm sure there were great works hidden on interior walls, behind panels or in boxes that I missed in my haste. Overall, my selections inherently have some bias toward vintage black and white photography, given the dominance of vintage work on view. Anecdotally, the vintage dealers I talked to seemed to be having a more successful fair than their contemporary counterparts, but this was early in the run of the show, so who knows how it actually played out when the masses arrived over the weekend.

The galleries presented are in no particular order, and as always, apologies for the marginal images, as they are often marred by reflections or glare:

Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (here): Ola Kolehmainen (2), Monika Bravo (3), Bruce Davidson (2), Jim Campbell (1), Pertti Kekarainen (4), Shirley Shor (1), Niko Luoma (1). The Wolkowitz booth was the usual mix of Finns and new media photography. There was a terrific gridded Kolehmainen on the outside wall at the entrance of the show, but I was most surprised by the large scale Luoma. While I have seen these geometric line works before in a variety of colors and patterns, two details were new to me in this image: the monochrome black and white and the monumental size. Given it's density, it's a picture you can get lost in; it was priced at $16000.

Weston Gallery (here): Danielle Nelson-Mourning (2), Robert Mapplethorpe (2), Oliver Gagliani (1), Imogen Cunningham (1), Pirkle Jones (1), Edward Weston (5), Wynn Bullock (3), Harry Callahan (2), Ansel Adams (4), George Ballagny (1), Charles Marville (1), Eugene Cuvelier (1), Francis Frith (1), Dr. John Murray (1), JB Greene (1), Edouard Baldus (1), John Thomson (1), plus two bins.

Weinstein Gallery (here): Alec Soth (16). The Weinstein booth was a single artist display of Soth's new Broken Manual work. Having not seen this body of work in person before, I was most impressed by the continuity of mood across the diverse set of images; it mixes melancholy, fear, anger, distrust, and isolation into a heady brew. I also hadn't realized that the images were printed in specific and different sizes, i.e. some are small and some are large, and they are not all available in all sizes; Soth has chosen how he wants each image to be sized, thereby creating a certain rhythm to the changes in scale when the works are hung together. The interleaving of color and black and white images also breaks up the natural flow, forcing the viewer to look more closely. The overall effect is controlled and powerful; it's certainly among his best work. My favorite image was actually a black and white work on one of the exterior walls, a picture of a solitary light bulb strung up in the forest (priced at $15500); the glare was so awful off the face of the frame that I couldn't get even a marginal picture. So instead, here's another subtle gut puncher - the white cave with empty hangers (priced at $20700).

Robert Koch Gallery (here): David Parker (1), Masao Yamamoto (3), Andre Kertesz (1), Helen Levitt (1), Imre Kinski (1), Eliott Erwitt (2), Hugh Brown (2), Jeff Brouws (4), Michael Wolf (5), Frantisek Drtikol (1), Joseph Ehm (2), Jusef Sudek (4), Karoly Danassy (1), plus two bins.

Paul M. Hertzmann Inc. (here): Richard Misrach (2), Andre Kertesz (2), Donald Ross (1), Minor White (2), Pim Van Os (1), Brett Weston (1), Alfred Stieglitz (1), Dorothea Lange (1), Edward Weston (2), Eugene Atget (1), Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1), Roger Parry (1), Berenice Abbott (1), Antonio Garduno (1), Consuelo Kanaga (1), Arthur Siegel (1), Osamu Shiihara (2), GP Fieret (1), plus four bins. I liked the avant-garde jitteriness of this Shiihara multiple exposure nude from the 1930s; it was priced at $9500.

Joseph Bellows Gallery (here): Wayne Lazorik (2), Leroy Robbins (6), Bill Arnold (2), Todd Walker (2), Randal Levenson (3), Thomas Barrow (2), Bevan Davies (4), Terry Wild (1), Charles Johnstone (6), plus two bins.

Robert Klein Gallery (here): Irving Penn (4), Gregory Vershbow (2), Cig Harvey (1), Mario Gaicomelli (3), Alex Webb (2), Ilse Bing (1), Henri Cartier-Bresson (3), Walker Evans (3), Minor White (1), Carleton Watkins (1), Baron Adolph de Meyer (1), Edward Weston (1), Lewis Hine (1), Ansel Adams (3), Aaron Siskind (2), Helen Levitt (1), Arno Rafael Minkkinen (1), Francesca Woodman (4), Paulette Tavormina (3). This Siskind is the kind of image that fits right in the heart of our own collection: a city architectural scene, with strong abstract contrasts of line and form. Priced at $40000.

Yancey Richardson Gallery (here): Alex Prager (1), Olivo Barbieri (2), Victoria Sambunaris (1), Masao Yamamoto (4), Mark Steinmetz (1), Sebastiao Salgado (1), Esko Mannikko (2), Andrew Moore (2), Laura Letinsky (2), Rachel Perry Welty (4).

Gitterman Gallery (here): Frantisek Drtikol (1), Andre Kertesz (2), Clarence White (3), Jessie Tarbox Beals (1), Seneca Ray Stoddard (1), Eugene Atget (1), Aaron Siskind (5), Harry Callahan (4), Minor White (1), Ken Josephson (2), Gita Lenz (3), Ralph Eugene Meatyard (3), Charles Traub (2), Dr. Dain Tasker (1), plus two bins. This was a Callahan multiple I hadn't seen before; elegant wavy grasses as squiggly lines across the surface of water. Priced at $35000.

Richard Moore Photographs (here): Percy Loomis Sperr (17), Weegee (1), Peter Sekaer (4), Walker Evans (1), Dorothea Lange (1), Ralph Steiner (2), Bill Owens (1), Karl Struss (1), Margarethe Mather (1), plus three bins.

Edwynn Houk Gallery (here): Sebastiaan Bremer (2), Vik Muniz (1), Man Ray (1), Bettina Rheims (2), Robert Polidori (1), Alfred Stieglitz (1), Edward Steichen (1), Paul Strand (1), Hannes Schmid (1), Brassai (1), Andre Kertesz (1), Edward Weston (1), Dorothea Lange (3), Bruce Davidson (1), Walker Evans (1), Sally Mann (1), Joel Meyerowitz (1), Stephen Shore (4). The Houk booth had an embarassment of spectacular photographic masterworks along its interior walls. Bypassing a few notable icons, I was most drawn to this stunning Lange of the SF waterfront strike of 1934. It's an amazingly nuanced print of a visceral image; priced at $165000.

Lee Gallery (here): Gustave Le Gray (1), Gertrude Kasebier (2), Alfred Stieglitz (1), Heinrich Kühn (11), F. Holland Day (1), plus four bins. This Kühn dahlia is one I hadn't ever seen before; I actually liked it better than the more famous rubber plant nearby. The texture and patina of the layered leaves is soft and tactile. Priced at $25000.

Deborah Bell Photographs (here): Andy Warhol (6), Marcel Broodthaers (1), Vito Acconci (1), Dennis Oppenheim (1), Marcia Resnick (7), Diane Arbus (1), Louis Fauer (2), Garry Winogrand (1), GP Fieret (4), George Gardner (2), August Sander (2), Susan Paulsen (2).

Amador Gallery (here): Bernd and Hilla Becher (3), Gabriele Basilico (3), Ryuji Miyamoto (1), Arnold Odermatt (8), Robert Voit (8). Basilico's 1980s images of Dunkirque are among my favorites from his whole career, so I was happy to see one on display in the Amador booth. I'm a sucker for silhouetted industrial forms, and this series is filled with contrasty cranes and traffic lights, abstracted into interlaced geometric lines. Priced at $4500.

Halsted Gallery (here): Irving Penn (2), Paul Anderson (1), Don Hong Oai (1), Kim Kauffman (1), Andre Kertesz (3), Edward Weston (2), Berenice Abbott (3), Arnold Newman (4), Brett Weston (3), Michael Kenna (2), Aaron Siskind (1), George Tice (2), Walker Evans (1), Henri Cartier-Bresson (1), Leonard Freed (1), Ruth Orkin (1), Nicholas Nixon (1), August Sander (1), Karl Struss (1), JH Lartigue (1).

Catherine Edelman Gallery (here): Lucie & Simon (1), Myra Greene (15), Elizabeth Ernst (4), Julie Blackmon (3), Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison (8), Gregory Scott (1), Lori Nix (1), Lauren Simonutti (8). I've slowly been getting my head around Lori Nix' meticulous tabletop dioramas (and their place in the history of staged model building - Simmons, Casebere, Demand etc.), so I spent some time looking at this real but unreal laundromat more closely. The attention to detail is staggering, especially in the subtleties of aging and the nuances of light; priced at $4000.

Part 2 of our AIPAD Review is here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Top 10 Photo Collectors in ARTnews

While ARTnews has been producing an annual list of top collectors for quite a few years now, the March issue of the magazine digs down into our own world of photography and selects The Top 10 Photo Collectors (here). My first reaction to such a list was a mix of curiosity and outright skepticism. Could they really get such a list "right"? And what criteria would they use to choose the names?

According to the article, the list was selected via a process of consensus gathering; in short, ask enough dealers, auctioneers, collectors, museum directors, and curators until a pattern starts to emerge. Here's the list they came up with:

David Dechman
Randi and Bob Fisher
Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Michael Jesselson
Elton John
Andrew Pilara
Lisa and John Pritzker
Thomas Walther
Michael Wilson

While this is clearly a remarkably esteemed list, a couple of things stick out for me. One, there is zero overlap with the names on the overall list of top art collectors, so there really isn't any way to compare the activities of photo specialist collectors and broader contemporary art collectors who collect photography as one part of their activities. Two, there are some major photography collectors, with jaw-droppingly impressive collections, who are not on this list.

The article goes on to say that the names "were selected based on how active they are rather than on the size or value of their collections". So in some ways, this explains the omission of some vast and comprehensive collections; perhaps they have become less "active" as their holdings have increased.

So then I started to parse this word "active". How might we actually define it? A simple way would be to use it to highlight those collectors who spent the most money on photography in the recent year. The problem with this definition is that a single collector who bought half a dozen very high priced works might be deemed most active. But that then leads to the following conundrum: is a collector who buys 2 $500K photographs more or less active than a collector who acquired 200 $5K photographs? To my mind, the effort and work required to intelligently select and purchase 200 works far outweighs that of purchasing 2; so in addition to quality, quantity must somehow be considered as a meaningful part of this equation.

I think that the major intangible here is the voracity of the searching that a collector exhibits. I'm sure that for some collectors, the two efforts of searching and buying may be roughly equivalent in size. However, I've certainly experienced with our own collecting that over time, we've seen our searching and learning effort expand exponentially, while our end buying has remained relatively constant; we just spend a lot more time looking, reading and thinking than we used to, and our searching and selecting has become much more targeted. As such, a couple of the names on the list above stand out for me based on this intensity of activity; of course, they are buying photographs on a regular basis, but what makes them important is not the size of their wallets, but their overflowing passion for both the art form and the never ending process of hunting.

In the end, I suppose that whether this list is perfectly representative or not is really beyond the point. The fact that ARTnews went to the trouble of trying to figure out who the top collectors are is real evidence that photography is becoming more and more of a central part of the artistic dialogue, so much so that those avid photography supporters who have quietly amassed museum quality collections are now being recognized as the leaders they have always been.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Checklist: 03/17/11


Checklist 03/17/11

New reviews added this week in red.


TWO STARS: Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand: Met: April 10: review


TWO STARS: Pictures By Women: MoMA: March 21: review
ONE STAR: Mark Power: Amador: March 26: review
ONE STAR: Abstract Expressionism New York: MoMA: April 25: review
TWO STARS: The Mexican Suitcase: ICP: May 8: review
TWO STARS: Wang Qingsong: ICP: May 8: review
ONE STAR: Staging Action: MoMA: May 9: review


ONE STAR: Coke Wisdom O'Neal: Mixed Greens: March 19: review
TWO STARS: Michael Schmelling: ClampArt: March 19: review
ONE STAR: Michael Benson: Hasted Kraeutler: March 26: review
ONE STAR: O. Winston Link: Robert Mann: March 26: review
ONE STAR: David Nadel: Sasha Wolf: March 26: review

SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown

ONE STAR: Mariah Robertson: Museum 52: March 25: review
THREE STARS: Laurie Simmons: Salon 94 Bowery: March 26: review

Elsewhere Nearby

No current reviews

O. Winston Link: The Last Steam Railroad in America @Mann

JTF (just the facts): A total of 22 black and white and 2 color photographs, framed in black and matted, and hung throughout the main gallery space. Nearly all of the works are later gelatin silver prints, most sized 16x20 or reverse, with 2 outliers (20x24, and 12x51). The two color images are chromogenic dye coupler prints, also sized 16x20. All of the images were taken in between 1955 and 1958. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: This show of the photography of O. Winston Link is exactly what you would expect it to be. It's a gathering of nearly every one of his most famous nocturnal steam train images, pictures that chronicle a simpler time before the arrival of the interstate highways. Without a doubt, it's a greatest hits exhibit, perfect for those who need a refresher on Link and his carefully controlled cinematic drama.

If we step beyond the obvious 1950s nostalgia and the train buff nerdiness and look at Link's work through the the eyes of today's contemporary art mindset, I think something surprising happens. I think a pretty compelling argument can be made for placing Link near the beginning of the "staging" timeline I mentioned earlier this week vis a vis the current Staging Action show at the MoMA. His use of artificial lighting and meticulous compositional construction is what makes these images so amazing; in many ways, he's a direct precursor to the sound stage elaborateness of Wall and Crewdson. The gas station, the swimming hole, the drive-in theater, the horse and buggy, the waterfall, the woman in her living room, the giant oak, yes, they all have a train in them, but the precise placement of that train within the overall scene was anything but accidental or documentary.

When dissected in this manner, I think Link's work becomes altogether more surreal. The shadows, the smoke, the bright highlights, the glare, nothing was left to chance. I started to notice the float of the steam, the placement of the figures, the areas of dark and light in each image; clearly, he was drawing our eyes to certain spots and hiding others in blackness. The pairing of images at the Rural Retreat depot shows how Link manipulated the light to get specific effects; in one image, a man holds a lantern and the depot is partially in darkness; in another, the man is without a lantern and the depot is fully lit.

I suppose this is what makes some of the masterworks of photography so great; they can constantly be reinterpreted and rediscovered by later generations, who will see in them something different than those that came before. Old can still be both good and relevant; for those of you who have steeped yourselves in the nuances of staged contemporary photography, swing by this show to reconsider just how fresh and important O. Winston Link might be.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The black and white prints range from $10000 to $25000, with several intermediate prices ($12000, $16000, and $20000); the color images are $10000 each. Link's work is ubiquitous in the secondary markets, with dozens of prints up for sale in any given year. Prices have generally ranged between $2000 and $28000, with Hot Shot, Eastbound, Iager, West Virginia, 1956, always near the top of that range.

My favorite image in this exhibit was NW795 Winston Link, George Thom & Night Flash Equipment, New York City, March 19, 1956; it's on the far right in the third installation shot. It's a spectacular portrait of Link, his assistant, and all his cameras and lighting equipment. While the train pictures are of course iconic at this point, I liked the circular patterns of the light fixtures and the tangle of tripods in this image.

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

Transit Hub:

  • O. Winston Link Museum (here)
  • Feature: Photo Booth (here)
O. Winston Link: The Last Steam Railroad in America
Through March 26th
Robert Mann Gallery
210 Eleventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mark Power, The Sound of Two Songs @Amador

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color and 10 black and white photographs, framed in white and unmatted and framed in black and matted respectively, and hung against cream and grey walls in the main gallery spaces. All of the color works are type c prints, made from negatives taken between 2004 and 2006. These images are available in two sizes: 20x24 (in editions of 10) and 40x50 (in editions of 5). The black and white works are gelatin silver prints, made from negatives taken between 1993 and 1996. These images are square format, printed 20x24 with detailed captions, in editions of 10. A monograph of The Sound of Two Songs was published by Photoworks in 2010 (here). A monograph of The Shipping Forecast was published by Zelda Cheatle in 1996. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: This show is a two-for-the-price-of-one opportunity to get acquainted with the work of British photographer and Magnum Photos member Mark Power. It combines his black and white work from the 1990s with more recent color images made across Poland, providing an opportunity to compare two working styles tailored to specific projects.

The images in the back gallery come from the series The Shipping Forecast, named for the BBC Radio broadcast heard daily by listeners across the UK. Each work documents a specific coastal location and time, complete with its maritime forecast ("mainly fair" or "moderate or poor becoming good"). These seaside scenes have a dark edginess: a child lies with his dump truck near lumpy mounds of sand, boys search amid cylindrical cement blocks used to bulwark the surf, grey skies envelop beach cabanas and a deserted slide, abandoned white towels are bisected by the blackness of shadows, and cemetery plots look out over the bright horizon. Places listeners have never visited suddenly have a face, and the gathering power of the weather offers a gritty sense of impending doom.

Power's newer images of Poland find moments of quirky optimism and compositional rigor in the drab, grey Eastern European environment. Of course, there are the usual grimy apartment buildings and ugly highway sound barriers that are the staple of so much contemporary German photography. But Power seems to be drawn to the more unexpected visual contrasts and unlikely juxtapositions: a dingy elevated view of Warsaw with a pristine cloud filled blue sky straight out of a 19th century Romantic painting (almost like a LeGray two negative combination), the oddity of green tree trunks amid brick buildings, the strange metal framing of a dusty construction site entrance, the downward look at a winter skating rink (a dead ringer for Moholy-Nagy), or the bisected back view of the massive video screen used to watch the Pope's funeral by a crowd of onlookers. These pictures are like road trip discoveries, the more unusual details of today's Poland that get overlooked when we focus on the obvious or the stereotypical.

All in, this is a solid pairing of photographic projects, with ample evidence of both range and craft on display.

Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The color images are either $3000 for the 20x24 size or $6000 for the 40x50 size. The black and white images are $3500 each. Power's work has not been widely available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
While I enjoyed most of the images from The Shipping Forecast series, my favorite was THAMES, Sunday, 7 January, 1996; it's in the center of the third installation shot. I liked the apocalyptic wash of thick fog covering the lone dark figure on the beach.

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

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Magnum Photos page (here)
  • Review: New Yorker (here)
Through March 26th

41 East 57th Street
New York, NY 10022

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960 @MoMA

JTF (just the facts): A group show of the work of 30 photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung in a two room divided gallery on the 3rd floor. Many of the works consist of multiple prints (black and white or color), either in series or sequence. The images were taken between 1960 and 2007, and many are recent acquisitions by the museum. The exhibit was curated by Roxana Marcoci and Eva Respini. (Installation shots at right.)
The following photographers/artists have been included in the show, with the number of works/prints on view in parentheses:

Vito Acconci (group of 12)
Bas Jan Adler (1)
Ai Weiwei (4)
Matthew Barney (1)
Gunter Brus (1)
Robert Filliou (group of 3)
Lee Friedlander (1)
Gilbert & George (1 album in case)
Eikoh Hosoe (1)
Huang Yan (group of 2)
George Maciunas (group of 5)
Ana Mendieta (group of 4)
Otto Muehl (1)
Laurel Nakadate (4)
Bruce Nauman (group of 5)
Hermann Nitsch (1)
Adrian Piper (group of 6)
William Pope.L (1)
Richard Prince (1)
Arnulf Rainer (1)
Robin Rhode (group of 28)
Rong Rong (group of 4)
Lucas Samaras (group of 18)
Rudolf Schwartzkogler (group of 9)
Cindy Sherman (1)
Mieko Shiomi (group of 8)
Lorna Simpson (group of 12)
VALIE EXPORT (group of 6)
Ben Vautier (1)
William Wegman (group of 2)
Comments/Context: With the widespread adoption of staging as an accepted technique of contemporary photographic practice, the unspoken elephant in the room is how we place this new trend into art historical context, and how we rationalize and categorize its many embodiments and methods into some kind of coherent whole. The questions start to multiply almost immediately:
  • Does staging inherently tie back to performance art? And if so, which kinds?
  • Or is the key beginning point the Pictures Generation? or conceptual art/photography?
  • Is this the next thematic stop beyond postmodernism?
  • Where do the teachings of Wall, Baldessari and Crewdson (among many others) fit?
  • Should photographic self-portraiture be reconsidered of as a kind of "staged performance"? Can this kind of recategorization also be done with other traditional genres?
Once you open this unwieldy can of worms, it's hard to get it closed again, given the sheer diversity of the possible outward connections.

MoMA has been picking around the edges of this broad "performance" problem for the past few years, with the last room of the Original Copy show, the Marina Abramovic blockbuster, and now this smallish sampler. The challenge is that this is a thorny, complicated set of issues to untangle, and a simple gathering of similar photography isn't going to get the job done; we need a careful, full bodied 6th floor explication that offers a systematic, edited line of thinking to be followed. I'm not talking about a robust history of performance art, but of a "precedents, influences, and motifs" analysis of the photographic trend in staging. To my eyes, Staging Action seems to be more of an attempt to back fill - the museum has actively been making acquisitions in this area so that more of the historical story can be told, and this show gives us glimpses of what they've been buying/rediscovering and the very beginnings of how they seem to be putting it all together. But it's clearly still very much a work in progress.

One of the main difficulties faced in trying to analyze the roots of staging is the shifting definition of the "audience". One one hand, "traditional" performance art has had actual watchers/bystanders, where the camera is merely a vehicle for documenting/recording the live action happening (often in multiple images taken in sequence). On the other hand, other forms of performance art have had no watchers/bystanders, where the camera is the only audience and is therefore enlisted into being more of a collaborator or co-conspirator; these scenes have been designed to be photographed, from elaborate sound stage ready tableaux to intimate personal moments or quirky conceptual tricks.

Staging Action slices off a diverse selection of this second group, where the camera is a willing participant in the theatrical art making, not just a mute witness. The problem with using a solely "process" centric definition is that the subject matter gets so widely dispersed: in just two rooms, we wander from body mutilation and endurance art, to gender/identity studies, to witty conceptual jokes, to political commentaries, and back again to any number of inward looking personal explorations (all the way to a Friedlander self portrait), traversing 50 years of cultural history in the process. The 1960s Vienna Actionists share the wall with Wegman and Nauman, flanked by Matthew Barney and Lorna Simpson. With such a broad scope, I could not help but wonder: why this and not that? over and over again as I looked at the selected works. In the end, my conclusion was more pedestrian: MoMA had a bunch of new acquisitions that it wanted to display and this was a relatively straightforward way to get them on the walls and signal that this line of thinking is open for active study and interpretation.
So I'd like to think that this show is a smart appetizer for something larger to come in years hence. What's on display here is certainly one part of the broader discussion, but it lacks a strong point of view; it's more a collection of "what", rather than an exploration of "why". We'll get yet another related piece of the performance puzzle with the big Cindy Sherman retrospective next year, but I'm hoping that sometime soon we'll get a comprehensive, intellectually rigorous, thought leader appropriate deconstruction of all of these merging tributaries and their relevance in the larger context of contemporary art. In many ways, it is the foundation art history problem for a significant portion of contemporary photography, and in my view, the general public is ready for a high quality argument for how it all fits together. This show compiles some of the high points, but left me wanting much more.

Collector's POV: My favorite work in this show was the series of Rong Rong images, East Village Beijing, No. 8, 1995; it's on the far left in the top installation shot. In each photograph, a body part wriggles to get out through a small slit/hole in a rough hewn metal panel; fingers, an ear, a nose, and a tongue each make cameo appearances trying to escape. To me, these black and white works were successful in symbolically describing a cultural environment where external stimuli (smells, sounds, tastes, etc.) are being constrained/limited, and the people inside struggle to make a connection through the tiny hole in the otherwise impervious armor.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here).
Transit Hub:
  • Reviews: NY Times (here), Brooklyn Rail (here), New Yorker (here)
Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960
Through May 9th

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019