Snapping into the New Year, Photo LA was in the Barker Hangar for the second year. Remembering the Civic Center early days when it was more like a flea market with vendors in an open room of cardboard boxes on tabletops. It has grown into a fine art photo fair. This venue is wonderful for not being too large like the LA Convention Center. And on the Westside, which matters for many reasons.
Anthony Hernandez has chronicled photos of LA and homelessness in his life’s work and this featured exhibit’s perforated metal is a perfect metaphor for how the privileged and most everyone else have a strong psychological barrier between their own problems and the ever-growing pop-up street camps surprisingly found all around now.
His interview with Nicole Miller revealed that he only takes the photos and collaborates with the printer. He generously shared his production techniques and candid process insights. It fascinates me to think of a person that has a type of cubicle approach to his work, just that one piece of if. He does not digitally manipulate images as a type of old-school sophistication. And comments, “LA is my big studio,” as a creative playground, which is more dimensional than restrained though of having a specific address designated for creative work.
We are all familiar with the “masters” and traditional photographers as documentarians who are represented there. But this is LA and that is not why we come. On the other end of the spectrum is the student work section. It punctuates the tension between the digital techs and the analog stalwarts. Many galleries are being sure to tell that all is achieved in the darkroom and then there are those who are not impressed by it.
In the massive middle of show are hybrid photographs in extra large formats of blended techniques teasing the viewer with paint and graphics on what they are seeing in the photos. Now that Fake is the new Cool, we get on board for the trip. It’s how the photographers add perspective to a landscape, as did Debe Arlook. Because a landscape is not enough in its natural beauty. Like painting working hands’ fingernails, we add pink to make them pretty. Her pink landscapes has the dark shadow which is the part that pulls the viewer in to see if it is real and what it is about.
Seeing Jay of Axiom Contemporary with the oversized works sends a clear message to corporate collectors, since it would not fit in most homes. Grossman bookshelves are wonderful throwback nostalgia yet not meaningful as light boxes. Books are not backlit.
And knowing that they still have only one female artist in their stable after all this time, we can hope that next time they have female artists with them at all the international air fairs they do, which is where art is being sold now. But not so much this fair. The crowd is full of LA photographers of course most are looking for representation and not collectors.
The environmental photographers from France showed the stark desert landscapes with a washed-out print as the horrible destruction happening but lacked the emphasis of desire to want to have the art or fix the problem it reveals. Florian Ruiz exhibit with Galerie Sit Down was so well suited for this green state-of-mind that it blended too far in. Someone like Diana Cohen could involve them in her Plastic Pollution Coalition since it is sponsored by the French equivalent, Centre national des arts plastiques.
Large format extra dark photos of African woman were so vengeful as they look down upon us. Timing on these is just right and so is the emphasis on the grit and scale of the statement.
Paris Texas LA gallery was exciting! Joseph Bellows was a class act as usual. His taste and choices are impeccable, reliable. Susan Spiritus has a nice stable of artist including Ellen Cantor whose work is shown in another gallery at the fair.
Jeffery Sklan dark flowers are beautifully photographed and printed. The Brush Off portraits of LA painters is not clear why he chose that project except for the friend building. It’s working.
And I really wanted to hear from Stephan Simkowitz and Nick Fahey however it was late in the final day, Sunday afternoon and just could not make it despite my lukewarm approach to Super Bowl Sunday.