Friday, March 25, 2011


Of the three events, this is the one that blew me away, and it blew my away on so many levels. First, even if you weren’t into photography and you didn’t want to plunk down twenty-five dollars for a one-day trip inside the show, you could still walk into the Park Avenue Armory and explore the building’s public spaces.

It’s like a walk through “The King’s Speech”, peeling wallpaper, and patched ceilings, walls hung with decaying taxidermy and military portraits, and Moorish details so beautiful they make your eyes sore. I’ve got to think dozens of set designers have used these rooms for any number of visually tantalizing films but I can’t remember one. Maybe it takes a British eye to distill the beauty out of the perfectly imperfect.
If you decided to pay the entry fee, and many did, the show was loaded with intrigue. I’ve heard comments that the show seemed a bit stuck in the past. The percentage of vintage to contemporary photography was weighted more toward the old than the new but the vintage images were frequently ones I hadn’t seen before. The world was represented with dealers from Europe and Asia showing their best along with North America.

It seemed as if many dealers had a premonition about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Every other booth had an image either made in Japan or referencing the effects of natural and emotional disasters. At the Amador Gallery booth, Ryuji Miyamoto’s images of twisted buildings (San-no-miya) following the Kobe earthquake in 1995 were particularly moving.
I went on Saturday afternoon when the aisles were teaming with attendees. By this time the show had a running start and as opposed to recent years the walls were filled with red dots. One dealer I spoke to said she had already replaced most of the images on her walls twice and the show still had a day and a half to go. If this show is any barometer of the economic climate it seems people are back out spending, at least for photography.
Here are some of my new find highlights:

Rachel Perry Welty
Lost in my Life (Price Tags), 2009
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery
Rachel’s work is Cindy Sherman without the face. Rachel hides behind constructed sets of repetitious props, her form only detectable by the lighting that hints at her curves and her blond hair. The crispness of the images adds to the mystery and like a game of finding Waldo you’re drawn in to hunt for the human masquerading as the inanimate object

Maggie Taylor
Woman with Bees, 2001
Represented by John Cleary Gallery
Maggie Taylor combines 19th century portraiture adding her face to the image and then layering on the whimsy of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The flatness of the images is countered with the suspicion that a head will open up and flowers will sprout from her cranium.

Michael Massaia
Deep in a Dream – Central Park 12
Represented by June Bateman Fine Art
Michael Massaia’s work is reminiscent of the early Pictorialists. The dreamy quality of his work is the height of romanticism and I’m a sucker for the romantic. His body of work is consistently anchored in this sea of idyllic spaces bathed in mist and mystery.

Sohei Nishino
The Diorama Map Series
Michael Hoppen Gallery
Nishimo’s work just doesn’t translate to the blogging world, but I had to include him in the group of images I spent a lot of time with during the show. Sohei makes intricately constructed collages composed of thousands of images of a city’s landmarks and streetscapes then rephotographs the collages into a single image. First you have to examine the prints to make sure they aren’t original collages, the definition of the cut marks is that deceiving and then you have to marvel at the shear ingenuity of how he could make his maps appear true and fantasy all at the same time.

Doug and Mark Starn
HackelBury Gallery, London
The Starn twins have created a series of leave images made from inkjet prints framed as pieces taped together or mounted with pushpins. The ragged and rich collection works in ways only Doug and Mark can pull off.


Robert Doisneau
Le Regard Oblique, Paris, 1948
Represented by Staley-Wise Gallery, NYC

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