Photo Fairs; Gallery Moves
Photo Time in LA
Paris Photo and photo independent
Paris Photo (May 31–June 3) hit its third year—the final year of its lease agreement with Paramount Studios, wherein it takes over several soundstages and the “New York” backlot for an art fair. This year there were 79 exhibitors (that includes galleries and art-book stores), close to the 81 last year, although it was apparent some of the big hitters were missing. Gagosian was gone, Fraenkel Gallery was gone. Instead, some smaller galleries, including Los Angeles ones, got in—ones that would never see the light of day at PP in Paris.
More than one return-gallerist remarked on a lighter crowd, and wondered if it was worth the high expense of coming. Several expressed disappointment over sales, but nobody wanted to be quoted. After all, some might want to go to PP in Paris, still the number one photo fair in the world.
One gallery that did very well was Fabien Castanier, featuring the photography of Diana Thorneycroft. The artist recreates scenes from movies, sometimes conflated with famous paintings, using Barbie and Ken dolls—then photographs them. In Nighthawks (What would Jack Bauer do?), Barbie tries to ward off an attack of crows, swans and buzzards. She’s dressed in green like Tippi Hedren in The Birds, and the backdrop is provided by Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. It was dizzily hilarious, but then, I happen to be fascinated by both film and painting. Also riveting were works by Edward S. Curtis presented by Bruce Kapson Gallery, including prints and, most astonishingly, the original copper photogravure plates used to print Curtis’ limited edition volumes of The North American Indian. These had been thoroughly cleaned and polished to a coppery shine and enclosed in a Plexiglas frame—gorgeous to behold, but somehow saddening that they weren’t going to a museum or public collection. (Or maybe, if we’re lucky, some will.)
Others of special interest included Art Lexing of Miami, showing the works of Pierre-Elie de Pibrac and Quentin Shih; Galerie E.G.P featuring“Fragments,” a solo by Swiss artist Rachel Rom; and the quite haunting prints made from the archives of Richard J. Arnold. Arnold had a photography studio in San Luis Obispo in the late 19th century, and his portraits captured a slice of life in long ago Central California—especially poign -ant are the original and retouched images presented side by side. Life was hard in them days, and it shows in these weatherbeaten faces.
So is the fair coming back or not? The new director of PP, Florence Bourgeois, insisted, “Yes, we are definitely coming back.” When pressed by moi, she admitted they had not yet signed the new agreement, but quickly added that details were being worked out. While the location at Paramount Studios is a novelty venue that attracts visitors, it’s also a very expensive one. So don’t be surprised if PP does come back to LA next year—but perhaps elsewhere.
Again, Photo Independent (June 1–3) piggybacked on PP, back at Raleigh Studios across Melrose. This time there were two sound stages with photographer-run booths (the original idea), plus a tent that was filled with galleries and exhibitors. It’s fun to talk to photographers whose work you become intrigued by—and of course, the ones who come here are ready to talk. Predictably, there were plenty of landscapes and nudes, plus a certain nostalgia about the rock star era, the heyday of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, in the photography of Kevin Goff and the Morrison Hotel Gallery.
You meet photographers on a mission here, people driven to create a body of work because the subject matter has captured them. Eric Politzer of Los Angeles has spent the last couple years working on his series, “Las Transformistas,” portraits of gay men and transgender queens who work in cabarets in Cuba—who says glamour is dead? These ladies with their gossamer gowns and big hair would do Dolly Parton proud. Politzer tells me his book is coming out later this year—look for it!Two other photographers whose work caught my eye were from the Southern Hemisphere. Nigel Swinn of New Zealand shoots portraits of aboriginals with face tattoos, staring straight out at you from 6-feet-high portraits. Or sometimes their eyes are closed, as if dreaming. The young and impressively talented Dylan Coombe hails from Australia, and specializes in shooting a single decaying leaf at a time. He blows them up into very large prints which highlight their gorgeous details. They traveled a long way to get to Los Angeles—hope it was worth it, mate!
Closing, Opening, Online
A few galleries bit the dust this spring: Western Project closed their doors, although they continue an online presence; Jancar in Chinatown; and the short-lived Glike Gallery in Culver City.
Edward Cella happily moved from Wilshire Boulevard into the Culver City arts corridor. On May 9, a buoyant and congratulatory crowd came to the opening of his first show at 2754 South La Cienega: “Unbound,” featuring eight artists including Joshua Aster, Ruth Pastine and Jeffrey Vallance. Merry Norris took over the project space there for a “Shevening,” featuring two exceptional artists, Tanya Aguiñiga and Nancy Baker Cahill. Their work had a special dialogue with each other—and in fact they talked and saw each other’s works while preparing for the show. Aguiñiga created elaborate wall hangings using rope, some of it unraveled, and Cahill made a series of abstract, sinuous drawings.
Meanwhile, Gusford gallery has finally found a new space, at 616 North La Brea, a stone’s throw from its current location. “When I first opened,” says owner Kelsey Lee Offield, “I was looking to purchase a new space for longevity, but I couldn’t find what I wanted and settled on Hollywood.” That was two years ago, and she was happy with how the area was developing. Last year she bought the former retail space, with a footprint of 4,200 square-feet, and 6,500 square-feet of space, including an apartment upstairs where visiting artists might stay. Since then they’ve been pulling permits, bringing the building up to code, and renovating. “I’m excited to have a permanent space,” she says. “It allows us to do even more programming, live performances, dinners and lectures—it offers lots of flexibility.” This September the new space will launch with a solo by Swiss-born artist Andrea Hasler. Congrats, Edward and Kelsey!