Adventurers and artists: photo l.a. focuses its lens on distant shores – Show news – Brief Article
LOS ANGELES — Photographers are known often to be adventurers, taking their cameras to exotic, unexplored and sometimes dangerous locales. Photography dealers, too, may be adventurers, taking a chance on the unexplored territory of introducing new artists and new art genres to the collecting marketplace.
In January, photo l.a., the largest photographic exposition in the West, was filled with adventuresome examples of both: images that took the viewer to new and foreign territory and art dealers who were exploring the marketplace for cutting-edge work. Fair visitors were greeted with thousands of images, from the earliest pioneering photographs of the mid-19th century to modern-day, experimental, photo-based art.
They saw photographs from distant shores–of dust swirling around a dutch of Afghanistan women, artful nudes on lava flows, a religious center built hard into a steep, rocky mountainside in Tibet, playful Cuban boys at a swimming hole, guerrillas in Morocco, a courtyard in Prague, and shepherds in Crete as well as images of constructed, surrealistic “shores,” of a little boy towering over a landscape, a teacup with a built-in sink drain and a self “portrait” of an artist as a one-armed statue.
Held Jan. 16 to 19 in Santa Monica, the 12th-annual outing of photo l.a. featured some 86 galleries and photography dealers, book publishers and non-profit photography organizations (up 18 percent from last year). “We just had huge crowds,” said photo l.a. organizer Stephen Cohen, owner of Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles. He estimated attendance at 6,500, also an increase from 2002.
As always, tried-and-true period, modern and contemporary masters’ works by well-known photographers made up the majority of the images on display. Peering down from walls were photos by Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Horace Bristol, Ruth Barnhard, Edward Curtis, Dorothea Lange, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, and Edward Weston, among many luminary artists’ works. Lynn Geesaman’s popular ethereal landscapes were on view at several galleries’ booths, as were the elegant florals of Tom Baril.
And many noted contemporary photographers attended the art fair, including Mark Citret, Jeff Dunas, David Fokos, Bruce Davidson, Debbie Fleming Caffery, and Lauren Greenfield, the latter three all booked as speakers during the three-day event Rixon Reed, director of Photo-Eye in Santa Fe, N.M., wasn’t surprised. “This fair is a magnet for anyone interested in art photography, including photographers themselves.”
Fleming Caffery and Davidson were also well represented at the fair, with several dealers each showcasing their photographs and having them sign books for collectors. Fleming Caffery’s images were presented by several exhibitors, including Photo-Eye. “If there is a publication, particularly if it as gorgeous as Debbie’s is, it is always easier to promote the artist and her work,” observed Reed. Photographer Davidson agreed. “My photographs are acquired all over the world, but because of these two new books, I guess my work is being talked about even more,” said Davidson during a momentary break in his book-signing chores.
Some dealers utilized photo l.a. to introduce new faces to Los Angeles collectors. The artists are not always young and au courant. For example, said Jiri Jaskmanicky, director of the Czech Center for Photography in Prague, “this time we [brought] new names for the United States, but these are well-known photographers in our country, such as Vaclav Jirasek [whose works are priced from $1,200 to $1,600] and Jan Svoboda.” Santa Monica dealer Peter Fetterman and New York-based Coplan Gallery both presented images by photojournalist Steven McCurry, including his famed portrait of a young, green-eyed Afghan girl that graced National Geographic’s cover.
Tony Decaneas, a photographer and owner of Panopticon of Waltham, Mass., exhibited established photographers Ernest C. Withers and Bradley Washburn but also introduced Constantine Manos to West Coast photo enthusiasts. “This is the first time we’ve ever taken the gallery away from home to show at an art fair,” said Decaneas, who also presented some of his own work. “It’s about time. I wanted to find a much broader representation for Ernest Withers and Bradley Washburn. We wanted to show all of our artists in depth, and we’re looking for more galleries to represent this work.”
Manos, a Greek-American who grew up in South Carolina, lived in Greece in the early 1960s, where he sought out pristine villages and people who were still living as they had done for hundreds of years. He captured images that appear untouched by time, helped visually by his insistence that photographs be composed in the viewfinder–not the darkroom or on today’s computer screens.
Yancey Richardson Gallery of New York showed an extensive collection of large-scale brightly-colored photographs by Andrew Moore, along with the gallery’s usual roster of contemporary and modern artists. “Moore has always had an extensive interest in architecture, and he tends to photograph areas poised for change,” explained Richardson. Moore has shot a series on the old 42nd Street theaters before the Times Square renovations, and another series in Havana. “Now he is doing a body of work in Russia,” said Richardson. “It’s been very well received. Our show of his work [in New York] had five [positive] reviews.”
New York-based Yossi Milo brought a cutting-edge group of contemporary artists’ work to photo l.a., with a particular focus on Simen Johan. Johan merges many images together to create his surrealistic dreamscape portraits, with strange little boys as their usual subject matter. He sometimes takes a month to complete one picture and prints in small editions of three or four. “He’s one of the more exciting artists here,” touted Milo. “He’s so new and fresh and different. He has been extraordinarily well received.” Several of Johan’s works were purchased at the fair.
First-time exhibitor (and brand-new gallery) Staton-Greenberg Gallery, which opened in September 2002 in Santa Barbara, Calif., presented works by its own stable of artists, including Catherine Chalmers, Joan Almond and Nathan Ian Anderson, as well as classic photographers represented by its New York partner, Howard Greenberg Gallery.
Visitors were taken with Kenro Izu’s images of “Sacred Places,” said David Staton. “He is a master platinum-print printer,” Staton explained. This photographer also exemplifies a true spirit of adventure. “His most recent body of work has been devoted to sacred places and spiritual places,” including Easter Island, Borobudor in Indonesia, Subashi, China and Tibet. “He has a custom-built, 300-pound camera that he takes with him,” Staton continued. “It becomes a journey or pilgrimage, just getting this camera into remote locations.” For more information, visit www.photola.com.
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