AIPAD – April 2014
The annual AIPAD Photography Show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City once again brought us a mixture of both the classic and contemporary. And this year, in addition to my usual visit on the Friday afternoon I also attended the Press Previews on Wednesday, and I’m glad I did because there was so much to see and take in, it honestly becomes too much for just the one visit. So what stood out this year? My friend Monica Cipnic and I were particularly taken with the very cinematic and sultry style of husband and wife duo Formento & Formento (he is Hawaiian-born photographer BJ Formento & she is British-born stylist Richeille Formento) at the Robert Klein Gallery from Boston. The Formentos’ images were certainly some of our favorites out of all the contemporary photographers on display, and although I had seen their work before… it was even better close up.
It’s safe to say with a show like AIPAD, you’re guaranteed to find a generous dose of the B&W masters, including the likes of Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and more. And then there are the current (i.e. still living) photographers whose work has already earned them plenty of well-deserved attention, from the authentic self-documentary work of Jen Davis at Lee Marks Fine Art based in Shelbyville, Indiana…
If I were to pick a particular theme or through-line that stood out for me this time, it was the galleries with select and very specific images shown in a grid or group format. I personally find that very pleasing. Last year, you may recall that one of my favorites was the Car Poolers series from Alejandro Cartagena at the Kopeikin Gallery and this year I found some more examples…
Perhaps one of the most interesting were the more obscure Calendar Cards, a larger version of the Carte de Visite that I found in Gallery Fifty One from Antwerp, Belgium. These Calendar Cards are larger than the Carte de Visite, more like the size of a tarot card, and were really quite beautiful.
They became more and more intriguing the longer you looked at them. You’ll notice the attention to the Head and Hair, sometimes to the point of obscuring the actual face or abstracting it altogether, and it is the sign of Aries that is connected with the Head, Hair and Hats. There were a total of 50 Calendar Cards on display, one shy of the gallery’s name…
Also in Gallery Fifty One, photographer Barry Rosenthal led me to this beautiful set of six B&W square prints by Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, who just died this past February at the age of 83, from his fabulous series simply entitled Hairstyles which includes almost 1,000 different hairstyles that give an image of the African Woman.
While we’re on the subject of beautiful African Women, Aries, Heads, Hair, and Hats… I want to mention one of our local galleries KLOMPCHING, co-owned by Darren Ching and his wife Debra Klomp Ching, making their 2nd appearance at AIPAD this year. And not just because I know them, I really did feel they had a wonderful group of artists that were not only strong individually, they also complimented one another really well, in both subject and color palette – the result was aesthetically very pleasing. And one of my favorite set of images was by British photographer Jim Naughten from his series Hereroes, portraits of Herero tribe members in Namibia: residents still wear Victorian era dresses and paramilitary costume as a direct result of the German colonization in the early 20th century. Ironically, Jim studied photography at the Bournemouth Arts Institute in England, and I went to school in the same seaside town!
But what about mixing vintage with modern, and we come to an interesting take on the classics with a series by Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle entitled The Uninvited Series at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery (New York & San Francisco) in which the artist reconstructs narratives from the late 19th and early 20th century West Africa, using ethnographic photography previously used on postcards and Carte-de-Visites (there are those cards again!). Using “disease” as her metaphor, she then adds her own “viral” drawings on top of the old photographs to represent the exploitation and “disease” that was perpetrated on black women during the French occupation of Africa.
Not all sets of images or grids were in plain view; some galleries had hidden gems around the corner, including this next B&W series entitled Stars of “Ocean’s 11” Stage a Fight by Hollywood celebrity photographer Sid Avery courtesy of the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe.
From groups of photographs, let’s segway now into photographs of groups, and we have not one, but five (yes 5) of Neal Slavin’s group portraits from the PDNB (Photographs Do Not Bend) Gallery in Dallas, Texas. I happen to love Neal’s distinctive work and featured him last year in my February 2013 Newsletter, since it is the Aquarius who identifies with Groups more than any other sign.
Neal wasn’t the only photographer giving us group images. For example, in the 978 Photo Gallery (the first gallery solely dedicated to art photography in China) based in Beijing, there was a pair of whimsical images from Yu Xiao’s Nursery Rhymes series.
Now, not all photographs displayed in groups or grids were restricted to portraits, there were others of inanimate objects that were just as effective, including Marc Yankus’s series The Space Between at ClampArt. I had recently attended the opening for this show and was very taken by the beautiful colors and texture of this latest work. The image below shows gallery owner Brian Clamp working a potential sale with a series of Marc’s prints.
Followed by Bernd & Hilla Becher‘s Grain Silos, courtesy of the Bruce Silverstein Gallery.
And a stark series of six B&W architectural prints by British photographer Graham Smith at Eric Franck Fine Art where I also loved this classic series by Norman Parkinson.
The job of a good photograph, or any piece of art, literature, music, for that matter, is to emotionally “move” us in some way. The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “emotus” meaning “to be moved.” So what was it about this next image by Stan Douglas at David Zwirner that moved me?
The more you looked, the more you saw, and the more bizarre the medley of items and curios became. It literally transported me back to when my sister and I had to clear our mother’s house after she had died. We washed every single piece of china and glass by hand and then laid it all out for the appraisers.
In closing – you may recall in my ChatterReport last year I mentioned AIPAD taking place during the month of April, the sign of Aries, and the connection to Accidents – and much of the photography we saw last year was related to accidents and disasters. Well, this year, to apparently prove my point again, although not willingly, and to tie in with my absolute hatred for cell phones and people who walk down the street without watching where they are going…. After I left the show, I walked with my friend Julia Smith to 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue (there’s that Number 5 again!). Midtown was crazy and crowded because President Obama was in town, and the streets were blocked with barricades and policemen.
Julia got on her bicycle and set off down Fifth Avenue while I went to go down into the subway, until I realized I was on the wrong side of the street. I crossed Fifth Avenue quickly, since the lights were about to change and stepped onto the NW corner of the sidewalk. As I did so, a young girl, who was coming down Fifth Avenue with head firmly pointed down and glued to her device’s small screen, walked right into me without slowing down and got her feet all tangled up in mine. But who went crashing to the ground? Me, of course; not her. I crash-landed on my knees, with my camera around my neck and my bag flying onto the sidewalk at the feet of a large policeman, who apologized for not doing a better job of catching me, after which we talked briefly about how much we both detested the cell phone culture.
I went and sat on the church steps to recuperate for a moment. My knee was bruised, my clean pants were all dirty, and I was not at all happy. I called Monica, who was still at AIPAD and told her what had just happened and as I was doing so she told me she had finally run into Lori Nix (whom she had been looking for to congratulate her) because Lori had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which is a BIG deal. Lori was also my April 2013 ChatterArtist. As she told me this, I looked up and there was Lori literally walking along 53rd Street with her friend towards me! I climbed down the steps to greet her for the 2nd time that day and congratulate her on this exciting piece of news. Still furious about what had just happened to me, I stumbled down into the subway and made my way home to a large glass of red wine. The girl did apologize to me, but that doesn’t make it any better – I know it’s only going to get worse.