NEW WORLD RECORD FOR PHOTOGRAPH SET BY GURSKY'S 99-CENT DYPTIC AT $3.35 MILLION; ART CHICAGO REVITALIZED AND READY FOR PRIME TIME, BEGINNING APRIL 26-30; SWANN'S FEBRUARY PHOTOGRAPHY AUCTION HITS JUST BELOW $1 MILLION; 85% SOLD; PHOTO LA DRAWS OVER 8,500 ATTENDEES; CHARLES SCHWARTZ FEATURED IN ART+AUCTION; PIONEERING PHOTO DEALER CARL SIEMBAB DIES; IMPORTANT EXHIBIT OF MARCEL MARI╦N'S PHOTOGRAPHS OPENS IN BELGIUM; NEW PHOTOGRAPHY CATALOGUES
NEW WORLD RECORD FOR PHOTOGRAPH SET
BY GURSKY'S 99-CENT DYPTIC AT $3.35 MILLION
There is now a new world auction record for a photograph (or at least a diptych). Sotheby's London February 7th Contemporary Art Evening Sale sold the third Andreas Gursky 99-Cent II at auction within nine months. Not only did it set a new record for the artist, but for all of photography. At 1,700,000 British pounds sterling or $3,346,456, lot 62 easily broke both records. The Gursky was the only photography in the evening sale.
This same image set contemporary photography records each time it was auctioned. At Sotheby's May 10, 2006 evening sale of contemporary art, it was the sole photograph of the evening and sold for $2,256,000. Then in November 2006 at Phillips Contemporary Art sale the same image sold for $2.48 million. While both were world auction records for a contemporary photography work, neither sale had previously broken the record for a photograph at auction, which was held by Edward Steichen's "The Pond--Moonlight" at $2,928,000, set just last year on February 14th at Sotheby's New York's Met-Gilman sale.
ART CHICAGO, REVITALIZED AND READY
FOR PRIME TIME, BEGINNING APRIL 26-30
Art Chicago looks primed again to contend for its spot on the art world stage. Formerly THE art show in the U.S., and one of the best in the world, the show went through a rough patch with poor management, venue problems and new competition in New York and Miami, but now America's longest running international contemporary art fair looks like it is heading back to recapture some of its former glory and status under new capable management and in a new spacious home at the Chicago Merchandise Mart.
Many of the top art and photography dealers that had dropped out are now back for this year's show, which should prove to be the strongest one in years. Under the new and influential ownership of Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. the space will double from last year to over 200,000 sq. ft., and the selection process was extremely vigorous with only about a third of the applicants being accepted. Nearly a third of the exhibitors are international galleries. Over 30,000 visitors to the show are expected.
One hundred and thirty-two exhibitors will be on display at Art Chicago itself, which will be held on the seventh floor of the Chicago Merchandise Mart, in conjunction with the Merchandise Mart Antiques Fair (on the eighth floor), the Artist Project (in the lobby), the Intuit Show of Outsider Art (also on the eighth floor) and the Bridge Art Fair (a show of young galleries showing emerging contemporary work, which will be held across the street on the 12th floor of 350 West Mart Plaza).
The entire city of Chicago appears to have gotten solidly behind the show, and special art events are planned all over the city under the banner of ARTropolis, much of it free to Art Chicago attendees and VIPs. Educational programs, guided tours, music, theatre and dance performances are planned at a variety of venues throughout the city: from major museums to small galleries, from world-class concert halls to cutting-edge clubs, from lakefront parks to exclusive private parties. Visit http://www.artropolischicago.com
to find specific details on the events and activities planned.
Exhibitors focusing on photography include Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, Ltd., Charles Cowles Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery/Daiter Contemporary, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Peter Fetterman Gallery, Flowers, HackelBury Fine Art Ltd., Robert Koch Gallery, Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Robert Mann Gallery, Lawrence Miller Gallery, Yossi Milo Gallery, P.P.O.W., Inc., Weinstein Gallery and Stephen Wirtz Gallery. In addition numerous exhibiting art dealers and galleries will also be showing photography, which has become the hottest area of contemporary art.
Art Chicago will open Thursday, April 26 with an evening Preview to benefit Best Buddies International, from 6-9 p.m. Best Buddies is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.
The regular show hours for Art Chicago will run: Friday, April 27, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, April 28, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 29, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Monday, April 30, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $15 and includes entrance to the other fairs at the Merchandise Mart, including Antiques Fair, the Artist Project, the Intuit Show of Outsider Art and the Bridge Art Fair.
Art Chicago is committed to addressing the needs of important collectors through "Gold Pass Program," a luxury program designed to cater to their needs. For more information, please contact David Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org
. For more detail on Art Chicago and its extensive educational programs, just click on: http://www.artchicago.com/
For clients and readers of my newsletter, please contact me at 1-215-822-5662 or by email, if you are planning to attend, so that I can get you the most advantageous credentials for the show.
The Merchandise Mart is bordered by Wells and Orleans Streets on the east and west, and Kinzie Street and the Chicago River on the north and south. From I-90/94, exit east at Ohio Street. Turn south on Wells Street and drive four blocks to The Mart. The Chicago River is on the Merchandise Mart's south side.
JOHN SZARKOWSKI HOSPITALIZED WITH A STROKE
I received an email from New York photography dealer Charles Isaacs just as we were about to send out this newsletter. His email is reproduced below:
I am saddened to report that one of the giants of our field, John Szarkowski, suffered a serious stroke on Friday (March 2nd). He is in hospital in New York, his family and friends are with him, but the prognosis is difficult. He has still not regained consciousness. Your thoughts and prayers for his happiness would, I am sure, be much appreciated.
For those who do not know, his wife Jill, with whom he was very close, died suddenly on December 31.
When there are further developments, I will let you know. In the meantime there is nothing any of us can do except keep him in our thoughts.
With sadness and hope for a good outcome,
SWANN'S FEBRUARY PHOTOGRAPHY AUCTION
HITS JUST BELOW $1 MILLION; 85% SOLD
Without an AIPAD show to anchor the February auctions (now that AIPAD has moved to its new mid-April slot at the Armory), some were wondering how they might do. In addition, the weather in New York during the auctions in February was simply crappy. Snow, sleet, rain, freezing cold, wind and sloppy streets made the going incredibly difficult. But it did not seem to deter bidders, most of whom were on the phone or had left commission bids in any case. One wag even noted that there were more active phones than bidders in the room at these auctions. The Internet even played its part in an ever more active role, although Internet bidders were never the winners on major lots.
At Swann the results for its Valentine's Day, February 14th morning auction of 100 Fine Photographs (actually 109 when you counted all the extra lettered lots and excess of 100 then subtract "no lot" indications) almost pushed the totals (including its now higher 20% buyer's premium) above the million dollar mark at $928,901 with a reported 85% sell-through rate. Quite a respectable effort considering the less expensive material and poor weather conditions. There were, however, few real bargains, despite the weather and somewhat mixed bag of material. Because there were not as many higher-priced items at Swann, I will only cover the top ten.
The first lot of consequence (lot 14) was a broken group of Camera Work issues. Estimated at $60,000-90,000, the lot hammered down to a collector on the phone for $50,000, plus $10,000 commission. The only competition was another phone and the reserve. The lot tied for first place in this auction.
The rest of the prices will include the 20% buyer's premium (I should really start calling these "auction commissions" because they are the one's that pocket this money).
Dealer Spencer Throckmorton picked up lot 20, Tina Modotti's 'Demonstrations by Campesinos, Mexico', c.1928 for $21,600, which was good enough for seventh place in the top ten. He called this one in from the comfort of his New York gallery and outbid a commission bidder. It seemed a decent bargain at this price.
Lot 26, the Drtikol nude pigment print, was bought in at $12,000 (estimate $20,000-30,000) despite some interest prior to the auction, although some felt that it wasn't "modernist" enough, and I saw some minor condition problems with the pigment and an even more minor tear. Still, it probably would have sold at a different time.
Berenice Abbott did more than ok here. After her 'New York at Night' sold to a collector on the phone for well over estimate at $10,800, Abbott's 'El 2nd and 3rd Avenue Lines' (lot 38) from 1936 became a tug of war between collector Michael Mattis and a phone bidder. Estimated at $7,000-10,000, Mattis had to pay $15,600 in order to wrest it away. That price put the lot into tenth place in this auction.
The next lot, Abbott's New York portfolio with 12 silver prints, New York, 1979, sold to a collector on the phone for just under the low estimate at $28,800, placing the lot into sixth place.
Lot 48A (one of those additions to the 100), André Kertész's 'Behind the Hotel de Ville', a circa 1930's print was estimated at a very tempting $15,000-25,000. Both I and Paris dealer Serge Plantureux felt it should sell for about $30,000-35,000, but never underestimate the lure of an auction. In the room collector Stephen Stein bid up a persistent phone bidder, who turned out to be a dealer. This dealer finally outbid Stein at $60,000, pushing the price for the lot into a tie for first place here at Swann. Swann, in an attempt to curry publicity, called the price a "world record" for a 1930s Kertész print, but this is just plain silly; otherwise one could start saying EVERY print is a record.
I believe that the same dealer then picked up the next lot, Margaret Bourke-White's 1930 print 'Standard Oil of Ohio', for $19,200--a far cry from the estimate of $6,000-9,000. The price pushed this lot into the top ten as well, at eighth place.
Lot 62A (another of those lettered lots), Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Valencia" in a print from circa 1950 (contrary to the catalogue's 1960s notation), was a true aberration in these auctions: all the action was in the room! Collectors Michael Mattis and Stephen Stein blew by the meager estimate of $7,000-10,000. Mattis ultimately stole the print at $33,600--an incredibly low price for such an early Cartier-Bresson of such a well-known image. Frankly if it were not for the two particular collectors bidding it up, at least two photo dealers in the room would have gone higher on the lot, which did make it to fifth place in the top ten of the sale. Oddly enough, Swann again claimed a world record for this individual image (certainly not for Cartier-Bresson). Stop doing that please, Swann. It is annoying and really is not meaningful.
What was a genuine world auction record was lot 81, Jack Smith's 'The Beautiful Book', with 19 tipped-in black-and-white photographs. French dealer Serge Platureux took a frustrating run at the lot, which was estimated at $15,000-25,000. But another dealer on the phone took it away at $40,800, which put the lot into third place in the top ten.
The always ubiquitous print of Alfred Eisenstaedt's 'Children at a Puppet Theatre' from 1963 but printed in 1995 in a very large edition of 250 sold to a collector on the phone for well over the high estimate at $38,400. That pushed the lot into fourth place here at Swann. No dealer in his or her right mind would pay this much for such a print in such a large edition, unless they had a client willing to pay more, even though it is a cute picture.
From here we trekked over to Rock Center and Christie's.
(Next Issue: Results at the Two Christie's Sales)
PHOTO LA DRAWS OVER 8,500 ATTENDEES
This year's Photo LA had record-breaking attendance with an enthusiastic crowd joining host Graham Nash for its opening reception for the benefit of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Dealers typically reported mixed results, despite the heavy crowds.
Among those who reported positive results, Tucson dealer Terry Etherton told me, "We did fairly well at the show, better than last year and better than I expected. Among the photographs we sold were O. Winston Link's Hot Shot Eastbound, Danny Lyon's Crossing the Ohio, Joel-Peter Witkin's The Invention of Milk, Harry Callahan's color dye transfer of Eleanor and Barbara, Richard Misrach's prints from the Golden Gate Series, a group of platinum prints of Zoo Babies by Michael O'Neill, and an Elliott Erwitt of Valenica, Spain."
Etherton reported, "The material that sold best was classic images by well known photographers for the most part. We do have a sale or two pending. As for the audience, I think the LA crowd is not quick to make a purchase. We found that most buyers need to ponder the purchase for a while before they finally pull the trigger.
Etherton told me, "My most interesting pieces at the show that went unsold were: a unique Joel-Peter Witkin encaustic entitled "Abundance"--in my opinion, the best piece by Witkin I have ever owned. A stellar orotone by Edward Curtis entitled "The Old Well at Acoma." Pristine, bright, great frame. $20,000. A very nice group of contemporary tintypes by Robb Kendrick. They are all full-plate portraits of working cowboys. Stunning. Graham Nash and Weston Naef both liked them but we did not sell any. $2,800 each."
Bookseller Vincent Borrelli said, "Photo LA was very busy and catching up has been difficult this week. Overall, a really great show, in terms of attendance and sales."
Massachusett's dealer Mack Lee reported that he did "very well. Sales were strong. We saw a number of collectors, dealers, and curators that we've known, and we met some new collectors. We sold a mix of 19th-century American and European, Photo-secessionist prints, and 20th-century American including three color photos from the 1970s. We still have three or four sales pending. Contrary to the hoopla in the art and photography press, classic, vintage photographs by well-known photographers are selling better than ever. I showed six mammouth plate albumen prints by Watkins and two by Muybridge and I'm pleased with the response. I was glad to see a strong showing of local collectors, dealers, and curators as well as a number of buyers from the Midwest, and East coast."
At our own booth, Contemporary Works / Vintage Works, Ltd., we did not have our typical show. Sales at the show itself were relatively weak and mostly to other photo dealers, who could recognize a bargain and act on it. We had great feedback from the attendees, who often stopped to say that the work (especially Lisa Holden's big contemporary pieces) was the "some of the best" or "most interesting" at the fair. And we have three or four major pieces that are still pending sale. If they do ultimately sell (as I hope they will), then we had a well-above-average show. I did meet some good new collectors, but a number of important local collectors did not make it to the show. The media coverage was strong, and several publications used our booth and artists for illustrating stories.
Among the photos that we sold at the show were images by Ansel Adams, Eugene Smith, Brassai, Garry Winogrand and Elliot Erwitt. Classic work seemed to do best here, although we also sold Marcus Doyle's color contemporary prints and had tremendous interest in Lisa Holden's new color work.
Still available were some of my favorite classic choices, including two great Irving Penn's (that I thought at least a half dozen people would come back and buy), two Edward Steichen masterworks (Marion Moorehouse and May Pole), a unique vintage print of Horst's 'Barefoot', Man Ray's little gem ' Kiki behind a Giacometti Sculpture' (plus two other great Man Rays), two Lewis Carroll photographs, Francois Kollar's stunning Double-Impression of the Eiffel Tower, several Le Gray naval images, Carleton Watkins' mammoth-plate print of 'The Devil's Canyon Geysers', André Kertész vintage contact prints and oversized prints, a vintage and published 1938 Manuel Alvarez Bravo, several very reasonably priced Eugene Cuveliers, including a unique and published salt print (wait until you see the prices at Sotheby's on Cuveliers in April), a great vintage Edouard Boubat of "Jeune Fille Aux Fleurs (Lella)", strong vintage Brassai photos, and many other such important pieces.
L.A. artist and dealer Norman Kulkin told me, "I had a pretty good show in some ways. I sold 52 pieces. The 52 pieces went to 27 clients, some new, some old. My vernacular sold the best, especially since 98% of my inventory is in that category. The other 2% were my own--photograms and photographs from the past and present. It may seem like a lot of material that I sold, but the price range was mostly in the $50-100 range. I did sell two pieces at $800 each--one choice vernacular piece that was good enough to be a page in a book and one of my "photograms" from a few years ago."
New York dealer Tom Gitterman noted: "It is always a pleasure to be in Santa Monica in January. We did okay this year but not much to write home about. We sold to collectors that we have already sold to before and didn't make that many new potential clients. However, it is always good to re-connect in person with clients. We sold a few prints by some of our artists like Debbie Fleming Caffery and Arthur Aubry, but it was higher end vintage material like Cunningham and Atget that continues to support the business. We had a lot of admiration for the group of nine Charles Traub prints we hung in the center of our booth as well as our vintage FSA print of Walker Evans Cherokee Garage, our Jackson mammoth plate of Glenwood Canyon, CO, our Stieglitz large format gravure of Winter Fifth Avenue, our Le Gray of the Great Wave, our Tabard photogram and our Weston Dune from 1934."
Florence Penault of Gallery 19/21 confided that "the LA fair was not as good this year as it was last year. But who knows, next year it could win an OSCAR! Consistency is not a trait of this slippery city. We mostly sold contemporary black and white prints, and we expect more sales after the fair. And--we are crossing our fingers--there is still some interest in our European vintage prints.
California dealer Barry Singer was a little more blunt about his assessment of the show: "8,500 people came through--all the wrong ones." While I don't totally agree with Barry, I do understand his frustration. From a dealer's point of view the numbers that are the most important are sales, not audience.
French dealer Serge Plantureux, who was doing the show for the first time, posed the question, "After this show, should we advise young people to take this career? Or instead apply for a waiter's job at the Starbuck's cafe in Malibu?" Despite his sense of black humor, he did tell me that he sold over 20 prints, "mostly Greene, Man Ray, Blumenfeld Giacomelli and Cinema images." He also said that he felt there was a lack of organization about the show that needed to be improved a bit.
Numerous other dealers mentioned the unprofessional look of the Ace Gallery booth, which was still setting up while the show opened and which simply stacked oversized photographs 10 and 12 deep across two booths facing each other across an aisle, prompting some to draw unfavorable comparisons to discount stores (although the prices in this booth were certainly NOT inexpensive).
That, plus show management's choice of image to promote and market the show, drew lots of dealer ire in their responses to my email request for input. A number of clients also mentioned both situations.
But, all in all, it was a typical photography show, even in its erratic quality.
CHARLES SCHWARTZ FEATURED IN ART+AUCTION
I Photo Central dealer Charles Schwartz was featured in the March issue of Art+Auction, which is now on newsstands. The four-page color article has an illustrated interview with Schwartz about his interest and collection of Japanese ambrotypes, which is the largest and most important such collection in the world.
The article quotes Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which drew heavily on Schwartz's trove for its landmark 2003 exhibition "History of Japanese photography". "It's very hard to find high-quality pieces today, she says. Charles bought early and well, and he has helped the photo world recognize that these are objects worthy of being collected."
PIONEERING PHOTO DEALER CARL SIEMBAB DIES
By Carl Chiarenza
(Carl Siembab--January 5, 1926 - February 27, 2007)
Half a century ago Carl Siembab began exhibiting photographs in his gallery on Newbury Street in Boston. It was the beginning of a pioneering effort that developed into a force--a force in the flowering of photography in the world of art. Before devoting his gallery exclusively to photography, he exhibited photographs along with paintings, sculpture, and prints. He barely made a living. In 1959 he put up major one-person shows by Aaron Siskind and Berenice Abbott. That was the beginning of a chapter in the history of photography. His deep understanding of a body of work was evident in his regularly applauded arrangements of the work on the walls of his gallery.
By the early 1980s, he was in serious debt; ironically, his effort had been eclipsed by the rise of interest in the medium elsewhere, primarily in New York City.
Siembab was a large, quiet, gentle man whose eyes were penetrating. He was an artist who understood art and artists in an uncanny way. He moved slowly and silently, until he felt a rapport between visitor and art. Then he would show his passion in animation and word. That passion for art is what sustained him and what permeated his exhibitions, his discussions--private ones as well as those that happened with increasingly large groups of artists, students, and art lovers that work-shopped and brainstormed long into the evening in the gallery.
In the post-World War II world of photography (after the loss of Alfred Stieglitz, who is seen by some as Siembab's role model), no one did more to bring serious public respect to the art and artist of photography. He did it, essentially alone, when there was little interest at large, and no visible hope of making a reasonable living from his work. That never restrained him. He was blindly (naively?) committed to the project. He educated a growing community of artists, curators, collectors and new gallery operators. He set standards for himself and others. He was a risk-taker while being a mentor. And when what he started blossomed into a vast enterprise, Carl celebrated the rewards for artists while decrying the accompanying commercialization.
Lee Lockwood wrote, in 1981, that Siembab was "an incalculable influence on the development of public acceptance of photography as an art form." That accomplishment, paradoxically and unfortunately, was to have a nearly catastrophic effect on Siembab's future. He had very little ability at business--a conflict (perhaps even a contradiction) of his life that he could never resolve. That fact has caused him to be largely forgotten. And it began the decay of his life as he was forced to leave a dream that failed to provide him with a reasonable living.
As Robert Taylor wrote in the Boston Globe in 1963, the Carl Siembab Gallery graced the artistic scene with "honesty and integrity." He studied, seriously studied, the work of his artists and the work of their historical predecessors. He could teach a rich history of art; he could teach a passionately critical approach to the aesthetic appraisal of artworks. Carl's gallery was unique, and the person was unique. I cannot imagine either happening again on this earth. The respect he earned from artists is rarely seen in today's art world.
Another disconcerting irony is evident when one recalls a statement Siembab made in an interview in 1971 by Robert Brown for the Archives of American Art: "I have aůfanatical belief in the integrity of photography as an artistic medium. I also strongly believe that it will be the most significant medium in the coming generationůI think most of our artistic experiences will come through some photographic means." (Quoted by Kim Sichel in Photography in Boston, 1953-1985, MIT Press, 2000)
As a friend of his artists, Carl was for life, committed, concerned, supportive--always interested in the whole person. Only financial matters strained friendship. When art was not the focus, pleasure was. And pleasure was as passionate an endeavor as was art. Siembab had a rich, broad, bawdy sense of humor, which was shared, within the ever-growing circle of friends. He loved nature--whether in the woods surrounding his log cabin or in the lovingly nourished plants he housed in the gallery or at home. In a way his closeness to nature suggests his natural talent as a fine craftsman, an artist and a connoisseur. It also underlines his concern for his artists, his friends. His support of them was not unlike the care he gave his plants.
Those who worked alongside him in the "vineyard" that was his gallery flourished under his care because of his critical and loving attention.
IMPORTANT EXHIBIT OF MARCEL MARI╦N'S
PHOTOGRAPHS OPENS IN BELGIUM
My friend contemporary art dealer France Lejeune has just opened a ground-breaking retrospective on the Belgium surrealist Marcel Mariën, ironically titled "Marcel Mariën: 'Ne faites pas attention a la photographie.'" Particularly because the show is primarily focused on Mariën's photography. The show will run until April 15th. Opening hours are from 2 pm until 6 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and by appointment.
The show takes place on the ground floor of an old bourgeois house, in Mechelen, Belgium. The house is an apartment with 1950s and 60s wallpaper and old chimneys like Mariën's own house used to look like. The address is Koningin Astridlaan 100, 2800 Mechelen. Phone: +32-485-43-23-27. France's website with more details is at http://www.francelejeune.com/
A beautifully illustrated 64-page catalogue on the show with an extensive biography on this important figure, who was a friend of Rene Magritte and many of the other key surrealist figures of the day, is available at the France Lejeune Gallery and through Contemporary Works/Vintage Works ( email@example.com
and phone 1-215-822-5662) for $25.
To see more of his work at I Photo Central and read his biographical details go to: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/104/1/1
, and to see a more extensive group of his photographs (many more will be posted over the next month) go to: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/256/Marcel+Marien
NEW PHOTOGRAPHY CATALOGUES
By Matt Damsker
CHARLES H. TRAUB.
Published by the Gitterman Gallery, 170 E 75th St, #1A, New York, NY 10021. 35 pages; 33 black-and-white plates. ISBN No. 1-4243-0678-7. Phone 1-212-734-0868; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Somehow, without pressing the point, these photographs taken during the 1970s convey the texture of the decade perfectly, as Charles H. Traub moved through the daylight of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Hampshire and, mainly, Chicago, with his boxy square-format camera at chest level, framing his close-ups of various torsos, the backs of peoples' heads, the fabrics and patterns of American reality as if broadcasting live from the center of a hangover. Indeed, the 1970s were nothing if not the hangover of the Swinging Sixties, channeling the cultural fallout of that socially explosive decade into a self-obsessed era of bad taste, taboo-busting, and exhibitionism.
For Traub--who studied with the likes of Aaron Siskind and Garry Winogrand at Chicago's Institute of Design, and has gone on to lead prestigious photography programs from Columbia College to, currently, New York's School of Visual Arts--the "Me Decade" he chronicled seems all about juxtaposed realities. We can sense that in his image of a foxy female striking a mock-Marilyn Monroe pose in front of a Walgreens drugstore; or of some stout, raincoated woman clutching a magazine with the white-bread image of a Breck girl on the back cover; or of long-haired hippie types, photographed from behind, facing the splendors of nature with all the romantic hubris of figures in some latter-day Caspar David Friedrich painting.
Just as descriptive and dryly humorous are Traub's immersions in the wild floral prints, plaids and paisleys of 70s fashion, especially a wonderful Chicago shot of a businessman in a windowpane-check suit standing in front of a vast windowpaned expanse of skyscrapers. Vignetting his images with the rounded corners of a TV screen, Traub isolated these moments--in which light and form are carefully shaped for us, though the subjects seem casually chanced upon--with palpable affection and poise. Whatever the 1970s may or may not have been in the great river of modern time, Traub knew how to go with the flow.
MILOSLAV STIBOR: PHOTOGRAPHS 1960-1970.
25 pages; 14 black-and-white plates. ISBN No. 80-7248-354-4. Information: c/o Milislav Stibor, K sidlisti 8, 779 00 Olomouc, Czech Republic; Phone: +585 426 990; Email: email@example.com
The 1960s and 70s were very different decades in Eastern Europe than they were in North America, as the liberalizing currents of the day interacted tensely with Soviet-bloc reality. Czech photographers such as Miloslav Stibor, Vladimir Birgus, and others were emerging from the gray shadow of Stalinism with strong, declarative photo expressions.
This small volume of Stibor's work (with a helpful, if awkwardly translated, essay by Vladimir Birgus) crisply conveys the slow-blossoming freedom of Czechoslovak life at family outings in the country, with drunken uncles asleep on the ground; or with images of Czech girls in Paris, sporting the Mary Quant styles of the 60s yet wary in gesture and demeanor; or with nude studies, in which classical form is no longer the point so much as the sensuality of flesh, hair, and curves.
Stibor's best photo may be a journalistic image of a blonde Czech girl interacting imploringly with a psychedelically shirted young black man in Paris: this depiction of interracial near-bliss is expressively shadowed and hidden, as if symbolizing the danger of the situation. Marked by high contrast and formal elan, Stibor's photography reveals the clues of place and time in spare, stark, human moments.
MAN RAY FOREVER.
Galerie Francoise Paviot, 57 rue Sainte-Anne, 75002 Paris, France; 25 plates. Phone: +011-33 3 42 60 10 01; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
; Website: http://www.paviotfoto.com
Francoise and Alain Paviot have a history of exhibiting Man Ray's photography that goes back more than 25 years, and these 25 images are presented as having well-known provenance. Many are familiar Man Ray surrealist delights, such as the marvelous 1924 nude, "Violon d'Ingres," which depicts the model's bare back overpainted with the markings of a violin. Other examples include 1926's serene "Noir et Blanche," with a white model's head delicately juxtaposed with an African tribal mask; a view of Marcel Duchamp, pipe in mouth, the back of his head shaved in the shape of a star; and Meret Oppenheim in solarized profile.
The Rayographs and disorienting views of common objects--hats, magnolias, stones, furniture--are classic Man Ray, their austere and subdued tonalities, bespeaking the artist's preternatural control of his media and his consistent good taste amidst all the suggestive fun and febrile pretensions of surrealism. This small catalogue is a fine sampling of Man Ray's photography, and invites the collector as well as the casual observer to consider the influence of one of modernism's subtlest masters.
CREATED EQUAL. PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK LAITA.
Fahey/Klein Gallery Publications; 48 pages, 20 black-and-white plates. Fahey/Klein Gallery, 148 North La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036; Phone: 1-323-934-2250; Fax: 1-323-934-4243; Email: email@example.com
; Website: http://www.faheykleingallery.com
Mark Laita's project--completed over the course of seven years, and representing each of the lower 48 U.S. states--is a humanistic attempt to remind us that we're all brothers and sisters despite the vagaries of fate, and while it comes off as something of a gimmick, there's real photographic grandeur here as well. Each of these eight-by-ten-inch portraits comprises a diptych, contrasting or comparing two images--cowboy/indian, bank robber/lawman, beauty queen/topless dancer, and so on.
By and large, the conceptual template for Laita's portraits is Richard Avedon's "In the American West," that great portfolio of drifters and hardscrabble lives, photographed against neutral backdrops to emphasize their sheer selfhood and existential circumstance, and Laita is certainly up to the task. Many of these models had never had their portraits taken before, but they project powerfully under his direction, while his large-format compositions are lit gorgeously, to a burnished perfection.
Ultimately, though, the contrasts seem forced and obvious; does Laita really need to pair a buckskinned Colorado fur-trapper with a fur-coated New York socialite, or a trio of nuns in their pristine habits with a hard-bitten troika of Nevada prostitutes in their sleazy lingerie? By themselves, each of these images speaks well enough of existential choice, chance, and consequence. Indeed, it is sufficient to notice that the beaming, indefatigable Miss Iowa 2000, Theresa Uchtyil, is missing her left hand. It only gilds the lily to pair her with the stunningly whole topless dancer who clamps a bunch of dollar bills in her left hand and stares out with a vague sadness.
And yet these portraits compel and provoke us, and a few exhibit a fine humorousness: a group of proud mariachis matched with a group of equally proud Elvis impersonators; plain Amish teenagers from Pennsylvania paired with accessorized punk teens from Hollywood; a Utah polygamist and his three wives offset by a Detroit pimp and his three prostitutes. Laita's aim is true as he seeks the common pulse that beats beneath our differences, and regardless of their situation or their social standing, his subjects are memorably, magnificently themselves.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in November 2005.
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