Art Out: The Photography Show 2018 (AIPAD)
First the good news. This years show has gotten bigger, with 96 galleries and 30 booksellers. The bad news is that it can be overwhelming. There is so much space that more work can be included. However, let me hasten to add, it is really high quality and beautifully installed. There is the usual mix of vintage, modern and contemporary, analog and digital. There seemed to be less video and a high volume of top notch vintage and contemporary analog work, which is my preferred medium. The spaciousness of the layout makes the viewing experience quite pleasant and gives the work and the viewer room to breathe.
The special exhibitions were very rewarding and intriguing. The first public showing of the JoeBaio Collection of Photography - “Forever Young” was a mere 200 images from the 6,000 which he owns. It is a fascinating collecting story which began with a group of vintage photographs of orphan boys, expanded to include vintage prints of young girls in dance costumes and branches out into all areas and periods of photography of children. It is wide-ranging in every way, including work by such well-known artists as Juliet Margaret Cameron, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Davidson, Vik Muniz, Duane Michaels, Peter Hujar, André Kertesz, Saul Leiter, etc. You get the picture. It is vastly eclectic and extremely absorbing. The viewing of such a comprehensive group is enhanced by the installation which is in the style of a salon, with images covering the walls all the way to the ceiling, with comfortable furniture where you are invited to sit and contemplate in a leisure manner. I was reminded of the Barnes Collection which was installed the way that the work was hung in Barnes’s home. The various walls are hung with a vaguely thematic intention. If you ask one of the gallerists they are gracious and knowledgable and it adds a layer of understanding the collection and display process.
Similarly the "All Power: Visual Legacies of the Black Panther Party” presented by the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle in honor of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panthers. This is a sprawling exhibition of a wide-ranging group of contemporary black artists who have been influenced and inspired by the history of the Black Panthers. The artists range in age from early 20’s to 70 and are both emerging and established and the work is equally broad stylistically including both literal and abstract responses to the Panthers and the movement. It is both powerful and moving.
There is a chance to see the world through the eyes of Sir Elton John in his curated selection from member galleries around the theme, “A Time for Reflection”. It is quite a mixed bag of remarkable work. After all, if you get to chose from the top galleries, that theme is pretty open ended. These are all available for sale with the proceeds going to his charitable trust.
Standouts among the galleries were many and varied but I realize that I relate to themes in presentation so here goes. Throckmorton presented a wonderful retrospective of a series by Lynn Gilbert - “Women of Wisdom - A Time Capsule of American Feminism”. These portraits were taken over time into the late 70’s for her book “Particular Passions” which was groundbreaking in its time insofar as these women were chosen for their accomplishments on their own merit, and not as adjuncts to powerful or famous men. Believe it or not that was not the norm at the time. The twelve images include Louise Nevelson, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Susan Sontag, and Gloria Steinem. Also shown were several works by William Robb, a series called “Tafari - He Who Inspires Awe”. They are arresting portraits of faces entwined in nature. There are also many beautiful selections from his artists including Aldo Sessa, Flor Garduño and Mario Cravo Neto.
Lisa Sette showed the totally original work of the Vietnamese artist, Binh Danh, who made portraits on leaves, which he calls chlorophyl prints. He then photographs them and prints them using the daguerreotype technique. They are moving images of victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide which gives them multiple layers of meaning and added poignance. I was totally charmed by Mary Ryan Gallery’s presentation of selections from Jean Pagliuso’s “Poultry & Raptor Suite”, which include fancy chickens, owls and other birds of prey. These are elegant portraits of extremely handsome and sometimes funny-looking birds which seem to have distinct personalities and attitudes. She gives the birds the same treatment as her human subjects. These prints, however, are hand-made using alternative printing methods which gives them a unique and timeless quality.
It is almost impossible to walk past Jenkins Johnson Gallery’s vibrant, color-saturated, images of Aida Muluneh. These are large scale portraits of a single dramatically dressed and painted female figure seated before a graphically composed background. They have the rigor of a Mondrian and the same intensity of color. The work of this Ethiopian artist is instantly recognizable and sort of breathtaking as it addresses the nature of the female image, in traditional society while being emphatically in the contemporary moment. Also arresting is the work at Bryce Wolkowitz which is on an extra large scale and includes Edward Burtynsky’s Saw Mills #1, Lagos, Nigeria, Shohei Nishino’s Diorama Map, Havana 2015, (also an aerial view). There is a stunning panoramic image by Stephen Wilkes of Lake Bogoria, Kenya, Day to Night. This 50” x 90” piece captures the time of year when hundreds of thousands of flamingos arrive in this particular area attracted by the extremely alkaline conditions which almost no other birds or animals can tolerate and which provides vast amounts of the tiny creatures on which flamingoes thrive and which causes their legs and feathers to turn the brilliant pink for which they are so famously known. The colors in this landscape are ravishing.
Also to be considered are more than a dozen talks featuring curators, collectors, artists and journalists including Teju Cole, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Edward Burtynsky among others. There is also the AIPAD Screening Room which will be presenting documentaries on photographers such as Yousuf Karsh, Gordon Parks, W. Eugene Smith and others.