The Vermeer of Marble Falls, Texas

“Warm winds blowin’
Heat ‘n’ blue sky
And a road that goes
Forever…
I’m goin’ to Texas.”*

Here, in the Big Apple, where there is ALWAYS too much Art for any one person to see, Rod Penner hasn’t been part of that problem. That’s because his work is almost never seen, or offered for sale, here. As a result, I only discovered him a year ago at the George Adams Gallery when I saw a tiny little painting that was smaller than a paperback book of a large hotel sign. Right away I was enthralled by it. I enquired. But? It was not for sale. Once I saw it? I had to know more. It turned out that this little work is the veritable tip of a sizable iceberg of equally excellent paintings he’s done going back to 1992 (as can be seen here.) Rod Penner became mythic to me. I waited like the Titanic adrift on the Gallery seas of Manhattan to run into more of his ‘berg.

See the little square on the left? That’s Rod Penner’s “Ranch View Motel,” seen in an Installation View of a group show at George Adams Gallery in April, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Rod Penner, “Ranch View Motel,” 6 x 6 INCHES!, 2013. 

Tonite, a year later, under clear skies, completely by chance, I accidentally crashed into it. I happened to walk in to Ameringer McEnery Yohe in Chelsea just as a solo show of his work, “Rod Penner,” was opening, without knowing it was there. Women & children, first! Too late. 8 of the 9 works on view had been sold before the opening bell.

What?

Small wonders. Installation View of all of “Rod Penner” at Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe, tonite. The “larger” works are 5 x 7 1/2 inches. The square ones are only 6 x 6 inches!

The only one available was a work he had just finished and had to overnight to the gallery so it could be framed in time for the opening. No doubt it’s been sold, too, by now. Ok, let me get this straight- Here’s an Artist, who lives and works in Marble Falls, Texas (pop. 7,154 in 2016), that very few seem to have even heard of. There were no books about him until the gallery released one today for this show. There’s very little about him online. His work is so rarely shown, that his last NYC solo show was in 2013! Still? His new work is virtually pre-sold. What’s going on?

Looking for insight, I stood watching visitors to the opening come in and listened to their reactions. Most responded like I did, with astonishment, and only a few seemed to know his work previously. Two or three asked out loud about the prices and availability of the paintings, something I just don’t see happening at shows (where business is generally conducted quietly), even though there was a printed price list at the desk. Hmmm…

Full of desolation, empty streets, crumbling, or abandoned buildings, or oddly decorated houses, all under grey skies and fronted by cracking pavement, these latest works all depict scenes the Artist observed in San Saba, Texas (the erst-while “Pecan Capital of the World,” which is a bit north of Marble Falls, which, in turn, is north of San Antonio). It’s a bit odd to find this work speaking to New Yorkers. I, for one, have never been anywhere near Texas, yet it speaks to me.

Rod Penner, “Commie’s Tacos,” 2017, all of 5 x 7 1/2 inches of it. Seen from afar, it’s streets and buildings.

 

Close-up. Like peering through the looking glass, more and more details emerge, allowing the viewer to imagine a narrative.

Is it the isolation that’s an inherent part of modern living? The foreboding of our times? The nostalgia for small town life, or times gone by, many transplanted urban dwellers retain? Or? Is it they just appreciate amazingly good painting? I still can’t say. I probably fall into all of those groups. From my earliest days looking at Art Books when the uncanny micro-imagery of Jan Van Eyck astounded me (and still does), to Durer, Goltzius, Richard Estes and on and on, I’ve looked at a lot of work that has a level of technique some would label super-human. No one can deny that his “Oh my god” astonishment inducing level of technique is part of the charm of Rod Penner’s work. But, it goes much deeper.

The size of his work, which he speaks of being a response to large works he sees proliferating, is also a way of putting the world around us, and by extension even our own worlds, in perspective. Seen from a distance? The abandonment of some of the failed businesses is undiscernible, and hence, it’s impersonal, a bit like passing through a town in a moving car. Move closer and all of a sudden detail after detail after even more detail comes into focus. From then on, it’s up to you to decide. The effect of looking closely at such small paintings is not unlike looking closely through old family albums, where the photos are small, what’s in them looks “old,” even though, Mr. Penner is painting scenes that may still exist. It’s work that stands up to, and demands, repeated viewings. Up close viewing.

The gallery handout speaks of the “hope” in these works. I never see construction or new building going on. The skies look ominous to me. There is virtually no activity to be seen in any of these works, save for a lone car in the distance in a few of them. It’s hard to tell if people are even home in the house depicted below, with it’s two huge inflatables out among it’s Christmas decorations. Yes, humor, usually a little subtler, is in these works, too. Yet, the peeling paint on the house’s walls gives the feeling of “times are hard, but we’re celebrating Christmas anyways.” I don’t know if that’s hope, but it’s at least perseverance.

Rod Penner, “Yard Inflatables,” 2016, 6 x 6 inches. Mr. Penner includes  humor surprisingly often. You can see “in-progress” shots of this work, here.

While William Eggleston shows details of southern scenes that grab him, Rod Penner takes a step back. Or 50 steps back, usually half way into the street. He casts a wide angled lens (figuratively, not photographically) on a tiny canvas. Many hundreds of years ago works this size by Duccio and others were meditation objects. In works like these, they still are.

Ok. But, Vermeer, Nighthawk? Perhaps THE most desired, and one of the most revered Artists in Art History? Seriously? Well, I don’t believe in comparing Artists qualitatively, but I see some similarities. Mr. Penner speaks in interviews about being into the Hudson River School and the early Flemish Masters, himself,  but consider this- Though Vermeer is famous to us, mostly, for his interior scenes, there are two outdoor works of his that we have- “View of Delft,’ which is thought to have been painted when  the Artist was 28 or 29, relatively early in his short career, his last outdoor work known to us, now in Mauritshuis, The Hague, and his “The Little Street,” which is in the Rijksmuseum, painted a year or two before. Both, but especially the latter, remind me of Rod Penner.

Vermeer, “The Little Street,” 1657-58, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It looks like Vermeer liked to stand in the middle of the street, too.

“The Little Street” shows us what seems to be a typical doorway scene of daily life, with one door and one passage way open to show us the inside, turning this into a classic Vermeer “tease,” among another closed door and 19 windows that are either boarded up or dark preventing our seeing inside. Removing the two women leaves the cloudy (“Penner-esque,” to copyright a term) sky, the similar state of the well lived-in buildings, and the cobblestone streets (roughly equivalent to Mr. Penner’s ever-present cracked pavement, which, as seen below, resembles cobblestone), are among the similarities I find between this Vermeer and Rod Penner’s new works at Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe. They’re an echo, let’s say, across 350 years and thousands of miles. Here’s one example, but I see elements in the other works by Mr. Penner on view here.

On another “little street.” Boarded up windows, a closed door (with “For Lease” sign), an “aged” brick building, the cracked street resembling cobblestones, under a “Penneresque Sky,” all rendered with exquisite skill. Rod Penner’s, “The Studio,” 2017, 5 x 7 1/2 inches, also speaks to hard times for the Arts everywhere.

But yes, there are no people in any of these Penners. In that sense, he may be part of another part of Art History, that of American 20th Century Artists Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford and Richard Estes, who painted many scenes without people, though, of course, Hopper painted many with them as well.

Who knew butane was ever that popular? Or? Is he pulling our leg? Rod Penner, “San Saba Butane,” 2017 6 x 6 inches

Another thing that Mr. Penner has in common with Vermeer is that his amazing technique is always painterly, it’s always put in the service of his message, and that message is NOT to replicate a photo. In addition to seeing more of the “iceberg,” I also had the equally unexpected privilege of spending a few moments speaking with the mythical Artist, himself, at the show’s opening tonite, and he spoke of waking a few weeks ago and feeling unhappy with the foreground pavement in his most recent work, “View of San Saba,” seen below, and so he changed it- In ways that had nothing to do with the reference photos he had of it. Then he mentioned that he also uses sketches, video and other mediums to capture his thoughts of his subject, though he doesn’t paint “en plain air,” or paint on the spot.

I hope not. These works take him weeks to complete, and that’s part of why there are so few of them being offered. This show represents this year’s work. The other part is that current owners are holding on to them.

I also asked him how he felt about the term “photorealism,” which gets applied to him, and others, like Richard Estes. He said he doesn’t like it, which I was happy to hear. He prefers “Photo-influenced.” There’s only one term to apply to Rod Penner’s work- Art. His work is masterful. It speaks to so much going on right now in our country, and in our world, yet it, also, speaks every bit as much to the past, and it’s all done in ways that are uniquely his own, though many people seem to relate to.

Rod Penner’s just completed “View of San Saba,” 2017, 5 x 7 1/2 inches, with it’s new foreground.

“He says he’s been to Texas
And that’s the only place to be
Big steaks, big cars, no trouble here
That’s the place for me.
I’m going to Texas (yeah, yeah)
I’m going to Texas”*

It’s interesting to me that Mr. Penner is a transplant to Marble Falls, Texas from Vancouver, (which must be as different as Marble Falls seems to a Manhattanite), because that reminds me of the work of another Vancouverite- Photographer Fred Herzog‘s, which I just saw at AIPAD. Is it a coincidence that both of these past & present (Herzog) Vancouver resident’s work has a universality that surmounts the place it depicts, and where it is seen?

He’s real! Rod Penner, in person, left, introduces his most recent work, “View of San Saba,” 2017, 5 x 7 1/2 inches, at Ameringer tonite.

Though the world is a very big place, Rod Penner’s work shows us that it’s really made up of a lot of small places.

(My subsequent Q&A with Rod Penner is here. Further thoughts about this show are here.)

*- Soundtrack for this Post is “Texas,” by Chris Rea, published by Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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The “Other” Russian Revolution

“I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR”*

There was that “big” one…you know…the one that was in all the papers over here one hundred years ago, in 1917 – The “October Revolution,” or the “Russian Revolution.” Whatever you call it, 9 million people died in 5 years, and it resulted in the loss of freedom for countless more millions over the next 74 years, I’m no historian or political writer, but I hear it’s been fading in importance for quite a while now. While that one caused a big stir, meanwhile, off in what was then a quiet, small town (a city of 350,000 today) in the eastern U.S.S.R. (Belarus today), the seeds of another revolution were beginning to sprout. No one was killed in that one, as far as I know. The instigator of a good deal of it is a world famous Artist now, who, though a pioneer of modernism, is not often thought of as a revolutionary.

Today, he’s famous for flying lovers.

Marc Chagall is the most famous native son of that small town- Vitebsk, Belarus. In the early days after the “October Revolution” he accepted the Post of “Commissar of Visual Arts” for Vitebsk. He then founded the Vitebsk Arts College, and in 1919 invited a number of Artists to be it’s teachers. Among them were Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky and Yehuda Pen. Kazimir Malevich would soon become the fountainhead of a movement that crystalized in a group named “UNOVIS” ( or “Exponents of the New Art”), who, in the spirit of the larger revolution, shared credit for the works they created. At the core of this movement was Malevich’s “Suprematism,” a style of work that focused on basic geometric forms and colors, in the service of “pure artistic feeling.” This put him (stylistically) directly at odds with Chagall, who was, at heart, a classicist…

On The Fence, #2: El We-sit-ski.” Click any image to enlarge, if you dare..

and when Lissitzky, who was on the fence between both camps (sorry!), sided with Malevich, Chagall soon left the school to continue his career elsewhere. 100 years later, Suprematism and the Russian Avant-Garde is still growing in importance and appreciation, as was plain to see in MoMA’s recent exhibition, “A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde,” 1915-1932,  which featured, and grew out of, Malevich’s “Suprematism” movement. MoMA’s show, consisting exclusively of works from it’s own collection, is NOT to be confused with a show of a very similar title, “Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932,” running concurrently at the Royal Academy, London, which included quite a few loans from Russia. While the show, and the movement, includes filmmakers, poets and other visual Artists, I’m focusing on the Painters, Photographers and Graphic Artists included. Many are, surprisingly, multi-threats (i.e. multi-talented). To quote MoMA about these Artists, they were “a group who was fed up with form, the way the “other” revolutionaries were fed up with 300 years of Czarist rule and decided to throw it all out, so to speak, and start over from the basics, giving a new hierarchy to basic forms, and basic (or non) colors, like black and white. (i.e. Suprematism. )1” Stalin’s 1933 decree led to the banishment of the Avant-Garde, in favor of “socialist realism,” which has already been forgotten, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the “Russian Revolution.”

While Chagall, himself, was not included in MoMA’s show (though he was in the Royal Academy’s), the headline highlight was an extremely rare opportunity to see so many works from MoMA’s incomparable (in the West) collection of Kazimir Malevich, the brilliant visionary who died only a few years after the period this show covers ends, 1932, passing in 1935 at 57. That New Yorkers are lucky enough to enjoy this superb collection is due to the foresight of another legend, Alfred H. Barr, Jr, MoMA’s first Director, who in 1929 had the prescience to secure many of Malevich’s works.

Shots across the bow of painting. An entire wall of rarely seen works by Kazimir Malevich, that are at the crux of the Revolution, featuring  “Suprematist Composition: White on White,” 1918, considered his masterpiece, center.

Close-up with Malevich’s “Suprematist Composition: White on White,” 1918.

At 26, in 1927-28, Mr. Barr went to Moscow, where he wrote in his diary, “Apparently, there is is no place where talent of artistic or literary sort is so carefully nurtured as in Moscow. Would rather be here than any place on earth.” This trip stayed with Barr when a year later he became the founding director of MoMA, as part of his vision of MoMA as a lab of critical inquiry analysis and communication1. MoMA went on to compile one of the most outstanding collections of Russian Modern Art outside of Russia under his stewardship, which lasted until 1969, part of which is on view in the 8+ galleries of this surprisingly large, and excellent, show. While I am showing selected highlights, you can see Installation Views and get a different idea of the experience towards the bottom of MoMA’s page for the show, here. To get an idea of the ongoing importance of Mr. Barr’s choices, while I was standing in front of what many consider Malevich’s Masterpiece, “White on White,“ 1918, complete strangers to each other had a moment after each posed for pictures in what they both announced was their “very favorite painting,” 99 years after it’s creation.

Two total strangers explain to each other why this Malevich is their “very favorite painting of all time.”

A case of early books by Malevich, including “Suprematism: 34 Drawings,” 1920, published by UNOVIS, Vitebsk, left.

Remarkable insights to genius. 4 charts Malevich made as visual aids for his European “Introductions to Suprematism” Lectures.

This blows my mind, so I’m showing a closer view of it. In this chart, we get an incredibly rare insight into how a founder of an Artistic movement (how many of them are there?) sees Art. We get to look over his shoulder as he recaps the development of Modern Art through Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism.

As impressive as Malevich’s works are, which is equalled by the ongoing importance of his ideas, for me the show’s biggest revelation came in two words- El Lissitzky. A student of Yehuda Pen’s at age 13, he then studied to become an Architect, before Chagall’s call summoned him to Vitebsk. There, he became convinced by Malevich (who he had known previously), and this led him to create “Suprematist” works that remain both fresh and incredibly inventive today.

Visionary, and then some. In 1920, UNOVIS staged a utopian opera in Vitebsk titled “Victory Over the Sun.” El Lissiztky created these designs for abstract, electromechanical dolls for it, which were never realized. Seen are 5 Lithographs from a set of 11 he did titled “Figurines: 3 Dimensional Design of the Electro-Mechanical Show ‘Victory Over the Sun,'” 1921.

MoMA owns the only complete copy known of what may be Lissitzky’s masterpiece, “Proun,” from 1920, a Portfolio of 11 lithographs, published in Vitebsk. MoMA’s curator called it a “project for the affirmation of the new.1” The exact definition of “Proun” is not known, or lost to us, but the work itself explores the creative possibilities of Malevich’s theories in startling, and beautiful, (yes, beautiful) ways.

3 photos above- El Lissiztky, “Proun,” 1920, a Portfolio of 11 lithographs, who’s title is untranslatable now. A masterpiece of invention & design, seen in the only complete set that includes the covers (top), detail of 4 prints, center, and the translation of it’s manifesto, bottom.

While his work is, strangely & unfortunately, absent from MoMA’s fine and surprisingly large show, behind the scenes looms the over-looked Artist, Yehuda Pen. Teacher of both Marc Chagall and El Lissitzky, his work is brilliant in it’s own right, to my eyes, though different from that of either of his students. Pen went on to teach at Chagall’s School, alongside Malevich, and Lissitzky.

The great Artist & Teacher Yehuda Pen, center, with friends in 1922.

Yehuda Pen’s studio in 1917, a few years after he taught El Lissitzky.

“Portrait of Marc Chagall,” circa 1915, by Yehuda Pen. More of his work is here.

Along with El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko, impresses, on a number of fronts, including his attitude- ”I reduced painting to its logical conclusion,” he said, speaking of his three monochrome paintings- “Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, and Pure Blue Color” in 1921, “I affirmed: it’s all over. Basic Colors. Every plane is a plane and there is to be no more representation4.”

Oh yeah? Rodchenko “Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black),” 1918, his “answer” to Malevich’s square “White on White.”

Wow. Luckily, 96 years later, painting, itself can quote Mark Twain: “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” thank goodness! I’m left to wonder what was in Rodchenko’s Borscht. Having buried his paintbrush, he got into Photography after buying a camera in Paris in 1925, four years after declaring the death of painting. He turned out to be a naturally gifted Photographer, a medium he never formally “studied.” His photography has, also, remained influential ever since.

Avant-Realism? Rodchenko “Pro eto. Ei i men (About This. To Her and to Me),” 1923, showing off his unique approach to photography, and graphic design.

There was a lot to see over 8+ galleries, in spite of the fact there was only one work by Kandinsky on view. It would have been most welcome to see more, but I never missed them, thanks to the many works by Rodchenko, and Lissitzky, who’s Photography was also shown, proving that he was, like Rodchenko, a very gifted (and underrated) Artist in that medium, too.

Remember my name (well, it’s there over the “XYZ”). El Lissiztky was, also, a naturally gifted Photographer. This amazing “Self Portrait,” 1924, Gelatin silver print, was made using SIX exposures.

Other Artists impressed, too (Lyubov Popova, Vladimir Tatlin and Olga Rozanova among them), yet regardless of how impressive this show was, more importantly, the names of many of the Artists on view have been increasingly coming from the lips of today’s important Artists, including Nasreen Mohamedi, hereWilliam Kentridge, and the late, great Architect, Zaha Hadid, who speaks about Malevich, here. Also, amazingly, the legacy lives on in Vitebsk, Belarus, something that astounds me given that the biggest battle of World War II, and possibly EVER fought, was fought in Belarus, with monumental horrific fighting in Vitebsk. Chagall’s former School, after somehow miraculously surviving, has been renovated and is to reopen as the Museum of the History of the Vitebsk People’s Art School later this year. Below is a photo of the restored building, courtesy of myrecentdiscoveries.com, the International Marc Chagall researchers, who visited the building, and wrote about it’s new life, here. A photo of it’s new lobby, which appears to pays homage to Malevich, can be seen here.

The Revolution Happened Here. Miraculously, Chagall’s School in Vitebsk, Belarus, survived the biggest battle ever fought, while everything around it was destroyed. Malevich, Lissitzky, Pen & Chagall taught here. UNOVIS was founded here. It’s being remodeled and reopened as the Museum of the History of the Vitebsk People’s Art School! Photo by, and courtesy of myrecentdiscoveries.com

They were kind enough to also put me in contact with the Director of the Vitebsk Modern Art Center, Andrey Duhovnikov, which includes the new Museum, above, and who is also an Artist in his own right. I asked Mr. Duhovnikov about whether UNOVIS will be represented in the new Museum of the History of the Vitebsk People’s Art School. He told me, “There will be 12 thematic sections, two of which will be dedicated to UNOVIS, where archival documents will be presented.” I’m not surprised by this. Chagall and Malevich’s influence & memory live on in Vitebsk, a city that continues to hold celebrations to mark anniversaries of milestone events, like the 100th Anniversary of Chagall’s wedding in 2015. In response to my question about whether Yehuda Pen is being forgotten, Mr. Duhovnikov explained that Yehuda Pens’ work is too fragile to travel, which prevents it from being better known outside of Belarus, however over 180 works by Pen can be seen today at the Vitebsk Art Museum, and a Museum dedicated to Pen is being discussed. Good news, indeed.

The process whereby Art goes from “Contemporary,” or “Modern,” to “Art” is endlessly fascinating to me as I look at what Artists are creating now, and wonder- “What, if ANY of this, will be considered Art one day?” Certainly influencing major Artists who come after (like Nasreen Mohamedi, William Kentridge, and Zaha Hadid) plays a part in that, so do visionaries, like Alfred Barr, who had the foresight to hand pick 21 works from Malevich’s 1927 Retrospective for MoMA, thereby giving countless future generations, including mine, the chance to see these works in shows like this one, (which is MoMA “showing off,” a bit, like The Met did with “Unfinished“). But, also, in there quietly working away are others, like Mr. Duhovnikov, and his associates, who feel and recognize the value & importance of the work, and are dedicated to sharing it, and making sure this legacy endures to influence more generations.

That’s how “Revolution” becomes evolution, and “Art History.”

My thanks to myrecentdiscoveries.com and  Andrey Duhovnikov for their assistance.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Back in the USSR,” by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. From the MoMA LIVE Video- “The Russian Avant-Garde: Scholars Respond”, which can be seen here.
  2. From the MoMA LIVE Video- “The Russian Avant-Garde: Scholars Respond”, which can be seen here.
  3. From the MoMA LIVE Video- “The Russian Avant-Garde: Scholars Respond”, which can be seen here.
  4. https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1998/rodchenko/texts/death_of_painting.html

Henry Taylor Is Having A New York Moment

Either the Artist has a great representative, the Force is strong with him, or the powers that be in the Art World have magically combined as they rarely seem to, and at the same moment, to give us something unusual here- Multiple high-profile venues simultaneously featuring the work of the same (deserving) Artist. Or? Maybe it’s a coincidence. Or? Maybe they just agree- his time is now.

Wish you were here. Henry Taylor, wearing shades underwater, in his “The Floaters,” 2017 the  latest High Line Mural Commission just after it’s completion in mid-March. Click to enlarge.

Whichever one it is, “his time” came on March 17, when on the same day, Henry Taylor’s “The Floaters,” was unveiled as the latest High Line Mural Commission, at West 22nd Street, AND multiple paintings by Mr. Taylor were debuting as the Whitney Biennial opened, the largest, right out in front of the 6th Floor elevator, where it leads to an entire gallery of his work, in dialogue with the wonderful photographer, Deana Lawson, both of whom shine in this Biennial, to my eyes.

Almost ready for his close-up.”The Floaters,” seen with rigging used to paint it as it nears completion last month.

Mr. Taylor’s piece strikes me as, possibly, “one upping” the High Line by showing himself doing something none of the the High Line’s 5 million visitors can do- submerging themselves in a swimming pool. Very L.A. Well? L.A. is where he lives. Touche. His summery “The Floaters,” the first sign of the coming of spring in Manhattan, couldn’t be more in contrast to Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled (Blind Idealism…), 2016,” which occupied the same wall for the past year.

Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled (Blind Idealism…), 2016,” seen in March, where it followed no less than Kerry James Marshall’s Mural (which you can watch actually being painted, here).

If you walk down the High Line to it’s southern terminus, you’ve arrived at the Whitney Museum, where Mr. Taylor’s “Ancestors of Ghenghis Khan with Black Man on Horse,” 2015-17, greets you as you step off the elevator on 6.

The elevator doors open on the 6th Floor at the Whitney Biennial. Seen in full below.

“Welcome to the 2017 Whitney Biennial,” indeed.

“Ancestors of Ghenghis Khan with Black Man on Horse,” 2015-17, at the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Originally, the Whitney Biennial was a painting show, so I’m glad to see exciting, recent work by Henry Taylor, Dana Schutz, Kaya, Aliza Nisenbaum,  Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Frances Stark, and Jo Baer included among a plethora of video and only a handful of Photographers. Painting has a long history of expressing the inexpressible, as well as capturing the moment, and there’s been a lot going on in these recent moments, to be sure. Following in the footsteps of Goya’s “The Third of May 1808,” on down, Mr. Taylor’s “THE TIMES THEY AIN’T A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!,” 2017 is one of the most powerful paintings (seen here with it’s accompanying card) I’ve seen at this Biennial, along with “Open Casket,” by Ms. Schutz and “Censorship Now,” by Ms. Stark.

“THE TIMES THEY AIN’T” is based on a video, and is an image we are, perhaps, more used to seeing from PhotoJournalists, than in a painting, yet, it’s precedent is right there in Art History, in Goya, and countless others. Though there are similarities between the two Paintings, Mr. Taylor’s work is uniquely his own, especially as he depicts an inner space (a recurring theme, in this case, the back seat of a car), being intruded upon and violated, fatally. Portraiture is what he seems to be most known for, and he brings this extensive knowledge of Art History (as Kerry James Marshall does) to his portraits as well, sometimes playfully, sometimes as a jumping off point, as in his 2007 portrait of Eldridge Clever, which takes “Whistler’s Mother,” of all things, as it’s basis.

Mr. Taylor is an Artist who’s work has a range (from the humor of “The Floaters,” to the life & death of “THE TIMES THEY AIN’T,” to scenes from home life, below), which prevent him from being slotted as being any one thing beyond “Artist.” His work, even his portraits, often seems to have a landscape feel to it- there’s an element of space- inside, outside (or both, in “The Floaters,”), or personal space, in many of his works, and, of course, race is an overriding theme. His is, also, a shining example of the relevance of Painting in Contemporary Art (as is the work of the Painters I mentioned above, among others), a medium that some question the value of every so often. As Kerry James Marshall has, Henry Taylor is another Artist who is putting black faces onto Museum walls, and possibly, bringing new audiences to them to see their work.

“The 4th,” 2012-17, by Henry Taylor. It’s interesting to compare this with Kerry James Marshall’s painting of the same subject seen a few months ago.

While his “15 Minutes of Fame,” will come to an end when the Biennial closes on June 11 and “The Floaters” gives way to the next High Line Commission in March, 2018, his work isn’t going anywhere. As in- anywhere away from public view, any time soon. Even here, on “tar beach.”

*- Soundtrack for this Post is “I Love L.A.,” by Randy Newman.

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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

AIPAD: The Picture Show

This is the fourth Post in my series on “The Photography Show, 2017,” aka “AIPAD.” The first three Posts are here. AIPAD was, also, my NoteWorthy Show for March. 

This time, I’m finally going to show some Photographs! After all? Isn’t that why anyone went? I’ve shown some in my prior Posts, and here are some more (with who was presenting it, of course), along with a few shots of Gallery Booths (after all, it’s the work being shown that matters, right?), and one of the Collections, (which were included this year for the first time), that stood out to me. Then, I’ll wrap up all of my coverage with the reaction to the show of the Gallerists I spoke to, as well as my own. Ok. Let’s see pictures!

“Look at that cloud
As high as a tree
At least that’s how it looks to me

How about you?
What do you see?
What if we see things differently?

Show me how the world looks through your eyes
Tell me about the sunrise, let me see the stars shine
Show me how the world looks through your eyes”*

Speaking of “Look at that cloud…,” this is Glenda Leon’s “Between the Air and Dreams,” 2008, from The Plonsker Collection of Cuban Photography (see below). I don’t know if the clouds REALLY aligned like this, but it sums up the global scope of The Photography Show, 2017. Click any image to enlarge.

A world, and 140 years apart, gives an idea of the range seen at AIPAD. Sohei Nishino’s incredibly complex “Diorama Map of New Delhi,” 2013, at Bryce Wolkowitz left, across the hall from Edward Muybridge’s equally incredible 1873 “View of Yosemite” at Robert Koch Gallery, right.

Ashley Gilbertson’s “Refugees Disembark on Lesvos, Greece, 2015,” quickly becoming iconic, at Monroe Gallery, where…

I still can’t believe that really was the legendary Tony Vaccaro. Seen with a wall of his masterpieces to his right. Georgia O’Keefe (below), Picasso, “The Violinist,” Hitler’s Eagles Nest and a fallen GI, from the far right corner, behind him, at Monroe Gallery’s booth.

Living history. Mr. Vaccaro actually knew Georgia O’Keefe (seen in both of these), Jackson Pollock, Frank Lloyd Wright, and on and on.

Want to buy top quality work by major Photographers in signed, limited editions for as little as 300.00? Check out Light Work, at lightwork.org, a non-profit in Syracuse, NY. The money goes to help Photographers. Their astounding list of their Artists In Residence to date, which includes Cindy Sherman, can be seen here.

Wonderfully friendly Gallerists were on hand from all over the world, like Raffaella De Chirico, all the way from Turin, Italy, bringing stunning work…

like that of Fabio Bucciarelli, with her, which she sold shortly after I got this photo.

Tribe came all the way from Dubai, U.A.E. to represent the thriving Photo world in 22 Arab countries.

With Galleries as far as the eye can see (check out the signs up top), you’ll need a plane. This is only one aisle of them.

Collections were a new feature this year, including the Plonsker Collection of Cuban Photography, above, and the renowned Walther Collection.

 

Intermission. In case you need a rest, here’s a little thing I call “On The Fence, #1- AIPAD Edition,” 2017. The Owl in question was by no less than Masao Yamamoto at Yancey Richardson.

 

Far & Away THE most amazing book on view, and that’s saying something- “Rijks”. $7,000.00 per, and 55 pounds. Huge! It comes with the table.

Seen the way Rembrandt created it. An immortal “Self Portrait,” as never seen before- UNFRAMED, gives a remarkably different effect.

More workmanship went into the cover of it than I could explain in an entire Post.

I know what you’re thinking- “The ‘Painting guy’ goes to The Photography Show and winds up writing about what else? A PAINTING BOOK- The ONLY Painting book in the place, no less! Well…Yes, and no1. It’s “Rijks: Masters of the Golden Age,” published by Marcel Wanders (Uitgeverij Komma and Magic Group Media), a book of photographs of paintings, but not just any paintings. 64 masterpieces from the Rikjsmuseum, Amsterdam’s “Gallery of Honour,” like you will never see them- UNFRAMED. Yes. You read that right (It STILL blows my mind) with details of each blown up to over 1,000%! Of course, I couldn’t stop looking at it, and just WOW! It may well be the greatest, the most beautiful, and the most well done Art Book I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen Rembrandt in anything close to this level of detail. I told them that most of it’s pages would make stunning posters. For the “rest of us,” who don’t have the 7 grand, the space, or both for this incredible book, there is a smaller version available for 150.00. It’s cheaper than a plane ticket to Amsterdam!

Forever young. “Two Sisters,” 1850, by Southworth and Hawes at Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, Chalfont, PA.

Interesting to contrast with these hauntingly beautiful portraits of the moment by Ruud Van Empel at Jackson Fine Art

“Washington Merry Go Round,” 1950, by Weegee. An unusual work of his using lens experiments, and a very rare signed piece by the NYC Legend, at Michael Shapiro Gallery.

“Mommy, Are you SURE Kate Moss started out this way?”

Fred Herzog, who began doing color street photography in Vancouver circa 1954, and continued for 50 years, has only been shown since 2007. He has a marvelous eye, and a universal charm that is only beginning to be as recognized in the USA, as he is in Canada. Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery revealed his range over about 25 wonderfully chosen works.

Todd Hido, from his classic series, “House Hunting, 2002,” at ClampArt, NYC. Somebody better buy this before I do!

And, Finally- Summing up AIPAD…

I spoke to approximately 25 Gallerists (out of the 115 or so attending) about their experience at AIPAD starting on Thursday, and followed up on Sunday as the show was about to end. I’ve continued to do so with those I encountered this week as the dust was still settling. (Amazingly to me, most of the NYC Galleries had shows going on WHILE they were at AIPAD!) Of course, there was a range of reactions. Most of the Gallerists I spoke to seemed pleased. Some thought the show was too big, others wondered about the inclusion of the book area. Early on (through Thursday night), most of those I spoke with weren’t happy. “I could have done this from home,” one told me, summing up the general feeling. This was understandable as there was an absolutely torrential rain storm that lasted all day and night Thursday. Given Pier 94’s out of the way location (the trade off for getting it’s generous size), only the very, very dedicated somehow found a way to get to the show (the MTA runs not exactly near it, and cabs in hard rain that far west are as rare as finding a real, signed Diane Arbus at a flea market. There were shuttles, but I never tried them). Friday, the crowds returned, and the show seemed well attended, as far as I could tell, from then on. Activity seemed steady at the Gallery booths, in the book area (aided by a never ending string of book signings), and in the talks. The two cafe areas looked pretty full much of the time. It was hard to judge sales by only looking for red dots on title cards or lists, so I asked. No one dodged my question. On the contrary, most seemed eager to express their experience and feelings. A surprising number had taken the time to wander around and see the show, and were well versed in specifics of what they saw, which was fascinating. Some bemoaned the encroachment of “video,” which I agree with, unfortunately extending to Colleen Plumb’s “Path Infinitum,” a very laudable work about animals in captivity, being out of place in a Photography show. Some felt there was relatively little older/classic work. I found this interesting given that the Art/Painting Gallery world is so skewed towards Modern & Contemporary Art- the number of Galleries showing “classic” works is, relatively, small. I expected to see something similar at AIPAD, especially since I have been to most of the NYC Galleries who were exhibiting. (This was my first AIPAD.) Personally, I was surprised by the number of beautiful classic works by Ansel Adams and Robert Frank, though I was disappointed to see only one William Eggleston, only a handful of Saul Leiters, and no Araki’s (I am sure I just missed them. Many of Araki’s books were present in the book area).

The hair of the dog that bit me. William Eggleston’s “Yellow Market Sign and Parking Lot,” 2001, at Jorg Maas. The only work by the Photographer that I saw. He started all this “trouble” for me back in December, and STILL only continues to grow in my esteem, which surprises the heck out of me, Typically, this work haunts me. What better way to close this chapter?

From the following generation of Photographers, there were only a couple of Bruce Davidsons, and Sebastiao Salgados, though there was a nice group of Ernst Hass, who’s “Route 66, Albequerque, New Mexico,” 1969, seemed to stop everyone who passed it at Atlas Gallery. Personally? I came looking for great Photographers previously unknown to me, and aided by an expert, the man called Jackson Charles, I added about 100 names to my lists. Most of the Gallerists I spoke with agreed that there was an impressive amount of PhotoJournalists on display, a number of who turned their cameras on the refugee crisis, with amazing results. Particularly surprising, and impressive, for me were the Galleries that came the longest distances, like Raffaella De Chirico from Turin, shown above, often showed PhotoJouralism, or other similar work that many deem “difficult” to hang. Others who traveled significant distance, featured Photographers who are not big names here, but who’s work deserves more attention, like Shoot Gallery, Oslo, I wrote about earlier.

Too Much Is Never Enough In New York. That’s Pier 92, seen from half way down Pier 94 (where AIPAD was) to give a sense of size. Pier 92 is SMALLER than Pier 94!

The reaction of the attendees I heard most often later on Saturday was their feet were getting tired. It dawned on me that if there wasn’t so much worth seeing, they would have left before their feet got tired. I heard mixed things in the book area. Some Booth-holders were very pleased with how they did. Others not so much. It seemed to me it drew a lot of visitors, not surprising given how many Photographers were on hand for book signings throughout the show. A number of publishers debuted titles, or brought about to be released books. I think there were quite a few people who went to AIPAD purely for the book area. (Maybe this will lead to a separate PhotoBook show…?) Some of these tables seemed a bit small and crowded together (just like NYC Apartments), but the range of Publishers and Organizations present in this area I found most impressive. I hope they are included next year, and the layout is improved.

Personally? I found AIPAD to be professionally staged, managed and run throughout. I think most visitors were impressed by it. I found little to complain about- and I looked hard. Getting to and fro was the biggest downside, in my opinion. In the end, I hope lessons are learned from this year’s show to make a very good experience even better next year.

Thank You’s-
I can’t leave AIPAD without thanking the following people-

-Jackson Charles- Photography & PhotoBook Expert Extraordinaire, for his guidance and insights above and beyond the call of duty over FOUR days.
-Kellie McLaughlin of the legendary Aperture Foundation for introducing me to Gregory Halpern, and considerations throughout
-Paul Schiek and Lester Rosso of TBW Books for introductions to Jim Jocoy, Raymond Meeks, and other considerations
Jim Jocoy for sharing his extraordinary experiences, and amazing new book with me
Raymond Meeks for sharing his beautiful work, especially his lovingly crafted hand made new release
-Danny who turned me on to Curran Hatleberg
-Forrest Soper of PhotoEye for turning me on to Moises Saman’s “Discordia
-Sophie Brodovitch of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver for her Fred Herzog expertise, and consideration
-All the Gallerists and Organizations who spoke with me and shared their expertise and insights with me.
-Margery Newman of Margery Newman Communication for her help and consideration throughout

And, finally, to Bruce Davidson, and all the great Photographers, past and present, all over the world, who are the reason we went to AIPAD- To see the world through their eyes.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Through Your Eyes,” written by Richard Marx and Dean Pitchford, published by Wonderland Music Co., Inc.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. I’ve written about a number of excellent PhotoBooks I saw at AIPAD in the earlier parts of this series.

R.I.P. James Rosenquist- American Master

I was saddened to learn of the passing of the great James Rosenquist today at age 83. One of the greatest American Painters of the Post World War II era, he began as an outdoor Billboard painter (from 1957-1960). Ever since I first learned that, I’ve paid attention to the few that are still hand painted. I always stop and take a photo of them when a new ad is in progress, partly out of fascination at the death defying skill involved, and because they are wonderfully abstract before they’re finished. I actually took this photo on West 34th Street earlier this afternoon, before I learned of his passing, of one of the few outdoor billboards that are still hand-painted. Fittingly, it was unfinished. I post it in homage.

I shot this unfinished, hand painted Billboard at West 34th & 8th Avenue this afternoon, before I heard James Rosenquist, who began as a billboard painter, had passed. Fittingly abstract. Click any image to enlarge.

Mr. Rosenquist’s Retrosective at the Guggenheim in 2004 was a spectacle that overwhelmed the eyes and the senses. I lived with this on a smaller scale, (though too large for my small space), after I bought a set of 7 prints by Mr. Rosenquist, another example of which was in the Guggenheim extravaganza. The title of the series, “High Technology and Mysticism: A Meeting Point,” proved tantalizing and inspired endless speculation. Typicaly, they  were so large, (each 34 x 33 inches) that I could only hang one at a time.

“The” by James Rosenquist, 1981, limited edition print (set of 7) based on his photography.

Each print is titled by hand with a one word title. Together the 7 titles form the “poem,” or haiku,- “Somewhere Above The Sky Silverbirds Fly Somewhere.” In the Rosenquist Print Catalog by Glenn, Mr. Rosenquist says of them- “It was the first thing I had ever done that was solely photographic. I went to unusual lengths to take photographs. I was specifically trying to sandwich negatives together to bring about a certain look, a certain thing that I wanted through this photo process…I went to study where technology was illustrated, in libraries and other places. I went to hospitals to see how it all related to the human being. I went all over the place to see the sources of imagery from technology and find out what it had to do with so-called art. So, I came up with these strange shapes, DNA symbols, electrical circuits.”

“Fly,” From the same series, 1981.

When you look at these works, bear in mind that Adobe Photoshop was first released in 1990- nine years after Mr. Rosenquist created these remarkable images. Yes, he created these works that reference “high technology,” without actually USING high technology. How fitting to Post, and revisit, these now when they serve as, both, my personal remembrance of this great Artist, and because my head has been buried in Contemporary Photography.

And “Somewhere,” ditto. Where have you seen anything similar? Even Mr. Rosenquist never worked in this style again.

James Rosenquist hasn’t received as much attention (it seems to me) as his contemporaries Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein or Robert Rauschenberg (who’s Retrospective is set to open at MoMA next month and sure to be a blockbuster). He was an Artist who never stopped growing, and neither did the size of his work. I loved that about it, almost as much as I marveled at his powers of invention. Originally dubbed a “pop artist,” by those who need some sort of crutch (bear that in mind when you read his Obituaries that try to put him in that box), Mr. Rosenquist’s work quickly grew beyond categories. And stayed there. One only had to see the final huge gallery of his most recent work at the Guggenheim show to feel overwhelmed at the size and scale of his vision, and marvel at them. It’s something very, very few Artists, especially Painters have matched.

That scale, and the daring of his vision are what I will miss most. “Sail on, Silverbird…”*

I think I’ll remember James Rosenquist as he is seen in the front of the Guggenheim Retrospective Catalog, in my signed copy.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon, published by Universal Music Publishing Group.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

AIPAD SnapShots: The Photographers- Memorable Meetings

This is the third of my Series of Posts on “The Photography Show 2017” aka AIPAD.

I gave up trying to count how many Photographers of note were on hand over AIPAD’s 5 days. But, it’s with great pleasure I recount the opportunities I had to speak with many of them. Along with Jim Jocoy, the subject of the second Post in this series, here are some of my most memorable encounters…

Gregory Halpern-

Gregory Halpern standing next to his work, “Untitled”

Gregory Halpern was the biggest revelation I had at AIPAD. Another Photographer I had never heard of until I saw this piece, “Untitled,” at Aperture’s booth on Wednesday night. I was immediately taken by it. I went home and spent the night researching him and his work. Every single example of Mr. Halpern’s work I saw held me…fascinated me…spoke to me, and downright compelled me to look again. This doesn’t happen often (the last two times being William Eggleston and Todd Hido), so I pay attention when it does. Later, I discovered that his monographs “A”,  and 2016’s “ZZYZX,” (which won Aperture’s 2016 Best Book Of The Year Award), were sold out. Hmmm…I’m not the only one his work speaks to.

This was not posed. Gregory Halpern, “Untitled” From ZZYZX. Courtesy Gregory Halpern & AIPAD.

Luckily, thanks to Kellie McLaughlin of Aperture, I was very fortunate to get a chance to meet Mr. Halpern and speak with him Friday afternoon. A cerebral, thoughtful and humble man, who also teaches Photography to very lucky students at Rochester Institute of Technology, he was so forthcoming, I found myself pulling back on asking him about certain of his works because I began to worry about losing some of their mystery that I love. Even in this brief time I could sense the depth of what is going on under the surface of this Artist. Beyond this, it seems to me that his work often has a magic to it that is incredibly rare. I came away on Wednesday night believing “Untitled” was the most compelling work I saw in the entire show by a Photographer unknown to me. During my research, I came across an absolutely amazing interview with him that anyone interested in his work must read, here. Not only might he become one of the most important Photographers of the next few years, he may, also, become one of it’s key writers. For my part, I was very surprised when he told me that Todd Hido was one of his teachers! Hmmm…Is Todd Hido (who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting) teaching his students how to get to me? He seems to have the secret. Maybe if I ever do meet him, he’ll tell me.

Mike Mandel-

Mike Mandel signs his classic book, “Evidence.”

I met the co-author of “Evidence,” (which is listed in Martin Parr & Gerry Badger’s 3 volume set “The Photobooks,” widely considered one of the two standard references to the best PhotoBooks ever created), in passing and spoke to him briefly. My impression was that he may be a bit surprised at the ongoing importance and relevance of “Evidence,” which was first published 40 years ago in 1977. Perhaps, even he didn’t see that coming. The first book created from found and repurposed photos, the branches that have come off of it’s tree just seem to go on and on, and given the world’s current situation, show no sign of ending.

Lee Friedlander and Tabitha Soren-

Lee Friedlander, with TBW’s Lester Rosso, left, peruses his new book, “Head,” part of TBW Books Subscription Series No. 5

Tabitha Soren, who was with MTV back in the day, now a Photographer, with Lester Rosso and Paul Schiek (left and center) of TBW Books.

I met both (separately) in passing at the TBW Booth. The legendary Mr. Friedlander was looking over his new book by TBW, and Ms. Soren was perusing their latest releases, while 3 of her Photo-works were on view over at Aperture’s booth, along with her Baseball-themed book.

Jo Bentdal-

Jo Bentdal, with 4 of his portraits from his series “Common Sensibility.”

I met the Portraitist at Shoot Gallery, Oslo, Norway’s booth. I couldn’t believe it when I got home from the show and looked at the shot I took of him. It so looks like one of his portraits he’s standing alongside of, right? Did he do this knowingly? I don’t know, but meeting him was full of fascinating insights into the state of Photography in this country most New Yorkers know almost nothing about. Mr. Bentdal’s Portraits of young women (part of a series of 11 works of girls ages 13-15 titled “Common Sensibility”) hang in the collection of a large bank in Norway, which I found very interesting, and hopeful, as a statement of responsibility to (the) next generation(s), who are watching us. I couldn’t help but think back to the Northern European Painted Portrait tradition, which share some similar poses, but always with more going on in the background (usually religious). There is a hint of them here, for me, but more, there was a purity New Yorkers don’t often see in portraits, surrounded as we are by the Nan Goldins and others who have come along since Diane Arbus here. I found Mr. Bentdal’s work a refreshing reminder of other possibilities, and that there is a big world out there, I hear. More about him, here.

Continuing to explore Shoot Gallery’s booth, right next to four of Mr. Bentdal’s Portraits, were two double exposures by Dag Alveng-

Den Alveng with “This is most important/Table Cloth,” a double exposure from 2001, before 9/11.

Mr. Alveng was born in Oslo, but commuted between Oslo and NYC between 1986 and 1996. Even New Yorkers would call that a heck of a commute! Both works he showed were shot in NYC, the one above in pre 9/11 2001, which I found an interesting choice to show here. When I mentioned that, Mr. Alveng said that 9/11 had the same impact everywhere. The work has an image of dining tables in the forefront, with additional tables seen in the same shot through the window. This leads to the second exposure, which takes us further and further back, until we reach the World Trade Center all the way in the center rear. Even though 9/11 was almost 16 years ago, I still find it hard to look at pictures of the Twin Towers without thinking about that day- in spite of the fact that I have many many other, earlier, memories of them. This one was no different, with it’s juxtaposition of fine dining, which is a pleasure for most, the looming tall towers in the back, make it hard to enjoy anything, leaving me with the overriding feeling of impending doom. Like the saying “he who doesn’t remember the past is doomed to repeat it.” But, that’s just me- Your results may differ. As he explained to me, the resulting image from the double exposure was pure chance. Remarkable, indeed. It is exceedingly well done, with a subtlety that rewards multiple viewings, especially at this generous size. Depth of field seems to be a key element in Mr. Alveng’s work- be it single or double exposure. His use of the latter technique led to fascinating results in both works he showed, the other work features children frolicking in the City, an interesting “bridge” to Mr. Bentdal’s Portraits next to it. The children’s mother magically appears in the work, in double exposure, insights I could only get by being fortunate that Mr. Alveng was there, and was gracious enough to tell me about the work’s genesis, and to pose for a photo with “This is most important/Table Cloth,” a piece I will forever think of when I think of him. More of his work is here, and at Shoot Gallery, Norway’s site. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of his work in NYC. I hope so.

Right next to his work was a small set of unique works- glass negatives on black sheets by Eric Antoine, priced at 5,000. each. Mr. Antoine, who was unknown to me, and who I did not meet, is a Master of this medium, and the extraordinary detail contained in each of these very beautiful works made me feel the price was a bargain.

Raymond Meeks-

Raymond Meeks’ “Cabbage White” Folio (in progress). He asked I photograph his work instead of him.

Another Photographer I had never heard of until meeting him at the booth he shared with TBW. I should have heard of him. He’s had a few books released by prestigious Nazraeli Books, including one in their renowned “One Picture Books” series, and a darn good one, as well as a book in their very first “Six By Six” (Series 1), where he was joined by no less than Todd Hido, Anthony Hernandez, Martin Parr, Mark Stenmetz and Toshio Shibata- heavy hitters, all. He’s also been published by TBW Books, and if you hurry, a classic example of his work is available at Light Work, the fine non-profit organization that supports Photographers, here, for 300.00. Mr. Meeks was showing a gorgeous hand made Artist Book entitled “Cabbage White,” a folio that includes a hand made box, a book, a broadside, a silver gelatin print, mostly shot near his upstate New York home that alternates intensely lyrical Black & White shots of nature and people- singly or in groups. The effect is transportive, like a trip to another place where people swim, hang out, jump and leap into the water and live, like people Live, like the exceptionally beautiful trees he seems to be known for live. Though accompanied by text, Mr. Meeks is a visual poet, who’s work possesses a rare lyricism that has the power to take you out of yourself on journeys his work suggests. This may be best experienced in the Artist-controlled context of this precious boxed set, of which he has only created 30 copies, so this strikes me as, perhaps, the ideal way to experience Raymond Meeks. Beware- this work will get inside you, sprout roots and grow inside of you, like one of the trees he renders with a beauty and skill reminiscent of classic Photography. Like his work, he’s an equally down to earth and forthright man, who’s looming, quiet, watchful presence mirrors his work.

Bruce Davidson-

 

Bruce Davidson signs his book “Central Park” for yours truly.

(As I mentioned in the first Post in this series.) I asked the man who I consider the Dean of New York City Photographers how he survived shooting the 1980 photos that became his classic book, “Subway,” back when the trains were like the Wild West. He cryptically told me “It was because I looked like a photographer.” I spent the rest of the day thinking this over. While this was the fist time I’d met Mr. Davidson, I own two of his pieces, and a number of his books, and along the way, I’ve spoken to many people who know or knew and/or who worked with him. The one thing I remember all of them saying was, “Ohhhhhh…..Bruce…”, with an utter fondness in their voice, that’s rare in my experience- not about Photographers. About people. I came away feeling that Bruce Davidson has a presence, a persona that people just like, and/or don’t feel threatened around. Looking at his work, how else to explain how so many of his subjects show us parts of themselves they probably don’t show everyone? Mr. Davidson sat and signed at Steidl’s booth for a solid hour, and I took the chance to have him sign his extraordinary collection of many of his greatest books, “Black And White,” for me. It’s a set every lover of great Photography should have, in my opinion, before it goes out of print, like the original versions of all the books it contains did.

Other Photographers seen, but unmet-

Builder Levy, the social documentarian and street photographer seen in front of some of his work.

Richard Rinaldi, right, discusses his new book “Manhattan Sunday,” about night owls in Manhattan circa 2010. Hey! Wait just one minute there.

Paolo Ventura, left, with Kellie McLaughlin of Aperture (center), shows a copy of his latest book, “Short Stories.” I can’t imagine how much work goes into one of Mr. Ventura’s pieces.

And finally, the amazing Tony Vaccaro, who’s lived an unfathomable life in Photography. Famous for iconic shots of Georgia O’Keefe, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Frank Lloyd Wright, among many others, oh, and World War II, which France gave him the Legion D’Honneur for his photos of, seen at Monroe Gallery’s Booth.

Had enough of AIPAD? Me neither. Over 5 days, (and I was there for all 5), there was a lot to see. More to come!

The rest of my 4-part series on AIPAD is here

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Every Picture Tells A Story (Don’t It?)” by Ron Wood and Steve Harley and recorded by Rod Stewart.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

 

AIPAD SnapShots: The Photographers- Jim Jocoy

This is the second of my Series of 4 Posts on “The Photography Show, 2017,” aka “AIPAD.”  This part is a close up of one of the Photographers I encountered at the show, Jim Jocoy. More soon…

“…no hard chords on the car radio we set the trash on fire and watch
outside the door men come up the pavement under the marquee
there’s laughing outside we’re locked outside the public eye…”*

If you love Rock n Roll, and/or great Photography, Jim Jocoy is a name you should know. That’s easy for me to say now. Up until Thursday at 3pm, I had never heard of him.

Then, aiding me in my recent efforts to get up to speed on the world of Contemporary Photography, Paul Schiek, Owner of TBW Books, one of the most respected imprints in the PhotoBook world, handed me a copy of “Order of Appearance,” TBW’s just released collection of his 1977-1980 punk rock photos. It’s only Mr. Jocoy’s second book after the initial collection of his work from this period, 2002’s “We’re Desperate,” which included an interview with the Photographer by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and a preface by Designer Marc Jacobs. It’s now a collector’s item going for $300.00 and up online.

One look through “Order of Appearance” and I was mezmerized.

Having been a musician in a band on the road at the same time Mr. Jocoy has immortalized, though on the East Coast, while was he busy on the West Coast, I’d lived through this, too, but only seen photos that captured both the essence of what it was like as well as the moments that defined the scene in the extraordinary shots taken by the late, great Bruce Conner, some on view at MoMA this past year, as I mentioned, here.

Until now.

Speaking with him a few hours later, Mr. Jocoy told me actually saw Bruce Conner in the clubs quite often, and came to know him, but, he said that he never once saw Bruce Conner with a camera! In fact, he initially thought he was just an odd guy who danced funny.

Jim Jocoy’s “Order of Appearance,” a brand-new release from TBW Books, features a cover design by Paul Schiek that lifted the black lines of a design on a shirt worn in the book and placed it on top of one of a statue in true punk fashion. Click any image to enlarge.

As I looked through “Order of Appearance,” I was struck by the thought that here, Mr. Jocoy has gone even Bruce Conner one better. He captures more of what it was like, taking you, on, but also off stage, and back stage, and only he knows where else, continually providing the feeling that you are right there- seeing things that only happen late at night when there’s an excess of excess, except that you also happen to be a terrific photographer, so indescribable moments that no one who wasn’t there would ever believe happened, are magically frozen in time for you, at the “peak of their freshness” as they say. The resulting body of work, hidden away in Mr. Jocoy’s archives for these past almost 40 years (or, “locked outside the public eye,” as X sings in “The Unheard Music,” on their album “Los Angeles,” I quoted up top) is many things- a work that captures a musical and social movement in time, and, as I was to find out a short while later when the Photographer, himself, gave me a guided walk-through of the book, a very personal remembrance for him, as a number of those pictured are no longer with us. Yet, Mr. Jocoy turned this precious body of work over to Paul Schiek and Lester Rosso of TBW who then created this book out of it. Mr Schiek, in addition to being the Owner/Publisher of TBW Books is also a Photographer of renown in his own right, and so was a serendipitous collaborator for this project, bringing the sensitivity only a fellow Artist could bring to the project, and the results are stunning, often down right uncanny.

I was so much older then. Jim Jocoy poses with a 1980 Portrait of his 37 years younger self!

Right from the first image in the book.

Muriel Cervenka with bruised knees. Photo by Jim Jocoy, the first image in “Order of Appearance.”

Mr. Jocoy explained to me that this lady, sitting next to a road case that once belonged to dancer Twyla Tharp, and who’s knees are bruised in this photo (as a dancer’s might be), and who’s feet look like they are “on pointe” in her red shoes, no less, is Muriel Cervenka, the sister of Exene of the band “X.” Muriel was killed in a hit and run just days after this photo was taken, and on the night of X’s debut for their first album, “Los Angeles.” What a unique photo it is- I’ve never seen a “portrait” like it- in Paint or in a Photo. Exene actually went on just after getting the news, he told me. While that adds incaclulable levels of poignancy to seeing it, the fact that it was placed first by Messers Schiek & Rosso, where it sets a tone for the rest of the book’s three sections astonished me.

Already, I knew this was a special book.

As he continued, reminiscing with such immediacy that I felt like these things had happened this past week, the passing images were equally remarkable, whether they were of members of bands I’d heard of, or not, or people who just happened to be there, including Allen Ginsberg. I felt that many of the portraits in this book were “ideal” portraits- THE image someone would want to be remembered by. They encapsulated them so well, you got a sense of who they were, though they’re total strangers to me, and probably most of us. Mr. Jocoy seems to have been everywhere at once, but no matter where he is, his personal connection to everything in this book takes it light years beyond being a party book, or even an amazing document of the time and a moment in music and culture, to make it a beautiful & moving personal testament, and all of that is what makes it special1. And, did I mention that Jim Jocoy is, also, one of the nicest guys you will ever have the pleasure to meet?

“Woman reclining on car,” 1977. Something similar happened to me, and only lives in my memory. Luckily, Jim Jocoy beautifully captured his for the ages.

Then we spoke about that passage of time. I asked him about these slides sitting in his archives for so long. He mentioned looking at them a little while after he took them and feeling they were good, and they “would still be good,” after even more time passed. Well now, almost FORTY YEARS have passed, and these images are not just “good.” They’re very, very good, and as lovingly presented as they are in “Order of Appearance?”

“D.N.A. and Sharon,” a miraculous double exposure that every other bass player on earth, starting with me, is jealous of. Sharon was lying on the street, which you can barely make out. Sorry for the poor pic- I didn’t want to open my book too far.

“Guy passed out,” 1978. If this doesn’t sum the whole thing up, perfectly, I don’t know what does. My photo is poor, so pick up a copy and see it in all it’s glory.

“Friends in a Gold Car,” 1978, by Jim Jocoy.

With only 1,000 copies printed, I think it’s destined to be as sought after as “We’re Desperate” is now.

Book Artists. Paul Schiek, Owner of TBW Books, left, with Lester Rosso, Program Director, designers of “Order of Appearance,” with the finished book, the poster for it, and some of Jim’s work at AIPAD.

Don’t take my word for Mr. Jocoy’s talent. No less than that huge fan of rock n roll, Shepard Fairey, used one of Jim Jocoy’s other images, his classic shot of Sid Vicious, in an Obey Giant print in 2004 called “Sid Jocoy.”

Jim Jocoy’s now iconic Polaroid of Sid Vicious in January, 1978, after the Sex Pistols last performance together. Photo by Jim Jocoy. (Not in his new book)

Then, Mr. Jocoy spoke about releasing these photos now, partly, out of a “responsibility” to those he photographed who have passed. While “Order of Appearance” is a beautiful tribute to his departed friends, who will continue to live on through his work, it also cements Jim Jocoy’s legacy among both the great music photographers, and portraitists, of our time.

Jim Jocoy holding TBW’s poster for his new book. As it says, THIS is the real deal.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “The Unheard Music,” written by Exene Cervenka and John Doe, from “Los Angeles,” by X, published by The Bicycle Music Company.

The other parts of my 4-part series on AIPAD are here.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. Mr. Jocoy includes a page of captions, most including names, near the end of the book.

AIPAD- The Photo World Poses For It’s Close-Up

Part 1- Pulling Back The Curtains on the World of “Fine Art” Photography.

Live, From Pier 94.

“Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.”*

Speaking of pulling back curtains, Arno Minkkinen’s “From the Shelton Hotel, Looking East,” 2005 @ Edward Houk Gallery does the honors nicely. Click any image on this site to see it full size.

Well, Kodak did take Kodachrome away from us in 2009, but even that didn’t stop the world’s Photographers from still “loving to take a photograph.” For the rest of us, if you love looking at Photography, and want to see the best of it- older or contemporary, going to “The Photography Show,” or “AIPAD” as everyone calls it (actually the initials of it’s sponsoring organization- The Association of International Photography Art Dealers) on Pier 94 this week, is like dying and going to Photo-heaven. It’s walls are lined with a seemingly never ending array of classic works and works that push the envelopes of today’s cutting edge tech, with everything else you can think of mixed in. The range and diversity was head-spinning and reached what seems to be every corner of the known world.  Unfortunately, due to the travel ban, an Iraqi Gallery cancelled, leaving a poignant open space, and um? A photo op.

He said, raising his Nikon…Wish you were here. NG Galerie, Tehran didn’t make it due to the “travel ban and the uncertainty of international travel…” as the sign reads.

The other booths were occupied by 115 of the world’s leading Photography galleries and organizations, augmented by some exceptional collections and an entire area devoted to the white-hot world of Photobooks and Publishers- large and small. The presence of so many top notch small publishers (like Nazraeli Press and TBW Books) who continually issue exemplary titles by artists both well-known and not so well known, but very deserving, is a highlight for me. Quite a few of their older titles command big sums on the secondary market. While NYC-based Aperture, as always, deserves special acknowledgement for their ongoing commitment to Photographers, I was especially excited at the rare chance to be able to speak to both Nazraeli and TBW (who aren’t based here) at length and get previews of some very impressive titles they are about to release. More on this, soon, but I will say that the Art, and the Craft, of bookmaking shows no signs of slowing down in the face of eBooks. These are people who LOVE books, and making books that contain the utmost respect for the work within for people who love physical books. My heart, if not my overflowing bookshelves, are with them!

Exhibitor List & Floor Plan. No. You’re not at The Met. It only feels that big. Three visits in? I’ve seen 15% of it.

The book area also proved an especially hard area to leave given the steady stream of big name Photographers (led by the incomparable Bruce Davidson), who were on hand for book-signings going on all weekend. If that wasn’t enough, and here in NYC, too much is NEVER enough, there also talks scheduled, featuring the likes of Lee Friedlander, who’s is sold out.

The Photobook area just after opening Wednesday eve and before the crowds descended upon it looking for rare items, discounts and signed copies. Among those here are Aperture, Light Work (both right), Nazraeli Press, TBW Books (both center rear), Steidl, and no less than 5 from Japan, even one from Dubai.

In the presence of Greatness. After a two day long buzz anticipating his appearance, Mr. Bruce Davidson, the Master of NYC Photography, in my book, makes a rare appearance at Steidl’s table.

Wandering through the huge display area, just about every Photographer you can think of was represented, many by exceptional, Museum-worthy examples of their work. It quickly dawned on me that seeing ALL of this was going to take the full 5 day run of the show. As I write this at 4:30am on Saturday, after being there Wednesday eve, Thursday and Friday, I plan to return to see as much as I can later today and Sunday.

All of these folks are saying the same thing- “If I only had more wall space…”

The impression I already get is that the realm of so called “Fine Art” Photography seems to be as popular, as vital, full of surprises and promising new voices right now as, perhaps, it’s ever been. It will be interesting to see how attendance is this weekend (after rains of Biblical proportions all day and night today), and if attendees vote with their wallets. Stay tuned. My coverage of AIPAD is just getting started!

UPDATE- The rest of this 4-part series is here.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon, published by Universal Music Publishing Group

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com