New York Photo Review
Volume 2 Issue 37 October 25 to 31, 2011

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Chelsea Photo Walkabout

Chelsea Walkabout
Don Burmeister
Highline, 2011 from the Day to
Night™ series by Stephen Wilkes. Source: clampart.com
Stephen Wilkes, "Highline, 2011” from the Day to Night™ series at Clampart.

Could opening night parties still be going on? It was mid-day on Friday and there was a crowd of exceedingly well-dressed people thronging the street near one of the ubiquitous Pace Galleries (Chelsea’s equivalent of the CVS stores in more plebian neighborhoods.) But as I crossed Tenth Avenue, I saw that the sequined young women in very uncomfortable-looking shoes were lined up at the food concession truck, while interspersed with black jacketed sophisticates were guys in jeans with things in their ears, getting ready for the next scene. So I stopped polishing my sneakers on my leg and readied myself for the new season among the photo galleries of Chelsea.

I adapted a south to north strategy (helped enormously by New York Photo Review’s newly revised gallery list, which now has cross streets inserted, and which looks great on your iPhone or Android.) My first stop was a show just closing: Miroslav Tiche at the Horton Gallery,a downstairs gallery that had a distinct basement ambiance because of all the recent rain. It was a perfect setting for these ramshackle and highly over-hyped photographs – too bad the walls were perfectly white.

Upstairs were some of the few historic images that I saw on this walkabout. The Norman Popiashvilli Gallery has three Georgian photographers (all with names too long to include here) – the most interesting represented by large prints made from negatives taken in the 1960’s. Probably because of technical limitations these are full body images of men and women seated before a plain backdrop posing for passport photos. The required headshots were presumably cropped from these full images. But the earnest look on the sitters, dressed in some of their best clothes, is affecting.

Crossing under the High Line further down West 22nd Street. I came to the first of the big statement shows of the season at Matthew Marks Gallery, "La Carte d'après Nature" a show curated by photographer Thomas Demand. The show is centered on three paintings by Rene Magritte and includes other painters, sculptors, filmmakers and photographers whose work centers on “domesticated nature…potted plants, gardens, theme parks and models of wild growth.” All are located in a labyrinthine installation of nearly Minoan proportions. For photography fans there are some intriguing photographs by August Kotzsch from the 1860’s of obscure doorways. But, unfortunately, throughout the show the deliberately boring (some would say ‘understated’) 1970’s color images of artificial nature by Luigi Ghirri remained the single largest presence. Really, by now we all get his rather witless message about the artificiality of photographs and tourism, and we don’t need to be told 38 times over. These photos cast such a pall over the show that I feel I have to go back and not look at them to see the other components.

 by unidentified photographer.
Vik Muniz, "Wheat Field with Cypresses, after Van Gogh" 2011

Emerging then out onto the real nature of West 22nd Street, I turned west and walked only a few doors down to Sikkema Jenkins Gallery to see what Vic Muniz has been doing lately. I think Muniz is one of the most original and productive photo/multimedia artists of our time. Whether he is making images out of chocolate, dust from the floors of museums, or just accumulated junk (as in his show last year) his work is always fascinating, cogent and witty. Sad to say then that this year’s offering was a bit disappointing. Collages of classic impressionist paintings done with torn magazine bits seemed a little too predictable to me. I’ll be writing a full review of this show in next week’s NYPR <check here>.

Oh, the riches of New York, it was now time to tackle the north side of West 22nd Street!

Yancey Richardson and Julie Saul are stalwarts of the New York photo scene and both as it turned out were showing pictures of dogs! This must be a trend. (Warning, neither show went to the trouble of mounting the pictures at doggy level, so be prepared to lift little Toby-poo to human eye level if you want him to get a good view.) Julie Saul also had a very creditable show by Shai Kremer of scenes of historical structures - including contemporary history - in Israel. This latter show can be contrasted to the show of West Bank settlements by Sasha Bessubov and Jessica Sucher that are currently a few blocks away at Daniel Cooney Fine Art.

Finally, I went down to the last gallery on the list (on 22nd St!) P.P.O.W.. There, in a curiously darkened gallery (there‘s a big video projection in the main room) were photographic and video meditations on aging by Martha Wilson, “I have become my own worst fear.” This is a serious, but in the end a good-natured, look at growing old. After all, as they say, consider the alternative.

With that in mind I headed out into the wilds of Chelsea, eyes trained to the North where I was sure more adventure lay ahead - next week.

Chelsea Walkabout by Don Burmeister

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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery