The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

AIPAD 2014

Photography Show New York
Photo by Neil Slavin . Source:
Neil Slavin, "15 July 1984 Channel Swimmers"

As much a sign of spring as daffodils along Park Avenue, the annual New York Show of AIPAD (the Association of International Photography Art Dealers) blossomed at the Park Avenue Armory. Probably the high point of the art photography season, this year the show featured top notch photography galleries from as far away as Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Boston and Brooklyn (not to mention Brescia and Basalt, Colorado.) Photographic work ranged from some of the earliest salt prints to the latest digital/electronic do-dads, with plenty of bins and portfolios of both the obscure and the famous to burrow through.

Photo by Ansel Adams . Source:
Ansel Adams, "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" 1941

For veterans of the fair, there were some interesting trends to be seen. First, the emphasis on contemporary photography has become stronger. Whereas back in the 20th century you felt that maybe 95 percent of photographers were either dead, or living in obscurity on some island off the coast of Canada, today only 60 or 70 percent are dead. Contemporary photography has become a genre that dealers believe has a market, and that they can survive in.

A corollary of this is that color prints, most notably of ink-jet...err, archival pigment variety are ubiquitous, and no longer stand out as either daring or experimental. The advantages of digital printing also carry over into more traditional black and white imagery as well.

Also obvious at this year’s AIPAD was that the upper stratosphere of the photography world has drifted away from the photography ghetto. In the days when Ansel Adams was on the top of every photography dealers want list, and “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” was the most expensive photograph ever sold, there were inevitably more than a few Moonrises on display at AIPAD (at least 2 this year.) But this year at AIPAD there was little or no evidence of Cindy Sherman ($3.9M), Andreas Gursky ($4.3M) or Jeff Wall($3.7M). Being categorized as a “Photography” is obviously a limiting factor compared to the almost limitless possibilities of “Art”, and no member of AIPAD seemed willing or able to bring these artists back into the photography fold.

So we didn’t get to see any million dollar photographs, but we sure did see thousands of them… And as much as I like to see the old favorites it is always the new, or at least the new to me, that stand out.

Photo by Dennis Hopper . Source:
Dennis Hopper, "Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman" 1963/1998 courtesy The Weston Gallery.

This year that included a great picture by Dennis Hopper from 1963 at the Weston Gallery. Four smokers are standing at a doorway, a young Andy Warhol holding a joint, a very young Henry Geldzahler mouthing a cigar, a young David Hockney holding a cigarette and a young Jeff Goodman (the Canadian glass-blower) with a puff of smoke hovering in front of his face. Did I mention how young they all look?

Nearby at David Zwirner Gallery there was a nice installation of photographs by Gordon Matta-Clark, including a number of his house interventions (where he made large cut holes in abandoned buildings.) But also a slightly earlier set of photographs made just of walls of these abandoned buildings as they were found. Again, maybe only new to me, but they do put his better known work into a more defined context.

Photo by Yao Lu . Source:
Yao Lu

From China, the 798 Gallery had a number of works dealing with the environment and pollution, the standout being the traditional-looking landscapes by Yao Lu constructed from photographs of piles of junk and garbage on the streets of Beijing.

Photo by Keliy Anderson-Staley . Source:
Keliy Anderson-Staley, "Ellen" 2011

There are contemporary photographers using traditional processes, that is, processes from before silver gelatin printing. Perhaps the most vital that I saw were the full frame tintypes by Keliy Anderson-Staley, parts of her (Hyphen)American project, on view at the Catherine Edelman Gallery.

Photo by photo by Don Burmeister . Source:
photo by Don Burmeister, "Viewers watching work by Gregory Scott at AIPAD" 2014

Catherine Edelman also had what was one of the more intriguing of the handful of digital/electronic displays, with the work of Gregory Scott. Scott’s work is displayed on a unframed digital flat-screen, with the illumination set so it appears at first glance to be just a well lit color photograph. But, being a digital screen, anything could be on it, and after only a few seconds you begin to see that indeed there are changes occurring. Scott chooses to provide some wry, arty sketches of changing screens within screens, all working on a digital loop. Unfortunately, the action becomes a rather conventional, Buster Keetonesque burlesque — more like watching television than looking at an artwork. Still, the technical facets of the flat screen seem perfected and only await a deft hand to move it onto a higher plane.

Maybe next year at AIPAD!

Photography Show New York

Park Ave. Armory 643 Park Ave.
UES         Map

212 616 3930

Thursday, April 10 to
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Hours: Thurs-Sat, 11 to 7; Sun, 11 to 6

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat