Contemporary Fine Art Photography Continues After Hurricane Sandy
Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, contemporary art galleries in Chelsea, New York, still are in the rebuilding stage but this Thursday, art openings went on in a slightly more vibrant way (as opposed to two weeks after the storm where contemporary art galleries were decimated by Sandy). Noticeable was attendance at openings and people in the street appeared more buoyant as they strolled past ConEd crews and the hum of power generators in the street.
Open that evening were two photography shows although they were not the official openings (everything is topsy-turvey post storm in Chelsea).
Karin Apollonia Müller at Julie Saul Gallery
I’ve seen Karin Appolonia Muller’s photographs at the Museum of Modern Art before, and recall a photograph of Los Angeles banality: a litter-strewn empty lot edged by a street and a highway, with a feeling of fog due to smog.
These were different. These photographs were landscapes mostly, although in a current trend (that I don’t necessarily find disagreeable), the images were edited by mood/sprit rather than similar subject and as a result, a dark feline image was included next to a rock formation in fog. A diptych was of trees near the ocean was particularly evocative and the mood was slightly nineteenth century.
Jitka Hanzlová at Yancey Richardson Gallery
Another century was evident at Yancey Richardson Gallery with Jitka Hanzlova’s photographs—this time, the mood was Renaissance era. Hanzlova’s photographs were mostly portraits of people but the most striking was an image of a young woman posed outside; the others seemed thoughtful reflections on paintings, with the subject composed and ordered but often with enigmatic expressions.
Luc Sante at SVA
Photographic explorations of the past concluded with a talk by Luc Sante at SVA. I’ve found these free Thursday lectures on contemporary art or photography, often by contemporary artists speaking for themselves, to be an enlightening way to end a stroll through Chelsea.
Luc Sante started his lecture pausing on a seemingly banal photograph in his collection of a building site in Nebraska: who took the time to take this image? Why would they stop here? What is the purpose? Vernacular photography in the nineteen and twentieth century might be no different than those taken by today’s IPhones.
Luc Sante’s most interesting discussion was on crime photography. He centered on unknown New York crime photographers and remarkably did not include Weegee the Famous, which was a nice change, since this is not the point of Sante’s lecture. He showed many photographs of both interiors and exteriors, remarkable only for their lack of drama or compelling visual elements. It was this very subject of banality that lead one to conclude that this could only be a crime scene, and this was chilling. Many of the intriguing photographs shown did not poses unique subjects except for an occasional unusual angle or vantage point.
For example, there was an image of an entryway hall to a bedroom in a cramped New York apartment. At its center was nothing. Why was this taken? Who took it? What is that slight stain on the rug—could that be blood from a gruesome act? Like the work of Atget whose center often seems empty, and thus compared to a fictive crime scene waiting to happen, so too were these images vacant of significance. This made them eerie reminders of absence.
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