Culture

AIPAD: The Photography Show at Pier 94

AIPAD: The Photography Show at Pier 94

Words by Diana McClure/  Photography by Anders Jones

An annual occurrence in New York City for the last decade, the AIPAD Photography Show's move from the East Side to the West Side this year was a smart choice. Shedding the heavy ominous architecture of the Park Avenue Armory, the show moved to the airy and much larger environs of Pier 94 on the Hudson River. Making space for 150 participants, including galleries, organizations and publishers from around the world, this year's event included approximately 50 new dealers, expanding the Association of Independent Photography Art Dealers impact immensely. 

The spaciousness of the new location lent itself to the curious atmosphere of discovery that art fairs can have when they are designed with an eye toward the overall experience of viewers.  However, despite the more modern atmosphere, plenty of traditional photography was on view. Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas’ straight forward black and white photographs from her series, Prince Street Girls, were presented as a portfolio of 12 silver prints by Galerie Catherine et André Hug out of Paris. The small-scale images simple presentation elegantly highlighted the intimate subject matter of personal relationships. Featuring a group of girls growing up in New York City's Little Italy, Meiselas' images offer a rare glimpse into the antics of girlhood with iconic fashion staples like plaid (presumably Catholic school) skirts, knee socks and feathered hair, as signifiers of a specific moment in time.

Another glimpse into late 20th century New York neighborhood life was represented in the work of documentary photographer Martha Cooper, presented by Steven Kasher Gallery. Cooper has published approximately twenty books, including the worldwide classic Subway Art, a collaboration with Henry Chalfant first published in 1984. She is known for one of the most highly regarded bodies of work capturing the emergence of early hip-hop and graffiti culture in New York City and several prints from that collection were on view. Impeccably printed and presented unframed and at different sizes, the photographs offer stunning views of the colorful poetic magic of early graffiti. For the uninitiated, images of graffiti art stretched across subway cars on above ground tracks and outdoor platforms, embedded in the landscape of the Bronx and elsewhere, reveal the surreal awe of what living in a city with moveable, ephemeral, mysterious art making might look like.  

Another photographer using natural light, Lise Sarfati, used the urban landscape of 2013 in the City of Los Angeles as a muse. In a series of large-scale works entitled, Oh Man, presented by Belgian and France based, La Galerie Particulière, the artist set up shop with a tripod and camera across the street from carefully selected locations, waiting for portraits to emerge. With minimalist backgrounds found in downtown Los Angeles chosen for what appears to be swaths of clean natural light and tight color palettes, Sarfati created images of what could be described as 'figures in a landscape'. Using random people as they walked through the frame for the final element in each artwork, complimentary colors in the clothing and shoes of her subjects, as well as personal style, flush out a simple, yet compelling take on portraiture.

An interesting technologically based work by Jim Campbell was presented front and center at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery. The work combined video and still photography of the Tuileries Garden, a public garden near the Louvre in Paris. Campbell, a renowned electronic light artist and former recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, is also an electrical engineer. The work on view included a photograph of the garden printed on plexiglass and placed in front of a panel of LED lights. A video of the garden featuring people strolling through the exact same location as the still image, often dressed in black with black umbrellas, is projected from the back, through the image, as well. The video's low resolution helps give the figures a blurry ghost-like effect, while the plexiglass diffuses the imagery. At first glance, passers by may think the random figures passing through the frame are reflections of themselves, somehow temporarily embedded in the image on screen. 

Undoubtedly, this year's Photography Show presented by AIPAD offered a delightful amount of visual adventure in the world of photography, alongside a new foray into photo books and publishing, and a full schedule of panel discussions everyday. Coupled with its presentation in a modern space, next years show should be a must see.

The Lowline - Lower East Side, New York City

THE LOWLINE - LOWER EAST SIDE, NEW YORK CITY

Words by Diana McClure / Photographs by Anders Jones

Nestled on the lower east side a few blocks from the Williamsburg Bridge and the iconic Essex Street Market, a discreet urban jungle is growing underground. It is not the urban jungle of skyscrapers and concrete that dominates the sprawl of New York City. It is in fact a living plantscape, the Lowline Lab, a subterranean answer to the wildly popular High Line park, built on an old above ground rail line on the West Side of Manhattan.

Billed as “The World’s First Underground Park”, the proposed location of the final project would be under Delancey Street near the J/M/Z train Essex Street subway platform. A site that was formerly the home of the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, the final stop on a train that took passengers over the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, active from 1908-1948. 

The Lowline Lab, located a block or two from this historic site in an abandoned warehouse, showcases a complex solar technological setup that transports natural sunlight underground.  Through a system of reflective surfaces and distribution dishes the transference of natural light supports photosynthesis, enabling plants and trees to grow.

This prototype presents visitors with a lush hilly landscape that includes a majority of plants donated by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden alongside plants growing from seed.  The names of a variety of plants populating the mini landscape enhance the futuristic sci-fi aura of the man made environment – Dwarf Snake Plant, Rattlesnake Plant and Rabbit’s Foot Fern to name a few. Depending on what day you visit and the weather forecast, you could find the space lit entirely by natural light with awe inspiring rainbows filtering through the landscape, or electrical lighting theatrically enhancing your experience.

Planned to be 20 times the size of the Lowline Lab model, about the size of a football field, the final project suggests an oddly innovative future for humankind. The experience of sunlight filtering through an intricate system of manipulated reflection and re-direction to create plant life and illuminate unused deep dark cavernous spaces is a bit eerie.  But, if the dystopian future depicted in much of popular culture is fastly approaching reality, the scientists at work on the Lowline would be the good guys.

If all goes according to plan the full-scale site is scheduled to open in 2020.  However, in the interim,  several visits to the Lowline Lab under different weather conditions , in different seasons, promises to offer a unique experience every time.

The Lowline, located at 140 Essex Street, is free and open to the public on weekends from 11am-5pm through March 2017. Visit the website for more details.

(original blog post)

FRIEZE ART FAIR - NEW YORK 2016

FRIEZE ART FAIR - NEW YORK 2016

Words by Diana McClure / Photographs by Anders Jones

New York’s iteration of the international art fair Frieze is a bit of an adventure.  Located on Randall’s Island in New York City since its inception five years ago, its airy light filled structure houses around 200 galleries from 31 countries in early May each year and overlooks the East River.

Getting there is half the battle, but well worth it. Ferries and buses transport fairgoers from the east side of Manhattan for 20-30 minute journeys on what one could think of as a mini-vacation. Upon arrival, Randall’s Island welcomes visitors into a lush green landscape, an invigorating compliment to the potpourri of contemporary art inside the fair’s exhibition space. To really enjoy the fair, setting aside several hours with plans for lunch at one of the fair’s outdoor eateries along the river is a must. 

From video, sculpture, assemblage and photography to sound art, installation, weaving and ceramics, the variety of work on view is more often than not, both exciting and satisfying.  

Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys’ work for Gavin Brown’s Enterprise entitled, "I Piccoli Pupazzi Sporchi di Pruppà (The Small Dirty Puppets from Pruppa)," 2015, featured over 50 small handmade figures on wall pedestals in a humorously enticing installation. Each figurines mannerisms, poses and fashion styling coalesced to create unique personalities in what felt like familiar characters from daily life in a myriad of places. 

Theaster Gates’ work, Ground Rules (black line) 2015, on view in a vast open area of the fair where various pathways intersect, constitutes a re-organization of wood planks from gym floors into a large-scale minimalist rectangular wall sculpture.  The work echoes Gates’ conceptual concerns with race, history and urban renewal, most vividly on display on the south side of Chicago where he has re-habilitated dilapidated buildings into community centers, archives, librariesand more for local residents.

Above are a few highlights from the fair.                                          

(original blog post)