Having heard the rumblings that photo la had been split by the recently birthed rival art fair Classic Photographs my expectations were not high and I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. Yes photo la was a much more intimate affair but it is still a community made up of gallerists, collectors and artists who all love and support photography.
A few of the surprises I found were:
Elizabeth Houston Hous Projects
I was blown away by Tara Bogart's fresh and edgy looking series "A Modern Hair study" and the photograms of Swiss couple f&d cartier. I thought both artists' work had a freshness to it but rawness as well. Tara Bogart, who I met at Hous project's booth photographs women from behind and prints her artworks "cameo style" in a Victorian oval shape suggesting earlier vintage photographs but her subjects were anything but Victorian. Many have tattoos and dyed hair in faded pink or purple and large pierced holes in their ears yet they are shot in soft light against a grayish background lending a sweetness to the edgy subjects.
The photograms by f &d cartier of bras, lingerie and found old Venetian silver prints of antique furniture and gilted mirrors. The result are gorgeous, feminine and also soft but since they are solorizations they had a contemporary rawness to them pigmented in soft pinks and other hues. They were unlike any solarization process pushing the limits of subject matter introducing ladies silky lacey underthings one would find at Victorias Secret but using an old fashioned process.
I also was so excited to see Ron von Dongen's flower portraits prominently displayed at Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art. I have collected his work and have been impatiently waiting for Peter Fetterman to exhibit his work sometime in 2013 here in LA but was overjoyed to run smack into a 30x40 inch size portrait of a dahlia. von Dongen's work is simply stunning and he is such a prolific photographer. I hope his portraits went home to some lucky son of a gun this year. The large dahlia was an absolute steal at $4000.
Lastly I made a new friend at photo la by the name of Jaimie Johnson at Verge Photographers. Jaimie photographs formal portraits of children made up in leather, slicked back hair and painted on ink tattoos. Her models look the camera right in the eye and are not quite pouting. Her work is reminiscent of William Wegman's poloroids of his weimeraners who view directly into the camera as if to say "what is he doing to me now?" In Wegman's case the photographer is the ridiculous one not the dog dressed up in clothes and Jaimie Johnson takes this to the next millennium with generation Z kids and tricks them out to look more like this years crop of today's art school students. They are obviously so made up that the viewer can't help but chuckle as they seem purposely ridiculous yet gaze directly into the camera quite seriously. Of course, I was particularly enamored with a photographic artwork entitled "Violet." She and I found we had quite a few things in common.
I was not sure what to expect but I knew I did not want to miss this fair. The show, in it's second year was at Bonham's on Sunset Blvd. Inside, the dealers were tightly packed and the energy and buzz on the Saturday afternoon was incredible. I saw a Helen Levitt dye transfer print that haunts me still.
One discovery I made in a sea of vintage was the Joel Soroka Gallery. Joel actually had an emerging photographer that I fell in love with named Cig Harvey. Cig Harvey's work reminded me of fellow photographers Julie Blackmon and Holly Andres in the way she works to tell a visual story. Her use of natural light and set up scenes using vintage props and costumes were fresh and beautiful.
I was also surprised to browse the wonderful assortment of photography books at Kopeikin Gallery's booth. Many of the books available were autographed and I was not familiar with some of the titles of artists whom I have long admired and collected so finding all these books at the fair was a nice discovery.
Best line overheard was one dealer saying to another: "let's trade, I am bored." However the fair was anything but.
Just a quick word about the Pacific Design Center. I attended the reception for artist Ching Ching Cheng last Thursday night at art merge lab. Ching's work is spectacular (and I marvel at each exhibition how she is not represented in LA yet.) That was the same evening as the photo la opening night bash. I was not prepared for the enormous art crowd that turned out at the PDC or the incredibly high quality of art that was on exhibition after exhibition. Two additional shows in particular that stood out to me were 343 Dresses: The chromatic convergence project a project by Mary Younakof. She did a site specific piece in the vein of Andy Goldsworthy but instead of spit welding and collecting seeds she sewed all her own garments and displayed them in monochromatic vignettes that were visually rich with saturated color.
Another incredible surprise was the group show PAPER at the Prospectus. These artists really knew their craft and this show absolutely blew me away. I noticed one important museum curator viewing the artworks quite seriously. I definitely felt that the PDC was absolutely the place to be last Thursday night and can't wait to see more there in the future.