Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Shows You Probably Missed

Summer shows at the galleries are often throwaways, a collection of miscellaneous images with a weak unifying theme, maybe water, sun or swimming pools. Perhaps like everyone else I cut back on my gallery crawling in the summer, and reduced attendance is probably part of the vicious circle that tells gallery owners not to put up a "serious" show at this time. Instead some of their younger and less well known photographers get a spot or two on the walls.

Walking through 4 galleries on 57th street at the end of the summer left me more satisfied with the quality of shows than I expected, however.

First there is the knockout exhibit of early 20th century Mexican photography at Throckmorton. Now I'll be the first to admit loving this gallery, as it offers a collection of photographs each time, Chinese and other Asian art objects (ugh, they finally sold that silk road terracota camel with the foreign traders riding it, a wonderful piece that I'll miss seeing)in those two closed rooms that make you think of Dunhuang when you see them open. This time there was a little surprise with 3 African pieces, including a striking Bassa mask probably from Liberia.

But the photographs. This collection has a number of Tina Modottis in it, someone you can see again without much pain, Manuel Alvarez Bravo works, and a Lola Bravo of a barred window with a mannequin in it that is very mysterious. But for me there were a couple of standouts, first the Fritz Henle signature piece of a woman behind palm leaves. Ironically the reproduction in Photograph is a bit darker and more striking than the original, but don't get me wrong, this is a powerful and beautiful piece. Works by Anton Bruehl are also a pleasant surprise and introduction for me, rounding out a show that you should have seen for sure. [Unfortunately can't get the link to publish on the sidebar, but see and you should see their site.]

Ah, and now for a summer show at Bonni Benrubi. While this is a fine little gallery, this show really left me gasping for air. Photos of surfers don't capture my attention, with the exception of the one panoramic with four breaking waves and four surfers in a wonderful if serendipitous composition. There are a couple of pieces by a very young NY photographer-- which leads me to the issue of pricing.

His work is presented for $600+, while the surfer panoramic can be had for $2,800. On another wall is a triptych by Karine Laval of water in a pool which is $11,400. This pricing spread left me puzzled but I guess it's just that she's known in the marketplace and the other two are lesser figures if good photographers. Doesn't make her a better value however, and if I were amassing a collection it seems to me that young unknowns would be the place to go for quality at a reasonable price.

But this summer show where the curator could make choices on this summer theme is large, colorful, and not worth the time to press the elevator button. It doesn't do justice to the fine work often shown here at other times.

At Howard Greenberg you don't have a "summer show", but instead a reprise of the Miroslav Tichy exhibit that was at ICP earlier this year. Tichy is one crazy dude, and if I or my friends tried to take these photos we'd be arrested I'm sure. But Tichy was probably broken by his imprisonment, both physical and mental in the old Czech Socialist Republic. His work is a conservator's nightmare with crumpled prints, stains, incomplete fixation probably, and ink or crayon borders in sometimes funky frames.

The works also shown here by Josef Sudek seem to me to attest to the depressing life in the socialist republic that has today become Europe's most visited city, Prague, and a delightful place(and go trout fishing) as well. Sudek's work never shows the sun in this series, making it a dark counterpart to Tichy's fuzzy, surreptitious photos which are still somber despite the women sunbathing in various stages of undress.

This is a serious and worth while show, no summer throwaway; and you shouldn't miss the Garry Winograd portfolio in one of the small side rooms which you might decide to buy instead of that BMW convertible.

Finally I stopped into Amadour where there is a summer show, but a delightful one. This is Bruce Gliden's work from the 70's on Coney Island. He shot these up close and personal, talking to the people he photographed while choosing an array of very "distinctive" physical types. There is humor in this work such as the lady in the changing robe that the wind has inflated, if few "attractive" people. I finally found one attractive younger woman, seen from afar and above. The real fun is noticing the nose guards that seemed to be de rigor at the time, while vast expanses of flesh were left to the punishment of a blazing sun.

This too was a show I was happy I took the time to see. Amadour is almost always worth a stop on the 57th street circuit.

So, summer isn't the best time for NY photo galleries, but with luck you can still find some good works on display. The fall season is here and we'll see what that brings....