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Art Photo Collector

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"Ultimately, photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.”—Roland Barthes

Great institutions, like New York’s Museum of Modern Art, have the resources and talent to offer meaningful contributions to our cultural conversation. The recently opened, A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio, draws from the museum’s formidable archives, as well as new acquisitions, to ask us to consider photography’s history of experimentation and development within the confines of the studio.

With the “studio” as theme, there is elasticity to include a diverse and significant selection of artists who have helped us to muse on what photography is and what images can do. Persons interested in the academic/intellectual history of photography will find the show most compelling; those looking for entertainment will not. I suspect that for anyone who takes photography seriously, MoMA’s latest photographic exploration will leave you thinking. —Lane Nevares

"I am constantly amazed at man’s inhumanity to man."—Primo Levi

The events of the late 1970’s in Cambodia are but another heartbreaking chapter in our shared global history. Many of you born later may not remember or know anything about the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror then. Artists like Binh Danh, who has spent a great deal of timing considering this history, help us to remember because, out of respect for life, we should not forget. 

These portraits of portraits, printed on leaves using a special technique Danh invented, have deep psychological and aesthetic undercurrents. They are beautiful, poignant and dignified. The work is subtle, potent and tied to nature. The individuals looking at us—numbered, documented and long gone—attest to the ephemeral nature of life and the cruelty of injustice. As we know, subsequent events in Rwanda, Bosnia- Herzegovina as well as the current crisis in Congo keep us, regrettably, constantly amazed. —Lane Nevares 

"My goal is to make images that are familiar and dreamlike, evocative of an almost unreachable memory."—Vanessa Marsh 

In photography, as in all forms of art, one must travel their own path. Seeing the work of Vanessa Marsh for the first time, I immediately sensed that this young, Oakland-based artist was following a particular vision. It’s refreshing to see images that ask us to slow down, look and ponder what we see.

Her work, which combines a variety of techniques including drawing, sculpture and photography, is layered and resonant with the subconscious. These landscapes, with their familiar elements and generic titles, maintain a silhouette quality to them, asking us to project our own thoughts and experiences onto what we see, and in effect, transforming them into our stories. 

Marsh discusses her process in this interview, revealing how the series came about and the specific techniques used in creating it. While her work lacks the confrontation and psychological prowess of a Kara Walker, Marsh is, nevertheless, graciously inviting us to enter her world to dream the dream. —Lane Nevares 

"Those were the reasons and that was New York, we were running for the money and the flesh…"—Leonard Cohen

The Hotel Chelsea has a storied history. It has witnessed the comings and the goings of generations of men and women who have believed in the independence of their minds and their abilities to create.

The artist, Linda Troeller, knows the Chelsea. For twenty years she’s documented and lived in its interiors. Her most recent book, “Hotel Chelsea Atmosphere: An Artist’s Memoir,” takes us into the history and the inhabitants of the famed hotel, where we get to meet the denizens and, revealingly, read their “Dear Chelsea Hotel” letters.

Troeller’s photographic work is varied and rich, often exploring intimate and difficult themes. She pays wonderful attention to light and color, while maintaining an understated sensitivity that infuses her images. She is, “exploring the fragility and elegance of sustaining atmosphere.” 

Photographs from this series will go on exhibit in Baden-Baden, Germany at the State Kuntshalle’s upcoming show Room Service. For those who can’t make it, it’s worth taking the time to explore Troeller’s work online and, given what is slated for the future of the property, to “remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel.” —Lane Nevares

"Photography is one of the channels through which the present penetrates into the future, just as the art of the past got inside us. For me photography is a means to express systems of opinions and values, the author’s ideology."—Nikolay Bakharev 

The Siberian-born photographer, Nikolay Bakharev, isn’t particularly well-known in the States, but the Julie Saul Gallery and Dashwood Books in New York want to change that. Reared in an orphanage and largely self-taught, Bakharev began taking photographs in the early 1970’s and through the final days of the former Soviet Union. At at time when the State controlled everything, it was actually illegal to photograph the nude, much less engage in private commercial enterprise creating and selling one’s photographs. These photographs, therefore, were never meant for public consumption. They were intimate (even illicit) private photographic sessions between sitter and artist.

Bakharev’s single-minded approach to his work differed greatly from his clients’ expectations of their portrait session. While the sitters hoped for photographs that made them look beautiful or special, Bakharev states, "From my point of view, I expose the nature which people do not want to admit to, if it does not fit their notions of themselves." This tension between Bakharev and his clients is what makes these images simmer.

Dashwood Books has recently published a soft cover monograph of his work, Amateurs & Lovers, (here’s a video preview), and on the 10th, the Julie Saul Gallery will open Bakharev’s first US solo show also titled, “Amateurs & Lovers.” It will be interesting to see how an American 21st Century audience, with disparate recollections of the Soviet Union and its legacy, responds to this work—Lane Nevares

"For the Persian poet Rumi, each human life is analogous to a bowl floating on the surface of an infinite ocean. As it moves along, it is slowly filling with the water around it. That’s a metaphor for the acquisition of knowledge. When the water in the bowl finally reaches the same level as the water outside, there is no longer any need for the container, and it drops away as the inner water merges with the outside water. We call this the moment of death. That analogy returns to me over and over as a metaphor for ourselves."—-Bill Viola
The American artist, Bill Viola’s, most recent show, Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures, opened last week at BlainISouthern gallery in London. For anyone remotely familiar with Viola’s work, this is an exciting opportunity to see nine new works created between 2012-2013. 
For more than 40 years, Bill Viola has transformed our ideas about art and video. He and his partner Kira Perov have truly been at the vanguard, fusing Eastern mystical and spiritual traditions into modern works that take us deeply into emotional and philosophical territory. Sometimes cathartically so. Slow down, spend three and half minutes, and watch his new work Inner Passage. Fill your bowl. —Lane Nevares

 

"For the Persian poet Rumi, each human life is analogous to a bowl floating on the surface of an infinite ocean. As it moves along, it is slowly filling with the water around it. That’s a metaphor for the acquisition of knowledge. When the water in the bowl finally reaches the same level as the water outside, there is no longer any need for the container, and it drops away as the inner water merges with the outside water. We call this the moment of death. That analogy returns to me over and over as a metaphor for ourselves."—-Bill Viola

The American artist, Bill Viola’s, most recent show, Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures, opened last week at BlainISouthern gallery in London. For anyone remotely familiar with Viola’s work, this is an exciting opportunity to see nine new works created between 2012-2013. 

For more than 40 years, Bill Viola has transformed our ideas about art and video. He and his partner Kira Perov have truly been at the vanguard, fusing Eastern mystical and spiritual traditions into modern works that take us deeply into emotional and philosophical territory. Sometimes cathartically so. Slow down, spend three and half minutes, and watch his new work Inner Passage. Fill your bowl. —Lane Nevares

 

“When you set up pictures, you’re not at any risk. Reality involves chance and risk and diving for pearls.”—Nan Goldin

Fifty years ago, during a tumultuous 1963, Constantine Manos joined Magnum Photos. Reared in South Carolina to Greek immigrant parents, he has for over 60 years taken photographs that are about light, shadow and what can be revealed in a moment. His pioneering work in color, and recognized expertise with a Leica, still capture our attention.

The Museum of Art Ft. Lauderdale’s latest show, Florida Color, mines work from Manos’s “American Color” series. While this work has already received wide acclaim, I wonder what Floridians make of seeing images of their compatriots inside a museum. Are they a mirror or a window? —Lane Nevares

“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”—Homer

Like others before and those to follow, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein would only become well known posthumously. Acknowledged primarily for eroticized and surrealistic photographs of his beloved wife and muse, Marie, he also painted, sculpted, collected plants and fancied himself to be an architect and philosopher too.

Although ambition fueled Von Bruenchenhein’s artistic drive, alas, during his lifetime, he never made it as an artist. His work never found an audience, he was never featured in a gallery, and he never sold a piece. He worked in a bakery, retired early because of health problems, and scraped by on Social Security at $220 a month. And yet, he never stopped creating.

I urge you to explore the work and life of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein. There will always be hipsters, poseurs, and wannabes seeking attention for their art, but it is those who dig deep and fearlessly whose work will eventually find its way.—Lane Nevares

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

The Italian artist, Ivano Atzori, is a man in pursuit of ideas. An outsider artist, self-taught, and embracing everything from graffiti to fashion to performance art, Atzori’s restless energy and work isn’t readily classifiable. Nor should it be. His work has been featured everywhere from Italian Vogue to the streets of New York City.

In this performance piece, “Experience,” Atzori uses an arsonist’s crime scene as his canvas. Having discovered and fought the fire, he would later return, shrouding his identity in paper, and once again physically confront the landscape—feeling, digging, scraping, and eventually setting himself free. A meditation on life, death and transformation, Atzori’s “experience” may be ephemeral, but his ideas of nature, destruction, resurrection and release are as old as life. —Lane Nevares

“We are drowning in images. Photography is used as a propaganda tool, which serves to sell products and ideas. I use the same approach to show aspects to reality.” —Martin Parr 

Just in time for summer, the noted British, Magnum photographer, Martin Parr’s, latest exhibit, Life’s a Beach, opens tomorrow at Aperture Gallery here in NYC. Mr. Parr, who enjoys immense popularity and recognition, has done much for Photography. In addition to his signature work, he’s a lecturer, collector, filmmaker, and all around disciple for the medium.

Parr’s work has always had its detractors asking whether he is taking the piss and exploiting the public for his own amusement and needs, or whether he is a serious artist revealing ourselves through color, composition and fill flash. Like most things, I think the truth lies somewhere in between. Martin Parr is doing things his own way.

“Life’s a Beach” is a color parade around the world. Parr’s keen interest in beaches (although not a sun bunny himself) and people takes us from the shores of India to Latvia to Thailand to Mexico and onwards, transforming banal scenes into ironic, humorous, curious and sometimes dispiriting riffs on people at the beach. It’s all classic Martin Parr.

In addition to the show, which will be a crowd-pleaser, there’s also a new mini-edition of the monograph available, as well as a video of Parr presenting the book. All great stuff. Martin Parr once signed my notebook not with his name alone, but rather inscribing,”Martin Parr was here.” Indeed, the same holds true for his images. —Lane Nevares 

"I do not mistrust reality, of which I know next to nothing, but I am suspicious regarding the image of reality which our senses convey to us, and which is incomplete and limited. Our eyes have developed such as to survive. It is merely coincidence that we can see stars with them as well."—Gerhard Richter

Luigi Ghirri, who passed away in 1992, was many things in his 49 years: a writer, curator, land surveyor, photographer, and conceptual artist. It is through his color photography that he is best known. His 1978 self-published monograph, Kodachrome, has influenced numerous artists and was re-printed to great acclaim last November. Currently (and for the first time in the United States), the accompanying exhibit of 25 vintage works is on display at Matthew Marks in NYC. 

Ghirri pursued his philosophical ideas using photography as a medium for deciphering form and meaning. His cool, smooth, Kodachrome view of the world is an attempt to mine significance from the signs surrounding us. Engaging with his work is to join him in grappling with universal questions of identity, place, and reality. Are his photographs, then, aspirations for some cathartic truth? Don’t let the ironic, understated images fool you, Luigi Ghirri is enjoining us to think deeply and critically about what we see and know. —Lane Nevares

"We tremble at the feelings we experience as our sense of wholeness is reorganized by what we see."—Emmet Gowin

The Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen is once again garnering the attention she merits. Experiencing something of a notoriety renaissance for her “Byker” series beginning in the late 60’s (currently on view at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs until May 11th), it’s exciting to see Ms. Konttinen reaching new audiences. 

Konttinen’s images, taken within the communities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, sought to capture the humor and dignity of working-class Geordie culture as they, like other poor neighborhoods in the north of England, saw their homes devastated by developers keen to tear down the “slums” and replace them with architectural and planning fantasies that bore no connection to the people actually living there. Konttinen and friends, as part of the the still extant Amber Collective, lived in Byker from 1969-76 and documented the impact over a ten year period until 1980. These photographs should, therefore, be understood for their political and social undertones.

Aside from their didactic message, Konttinen’s images possess the power of intimacy and connection. The wonderful compositions and tonal ranges add to their beauty; however, it is the emotive energy in the images that sets them apart. I, for one, feel the love. —Lane Nevares

"Beauty is a term that is always in development, it’s not a fixed thing and is very much subjective, so to me, it’s a perception." Erwin Olaf   

"It all begins with a dream," Erwin Olaf told a group of us last Saturday. His latest show, Berlin, currently on view in NYC at Hasted Kraeutler and in London at Hamiltons Gallery is true to form for Olaf: sumptuous images layered with narrative, rich with details, and perfectly executed.

Using his dreams as surrealistic launching points, Olaf described his process of finding themes, unifying them, and working with his design team to bring them to fruition. This latest series, Berlin, took him outside of his Amsterdam studio and into a city steeped in history, where he could shoot his tableaux inside noted buildings, some of which have notorious histories. (Indeed, the stairs Olaf climbs in his self-portrait are the same that Hitler mounted into the Olympic Stadium.) These particular interiors, and the tales they contain, become part of the new story. Olaf’s Berlin series takes us into an enigmatic world where no one is telling us what to believe, but rather engaging us to conjure these stories ourselves. —Lane Nevares 

"They were … pure and unadulterated photographs, and sometimes they hinted at the existence of visual truths that had escaped all other systems of detection."—John Szarkowski

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has recently opened, for the first time in 25 years, a major retrospective of the singular American photographer, Garry Winogrand. This is a big deal. The exhibit, organized and curated in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art, will later travel to DC and then on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this summer. Given Winogrand's importance in the history of 20th Century photography, this will be one of the major shows of 2013.

Professional photographers, long before the days of digital, have always burned through rolls of film, snapping thousands and thousands of images. Winogrand was no exception. When he passed in 1984, he left behind dozens of marked-up proof sheets and more than 6,500 rolls of undeveloped film containing more than 250,000 images. What makes this retrospective particularly important is that nearly a third of the images in the show have never been printed or exhibited, creating a renewed and exciting opportunity to take a greater in-depth look at Winogrand's legacy. 

The forthcoming monograph to accompany the exhibit will also provide scholars and enthusiasts with a comprehensive resource for examining his importance and lasting influence on photography. Winogrand forever changed how photographers see, but it’s also worth noting that he expanded the possibilities of what happens in the frame. —Lane Nevares

 

"I’d say most of my inspiration was drawn from old-school American values mixed with a little punk-rock idealism."—Mike Brodie

Mike Brodie’s new monograph, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity has just been released in time for his two forthcoming solo shows: one in LA and one in NYC. For a diesel-engine mechanic who thinks of photography as a “hobby,” this is mighty impressive. 

Many will look at these images of young travelers living free and criss-crossing the USA as something raw and exciting, but like many things in life—“Riding the Rails” isn’t anything new. In fact, during the Great Depression more than 250,000+ homeless teenagers were doing the same. The excellent documentary, Riding the Rails, tells the story of these young people and the effect that experience had on the rest of their lives.

Brodie’s images, however, tell an American, 21st Century story that is about freedom, possibility, and opting-out from society’s dictates. These young people (who may be fleeing tough circumstances themselves) are choosing to live a different way of life. Brodie’s friends, lovers, and fellow travelers show us the rough, the real, and the nitty-gritty of life on the move.

Self-taught, Brodie is an innately talented photographer with a great sense of light and composition. This series is strong, sensitive, authentic, and will be one of the important photography shows to see in March. I am looking forward to seeing the exhibit and buying the book. (I am also including this show on my upcoming gallery tour.) Brodie’s photographs have made me eager to discover other artists, especially those outside of the States, who are living and documenting life on the road. —Lane Nevares 

"The road must eventually lead to the whole world."—Kerouac, On the Road

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