This week, without even really trying, became mostly about seeing photography, a lot of really great photography and a lot of really diverse work. Here’s a bit about the shows I saw and loved, in no particular order..
Paul Graham’s show at The Pace Gallery on west 22nd street, The Present. For reasons I am not fully aware of, Graham’s spectacular work has never garnered quite the level of visibility and inclusion into mainstream conversations about contemporary photography that it most probably should. It could be argued that that may be a good thing. But his exclusive representation by Pace, and new show at their large gallery will surely change that. This current exhibition, taken on the streets of New York, is very impressive on its own and the installation, placing nearly life-size images of people walking on the street at street level only adds to the uniqueness of Graham’s images which so very subtlely combines intimacy and isolation.
Alec Soth’s show at the Sean Kelly Gallery Broken Manuel, which closes next week, was also fantastic. Soth has the rare quality to photograph places and subjects that are at times more than slightly off, but never do his images even somewhat suggest that he is exploiting his subjects. The documentary of Soth traveling across the country and taking pictures in the front gallery Somewhere to Disappear, only adds to the intrigue to Soth’s work and his vision and demeanor as a photographer
At Von Lintel Gallery is Melanie Willhide’s new show to Andrian Rodriguez, with Love. This body of work came about when her computer was stolen, although, miraculously, the police were able to recover it. Willhide soon discovered that the harddrive had been erased and in her efforts to recover the data she found that her photographs had been greatly altered. Willhide’s images so simply and beautifully deal with one of the biggest issues of photography; authenticity. The photographs in this exhibition are sliced, turned upside down, have inexplicable markings, in some ways they remind me of early Rauschenberg lithographs. As much as they seem accidental, they are beautifully composed. They also address the issue of chance, something that was so uniquely interesting to analogue photography and so blatantly lost in digital. In Willhide’s images she uses this rare encounter with chance to her advantage… something we do not see enough of anymore.
A completely different body of work is on view at Steven Kasher Gallery where they are showing a large exhibition of vintage prints by George Platt Lynes made between 1933 and 1953. This show is filled with beautifully rich black and white prints that range from surrealist images, to studies of nudes, to photographs that just about touch on fashion.
Also worth checking out at Galerie Lelong is a film by British artist Catherine Yass titled Lighthouse. Beware of the large screen in the back gallery if you get seasick!
And then of course, the week couldn’t end without seeing the Cindy Sherman exhibition at MoMA. Sometimes seeing a retrospective of an artist whose work you are so familiar with and has lived so easily and affluently in the public realm can seem a bit boring, nice to see, but more of a review than offering something new. Sherman’s show does just the opposite. Even though you are familiar with a lot, if not all the work, you will be surprised at how much of it you had only thought you had seen in person, or had not seen in a very long time. In addition, entering each gallery and seeing each series only made me progressively more and more in awe of her work, of her impeccable attention to detail which allows all of her characters to become their own and her ability to allow essentially one subject to surive nearly four decades. As no matter who she transforms herself into, the subject is always Cindy Sherman.