AIPAD 2017: Further Observations
By Belle McIntyre
What caught my eye immediately upon entering were the extremely large and gorgeous works of Christian Voight, a German photographer represented by UNIX Gallery. He seems to have a deep attraction to grand and formerly-grand architecture and spaces loaded with detail, such as the interior of one of the rooms in the Morgan Library, a jewelry-filled market stall in Istanbul, and a remarkable image of a bank of old rusty safety deposits boxes in Chicago, one of which belonged to the infamous criminal, Al Capone. It appears to be life size and captures the colors and textures of the old corroding metal in what achieves a hyper-realistic quality. He uses a printing technique called lite-jet on dibond which allows for pure light-saturated color. They are extraordinary. My penchant for rusty metal was also gratified by seeing the work of the Swiss artist, Beatrice Helg at Joel Soroka. She builds Richard Serra-ish structures to create abstract sets composed of elements of richly patinated metal. These large archival pigment printed images are on Baryta paper and have an almost tactile surface richness and luminous quality that feels moonlit.
The large black and white lenticular images on dibond by George Legrady at Kopeikin Gallery provide the novelty of seeing multiple layers of different images in various states of opacity and transparency depending on the viewers position. They are both fascinating and addictively engaging. The central image at Hoppen, a large-scale photo realistic print by Manuel Franquelo was highly effective at bringing people into the booth to examine it up close and marvel at it’s precision. The Spanish artist achieved his reputation as a trompe l’ceil painter and sculptor. His foray into photography is consistent with his painting. Diametrically opposed to the images of Voight, this work is notable for the banality of its subject matter which consists of simple, worn shelves holding humble objects from his work space against an aging painted wall. And yet a close examination is an irresistible urge.
Lest you have the impression that the super sized, in-your face eye candy is the most noteworthy work in the show, rest assured that is emphatically not the case. I believe I am exhibiting something which I will call “fair-goer syndrome” and I do not imagine I am alone in this. Definition (my own): when faced with so much bounty one needs to go through the process of normalizing the large, the new, and the showy. Then it is possible to focus on the more intimate, personal and highly-charged work as well as familiar and less familiar vintage treasures. I overheard the comment from an art world insider: “The galleries have really upped their game and brought out the best work”. I totally agree. The selections were creatively curated and installed in ways that juxtaposed divergent works to mutual advantage. The large and roomy space occupied by Throckmorton allows the gallery to show the wide-ranging work of the Latin American artists which they represent as well as vintage work and contemporary in an almost sitting room-feeling. Margo Davis was there signing books. It was all very inviting.
As always, there was much socially and politically motivated work. The work of documentarian Daniela Zalcman, winner of the Arnold Newman Prize, was featured in the booth devoted to that project. It consists of moving and compelling portraits of indigenous north Americans who were part of a well-intentioned but oppressive and badly-facilitated Canadian education program for that under-served population. She uses a variety of techniques to portray them along with their own terrible stories of how they were mistreated and abused. Obviously, deeply-felt and effectively impactful. There were several gorgeous and provocative images by the eco-activist Edward Burtynsky. There ware also a welcome number of images from Africa throughout the show, perhaps a trend inspired by last year’s Focus on Africa in the Armory Show.
I have barely scratched the surface of the substance, variety, quality and relevance of this year’s show. It bodes well for the future of photography and it’s importance in our world.