JTF (just the facts): A total of 29 black and white photographs, framed in black and matted, and hung in the project room at the back of the gallery. The show contains a mix of gelatin silver prints, many vintage, others early or later prints, all without editions. The images were made between 1949 and 1966, and are generally small in size, measuring roughly 9×7 or 10×8. (Marginal installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: It’s hard to believe that the well known Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm has, until now, had neither a gallery or museum show in the United States. Strömholm was part of Otto Steinert’s subjective photography (Fotoform) group in Germany in the 1950s, and he went on to become an influential teacher in Europe (one of his pupils was Anders Petersen, whose work is on view in the main space of the gallery, review here).
This small show gathers together an edited selection of Strömholm’s vintage work, primarily from the 1950s and 1960s. What I found most compelling in these pictures is the photographer’s consistent ability to capture single image vignettes, where emblematic moments and subjects seem to imply more complex and mysterious stories. Two small boys stand holding purses, a sailor has a glass of milk flanked by his bored girlfriend, a child covers her eyes in a soup of fog, and coquettish pairs of transvestites snuggle together. Still other images capture a boy holding snails, a woman’s flash of white underwear as a man walks by, a snake tied up in rope, and a pair of iron dog collars minus the dogs. These are more than acute observations or decisive moments; each scene opens up a combination of the surreal and the metaphorical, with layers of meaning implied and available for exploration.
While Strömholm’s work can undeniably stand on its own, I thought the pairing of teacher and student (with Petersen) added some additional smart resonances, as threads of artistic ideas can be seen to pass from one to the other, being modified, amplified and transformed along the way. For those of you who pay the bills via teaching, I think you will find this interchange quite intriguing.
Collector’s POV: The prices for the prints in this show range between $6150 and $10650. Strömholm’s work has appeared at auction from time to time over the past few years, with small selections of lots finding buyers for prices between $1000 and $5000.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Through December 30th
526 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001