Florian Maier-Aichen @303

JTF (just the facts): 11 large scale, wall sized images, all from 2008-2009, displayed in the main gallery space and back hallway. Most of the images are C-prints, although a few slightly smaller silver prints and one albumen print are included as well. All are printed in editions of 6. (Unfortunately, there are no installation shots for this show, as we were not permitted to take any pictures. See the gallery website below for images of the works and of the installation.)

Comments/Context: In putting together our summaries of the photography in the recent Contemporary Art sales in London and New York, German photographer Florian MaierAichen’s came up several times. To be honest, he was not at all on our radar, so the current show at 303 Gallery gave us a chance to be more thoroughly introduced to his work.

In contrast to much of the cool aloofness found in the Becher school of objective German photography, MaierAichen is unabashedly painterly in his use of digital manipulation. His traditional landscape forms are undermined by streaks and swaths of neon color and artful romantic blurs. Sometimes these colors are introduced subtly, down in a corner or off to the side, in a way that makes you look twice to make sure you weren’t mistaken; in other cases, these changes are so blatant and obvious as to entirely reconfigure your view of an otherwise standard panorama. There is a Pictorialist self consciousness to these unexpected modifications, taking us away from traditional definitions of beauty to a more conceptual dialogue about the limits of this particular subject matter.

While a few of the images do succeed in expanding the boundaries of the form into exciting places we have not seen before, many miss the mark just enough to feel overly clever and contrived. The best of these works breathe life into a pretty tired genre. If MaierAichen is willing to take more risks and push these ideas further, I think the hit rate will be higher. The ones where the manipulations are too subtle just aren’t as effective at producing frame-breaking revolution.

Collector’s POV: The images in the show range in price from $35000 to $90000 based on size. The images which sold at auction earlier this year were all over the map: one buy-in with a low estimate of $20000, one sold at roughly $30000 and another sold at roughly $180000, so there really aren’t enough data points to determine a pattern. What is clear is that his work is creating some buzz.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Florian MaierAichen
Through April 11

303 Gallery
525 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

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