JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 works (often containing multiple images), framed in a mixture of ways and hung in the main gallery space. The images were taken between 1976 and 2009. (Installation shots at right.)
The following artists have been included in the show, with the number of images on display in parentheses:
Tina Barney (2)
Fred Cray (1 installation of 107 photos)
Jim Dow (1)
Macduff Everton (2)
Lee Friedlander (4)
Jan Groover (1 triptych)
Ray Mortenson (5)
Martin Parr (1 album containing 100 4×6 images, in a glass case)
John Pfahl (1)
Neil Winokur (3)
Comments/Context: While I am already on the record as not being a particular fan of summer group shows (here), at some point, it really isn’t possible to avoid them all. One new twist this year is that a group of prominent photography galleries have all decided to put on group shows with New York themes of various kinds. So since we are collectors of city imagery, I’ve visited a few of these exhibits, and will report on them starting today and continuing into next week.
“Helluva Town” at Janet Borden doesn’t really have any organizing principle beyond being a collection of images of and related to New York, mostly taken by gallery stable artists, and lacking a stronger theme, it feels more like a grab bag than a highly curated affair. That said, there are some solid images on view, worth a quick visit.
We’ve talked about Ray Mortenson’s work on several occasions in the past few months (here and here) and included here are a group of his recent Manhattan scenes, as well as a larger image (40×50) from his earlier South Bronx series. I continue to like both these sets of work.
Jan Groover is represented by a 1970s era color triptych of sidewalks, brick walls, and stairs, covered in shadows. It is an exercise in line and pattern, simple yet effective in evoking the feeling of the streets.
Neil Winokur’s candy colored still lifes of New York mementos from 2000 (a kitchy Empire State Building tchotchke, a bright orange traffic cone, and a paper coffee cup) jump off the walls and grab your attention. They’re light and fun, and easy to like.
One disappointment was not being able to see the Martin Parr album very well. While it was opened to one spread, it was impossible to see any of the other images, as it was protected by a glass case. Not the best display choice for a group of 100 images.
So while there are quite a few good prints on view here, this show is not thematic enough to draw many thought provoking resonances or juxtapositions from the collected works. Sure, they’re individually all about New York at some level, but together they don’t tell any particular story of the city.
Collector’s POV: The Mortensons in the show are priced at $3000 for the smaller images and $10000 for the big image printed on linen. The Groover triptych (my favorite of the show) is priced at $18000 (3 15×15 images, in an edition of 3). And the Winokur still lifes are $4000 each (20×16, in editions of 10).
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Another Jan Groover city triptych @SFMOMA (here)
- 2007 NY Times review of Neil Winokur’s alphabet (here)
Through July 31st
Janet Borden, Inc.
New York, NY 10012