Photography Highlights from the 2015 Armory Show

The snow fell sideways on the first day of this year’s Armory Show, so among the usual chatter of art talk filling the aisles yesterday, there was plenty of subtle grumbling to be heard from out of towners not entirely enjoying the slush and from gallery owners who felt like the day’s crowd was a bit thinner. Winter is clearly still with us here in New York.

To my eye, the mix of photography at the 2015 Armory seemed to have been assembled with a now tried and true recipe: one part brand new images from the bold faced names (featured prominently), one part sampler of the work shown in the galleries in the past year, and one part pictures by lesser known international photographers who deserve more attention here, with a splash of imagery from recognizable rising stars and a few unearthed vintage rarities for added flavor. Depending on your interests and persistence, you could easily tug on any one of these threads and a dozen or more notable photographs would pop out of the swirling mass of art found on Piers 92 and 94.

My own gathering of highlights was meaningfully less systematic, drawing a little from each ingredient bucket, with an emphasis on pictures that felt new to me. I long ago gave up trying to parse conclusions or hidden/emerging trends out of what is being offered for sale at such a large fair – as always, the show is first and foremost a collector-friendly aggregation of all kinds of work, intentionally designed to appeal to a wide base of people, so the idea that there are deep conceptual insights to be gleaned from the overall flow of booths is I think misguided. That said, unlike others who grow weary of fairs, I seem to be relatively immune to their soul sucking propensities. Most of the time I’m just happy to go wandering, the thrill of the hunt never really getting old.

The slideshow below is roughly organized along my path through the fair, starting to the right out of the entrance gate and moving up through Pier 94 first and then on to Pier 92 via the now infamous rickety metal stairs. The individual photographs are accompanied by linked gallery names, artist/photographer names, and associated description, commentary, and prices where appropriate.

Edwynn Houk Gallery (here): This fashion image by Cathleen Naundorf combines timeless glamour with painterly improvisation. The vintage Dior ensemble glitters in silver, with chance chemical washes and dots around the edges. Priced at $12000.

Jack Shainman Gallery (here): Following up on the aesthetics of her recent Slow Fade to Black series, this new image from Carrie Mae Weems covers a blurred Dinah Washington with geometric blocks of silkscreened color. Priced at $25000.

Sicardi Gallery (here): This series of photographs by Miguel Ángel Rojas was taken from the photographer’s studio window in Colombia in the 1970s. Using a bird’s eye aesthetic of surveillance, it captures cruising of all shapes and varieties (men/women, hetero/homo/trans), all within the political context of the country at that time. The pounded silver frames give the works a hand crafted feel. The set of 12 modern prints is priced at $50000, with individual photographs available for $6000.

Blain Southern (here): This 1980s Wim Wenders image is a great Arizona scene setter, from the awkward landscape on the wall to the leather wingback chairs in bright Southwestern hues. Priced at $22000 and already sold.

Luciana Brito Galeria (here): New works by Caio Riesewitz head back into the Brazilian jungle, documenting a stretch of dense tangled jungle slated for imminent destruction in lush tones of brown. Larger works combine the greenery (or brownery as it were) with images of golden cathedrals, like mirages or reverent visions of nature. This particular work was priced at $33000.

Luciana Brito Galeria (here): This 1950s vintage work by Gaspar Gasparian cuts a classic glass and bottle still life into a stuttering parade of slices, like left to right Cubism or overlapped cinematic frames. Priced at $30000.

Sies + Höke (here): While parents at the beach might seem like the most mundane of subjects, Talia Chetrit’s composition smartly flattens the space, bringing the edge of the bag, the bent knee, and the hairy chest into measured balance. A new work from 2014, priced at $6000.

Mor Charpentier (here): This grid of color blocks by Alexander Apóstol is actually an analysis of 1970s era Venezuelan political parties. Each party identified itself with a particular combination of colors on the ballot, so voters could easily identify the right choice. Apostol’s works capture the changing political positions and constant movements to the left and right as evolutions of color, shifting ideologies mixing to form new patterns. The prints are sold in sets of 3 for €9500.

Andersen’s Contemporary (here): This work by Danish photographer Absalon Kirkeby combines areas of representation with intense digital effects, with seemingly identifiable mechanical forms bracketed by glitched static and layered colors. Priced at $6000.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): This portfolio of 18 isolated pumpjacks by Mishka Henner was displayed on one of the large outside walls of the booth. The rigorous aerial images turn the oil pumps into a typology of tiny central artifacts amid the various colors, stripes, and patterns of tilled farmland. Priced at $20000.

Higher Pictures (here): While George Dureau’s male nudes may be more eye catching, the tenderness and clarity he brought to those images is equally powerful when applied to his portraits of families. The layers of arms here are warmly elegant. Priced at $10000, with a show opening next week at the gallery.

M+B (here): This booth was a solo installation of the work of Jesse Stecklow. Combining a tuning fork, some strands of wheat, swaths of amber colored fly paper from a previous work, a piece of flecked white wool, and the barcode from the chemical tray the image is framed in, his formal still lifes are iterative combinations of objects, a constant reworking of visual ideas. Priced at $3500 each.

Hales Gallery (here): Carolee Schneeman’s 1972 performance of nude ice skating, complete with scarf, cat, and tiara is wonderfully potent, with over painted sparkles adding definition to the crown and skate blades. The set of 6 vintage images is priced at $150000.

Two Palms (here): This portfolio of 24 collages interrupts found black and white pinups with simple hand drawn gestures that fill in the blanks. It’s the kind of project that Richard Prince does well – it smartly walks the knife edge between jokey and thoughtful. Priced at $50000 for the set.

Yossi Milo Gallery (here): New works by Marco Breuer continue his recent explorations with scraping and embossing, featuring more layers and iterative processing steps. Exposed blacks are scratched away to reveal lush reds and yellows, with tiny dots covering the surface like textural constellations. Priced at $16000.

Carolina Nitsch (here): A new portfolio of angular, overlapped lines by Alyson Shotz takes its forms from a light projection of broken fragments from a glass sculpture. Its stripes are bold and insistent, like three dimensional moldings. The set of 6 prints is priced at $10000.

Peter Blum Gallery (here): While most of Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photographs are made with a single gestural squeegee, this work is much larger than the standard size prints and combines layers of grey and orange paint into a shadowy mystery. Priced at $450000.

Galerie Johann König (here): Monica Bonvicini’s dense collage of legs employs both rephotography and physical paper weaving to create its chaotic intensity. Priced at $15000.

Johnen Galerie (here): While Thomas Ruff’s superlative large scale photograms have become standard offerings at art fairs around the globe, this was the first one I have seen using crystals as part of the process. Light from multiple sources bounces through the jumbled objects, creating rainbows of distorted color and shadows that fan out in competing directions. To my eye, crystals are usually cheesy, but in this case, Ruff has actually made them quite compelling. Priced at $95000.

Metro Pictures (here): New works by Sara VanDerBeek turn waterscapes and isolated moons into compositions with offset depth. Here two images of rippled surfaces are arranged with space in between like screens; the soft periwinkle color makes them look like crumpled Japanese paper. Priced at $10000.

Lisson Gallery (here): These new florals are a surprising departure for James Casebere. Constructed from dead weeds and grasses in shades of brown stuck in baking powder (that looks like snow), they recreate classic botanical forms, but with a modern conceptual/staged twist. Priced at $15000 each.

Yancey Richardson Gallery (here): Tucked in a back closet, this new work by Rachel Perry Welty continues her series of tromp l’oeil constructions where the artist is obscured by everyday objects. Endless fruit and vegetable stickers provide the camouflage here, with softly transparent wax paper providing a deeper than usual overlapped effect. Priced at $7000.

Galerie Eva Presenhuber (here): While this Sam Falls dyed fabric work isn’t photography exactly, its use of the sun as a light source to enable a chemical reaction/fading isn’t unlike early photographic experiments. I was particularly intrigued by the gentle combination of three colors. Priced at $35000 and already sold.

Regen Projects (here): This new photogram by Walead Beshty has a more aggressive, cinematic aesthetic than I have seen in his work before. Energetic black bands slash through the composition, while jittering repeated frames create zippered striping. Priced at $60000.

Galerie Georges-Phillipe & Nathalie Vallois (here): This street scene from Alain Bublex combines standard photography and painterly digital drawing, splitting the composition into competing halves. The drawn side of the image upends our sense of photographic truth, with reflections that don’t match the parked truck on the right. It’s a smartly disconcerting picture. Priced at $30000.

Gypsum Gallery (here): This manipulated composite image of carpets explodes into an all over symphony of impossible patterns and colors, alternating between representation and abstraction. Setareh Shahbazi, priced at $3000.

James Barron Art (here): The best of Cy Twombly’s photographs are emphatically expressionistic, like these softly blurred flowers that fade into a painterly blooms of color. Priced at $45000.

Howard Greenberg Gallery (here): These 1950s era Marvin Newman manhole covers shine like burnished coins. As a typology, they are both boldly graphic and undeniably urban. Priced at $40000 for the set of 9.

Galleria d’Arte Maggiore G.A.M. (here): Starting with photographs taken of his own set designs, Giulio Paolini built a reoriented, cinematic grid, topped with a flashpoint of collaged fragments. Priced at €145000.

Galerie Thomas (here): This shadowy work by Anselm Kiefer turns the stubble of a farm field into a powerful three dimensional memory, with wooden sticks and wispy glue strands echoing the razor wire barriers of war. Priced at $230000.

Alan Cristea Gallery (here): This 1980s collage by Jan Dibbets bends stone wall photographs into an octagonal architectural form, using ghostly hand drawn marks to fill out the vision. Priced at $51000.

DC Moore Gallery (here): This jumbled photostat collage of faces and instruments by Romare Bearden recreates the dark restless energy of a hard working band, with enlarged eyes and fingers intensifying the emotion. Priced at $58000.

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Read more about: Absalon Kirkeby, Alain Bublex, Alexander Apóstol, Alyson Shotz, Anselm Kiefer, Caio Reisewitz, Carolee Schneemann, Carrie Mae Weems, Cathleen Naundorf, Cy Twombly, Gaspar Gasparian, George Dureau, Gerhard Richter, Giulio Paolini, James Casebere, Jan Dibbets, Jesse Stecklow, Marco Breuer, Marvin Newman, Miguel Angel Rojas, Mishka Henner, Monica Bonvicini, Rachel Perry Welty, Richard Prince, Romare Bearden, Sam Falls, Sara VanDerBeek, Setareh Shahbazi, Talia Chetrit, Thomas Ruff, Walead Beshty, Wim Wenders, Alan Cristea Gallery, Andersen's Contemporary, Blain/Southern, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Carolina Nitsch, DC Moore Gallery, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Eva Presenhuber, Galerie Georges-Phillippe & Nathalie Vallois, Galerie Johann König, Galerie Thomas, Galleria d'Arte Maggiore G.A.M., Gypsum Gallery, Hales Gallery, Higher Pictures, Howard Greenberg Gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery, James Barron Art, Johnen Galerie, Lisson Gallery, Luciana Brito Galeria, M+B Gallery, Metro Pictures Gallery, Mor Charpentier Galerie, Peter Blum Gallery, Regen Projects, Sicardi Ayers Bacino, Sies + Höke Galerie, Two Palms, Yancey Richardson Gallery, Yossi Milo Gallery, Armory Show

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