Photography Highlights from the 2023 Armory Show

If there is an overly simple conclusion to be drawn from the sparse scattering of photography on view in the booths at this year’s Armory Show in New York, it is that contemporary gallery owners must think that they can’t sell much photography right now. A nearly endless sea of paintings filled the 200+ booths at the Javits Center this past weekend, with just three photography specialists devoting their booths to the medium (Bruce Silverstein, Edwynn Houk, and Yancey Richardson) and only small pockets of photography to be found elsewhere here and there. And when photography was present, there wasn’t a lot of risk taking or boundary stretching going on, with well known, bankable names balanced by a somewhat broader representation of Black and Indigenous photographers. For the intrepid collectors looking for fresh photography to get excited about, the pickings were thin and surprisingly predictable, with the Solo, Focus, and Presents sections of the fair perhaps the biggest disappointment, with quite a bit less photographic experimentation going on than we might have expected or hoped.

The slideshow below covers the photography that caught my eye, and as usual, the individual images are accompanied by linked gallery names, artist/photographer names, and prices where appropriate, along with further description and analysis.

303 Gallery (here): Rodney Graham died last fall, and this withered flower arrangement image made in 2017 now has even more of a melancholy context. Set against the worn drippy surfaces of his studio wall, the bouquet feels quietly lush and extravagant, like a meditative elegy. Priced at $220000.

Galerie Hubert Winter (here): These two works by Jojo Gronostay document the improvised stands used by African vendors hawking fake handbags and sunglasses in the Chateau Rouge area of Paris. Gathering them up after they were abandoned in haste, Gronostay has made crisp images of the cardboard boxes and arranged them into typologies, where the binding straps create geometric patterns and the random printed words have surprising resonance. Priced at $3500 each.

Galerie Hubert Winter (here) : This 2023 work by the Austrian artist Michael Höpfner was made on an extended walk through rural China. Like Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, Höpfner turns his walks into opportunities for artistic expression, in this case pairing his own prostrated form and a similarly wrinkled rock, adding gestural circles to further the connection. In an age of climate change and landscape transformation, walking artists like Höpfner offer interpretive first hand experiences of larger, more abstract forces, making the experience of place more intimate. Priced at $7000.

Moskowitz Bayse (here): The sculptural illusionism in this work by Anthony Lepore mixes the flatness of photography with thick framing and bracketed mounts. Lines and shadows are mirrored/arranged into strict geometries, with protruding screws and drill holes confusing the perception of depth. Priced at $36000.

Galerie Templon (here): This image comes from Gregory Crewdson’s 2018-2019 series An Eclipse of Moths, which was shown in Gagosian’s gallery space in Beverly Hills at the time, but not in New York. This image evokes a meticulous sense of quiet despair, from the fallen lightpole and the solitary man in the street to the misty fog and the woman looking down from the nearby balcony. Priced at $80000.

Galleria Lorcan O’Neill Roma (here): With digital manipulation now entirely commonplace, it’s actually more impressive to show the wires and platforms of the crane enabling a woman to hang in the air than to simply offer a flying figure Photoshopped into the sky. Sam Taylor-Johnson’s recent series “Wired” explores this truth, via staged scenes in the desert of Joshua Tree that reimagine the landscape and the artist’s place in it. Don’t miss the stuffed rabbit in the foreground. Priced at $22000.

Roberts Projects (here): This new work by Wendy Red Star is an extension of a series shown in New York earlier this year (reviewed here). Beaded figures repeat in echoing layered patterns, boldly reclaiming and repurposing traditional indigenous motifs. Museums should be fighting over these. Priced at $40000.

Marc Selwyn Fine Art (here): This 2021 triptych by Richard Misrach finds the photographer back in the scrub, pushing his way through dense thickets of leafy foliage. Color tints pull parts of each composition forward, creating a shimmery sense of shifting attention. Priced at $70000.

Galerie Ludorff (here): The works of Bernd and Hilla Becher are a now-obvious art fair staple, but this unusual double water tower image tucked on a side wall was worth seeking out. A vintage print from 1970, it both highlights the unexpected formal duplication and provides some tactile surrounding context. Priced at $29000.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): This recent work by Sarah Sense literally weaves together past and present, connecting a Lewis and Clark era land allotment map from Oklahoma (documenting where the artist’s ancestors lived until they were displaced) and an image of the trees on the land the artist’s family now inhabits. Layered together using a traditional Choctaw basket weave pattern, the work juxtaposes two histories of the land, exposing the unresolved tension that lingers. Priced at $35000.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): The woven beaded diamonds affixed to the front of this photographic work by Dakota Mace give it a flag like appearance. Underneath, the land is disrupted, confused, and abstracted by stripes of motion, the history of forced relocation embedded in a symbolic form. Priced at $12000.

Polígrafa Obra Gràfica (here). Miles Aldridge’s recent series “Doors” features a selection of staged setups where models are posed near colorful doorways, alternately holding flowers, groceries, a doll, and a fluffy white cat. This image is the most stylishly mysterious, with the chain preventing the door from opening wider. Priced at $7500.

Yancey Richardson (here): This 2023 image by Anthony Hernandez continues his series of views screened by the perforated patterns of Los Angles bus shelters. The composition is a heady mix of verticals and horizontals, the unforgiving sunlight beating down on the lone pedestrian. Priced at $28000.

Galleria Poggiali (here): Erwin Wurm’s “One-Minute Sculptures” have brought an inspired-sense of irreverent formal play to staged arrangements of people and everyday objects. This recent work continues in that spirit, placing a Moncler puffer atop a bent figure, mixing high fashion and impertinent distortion. Priced at $13000.

Philip Martin Gallery (here): In the years since the publication of Kwame Brathwaite’s monograph Black is Beautiful (reviewed here), more and more images have slowly trickled out of the artist’s estate. This knockout portrait features a necklace of stainless steel development reels, creating chic adornment out of photographic practicality. This image would make an intriguing pair with some of Zanele Muholi’s recent self-portraits leveraging a similar kind of inspired object reuse. Priced at $4000.

Sean Kelly Gallery (here): Drawn from his recent project “Controlled Burn”, this large scale film still by Julian Charrière captures sparkling fireworks caught inside a cooling tower. The image is filled with roiling cosmic energy, with fogs of smoke and pinpricks of light like a celestial skyscape. Priced at €36000.

Ben Brown Fine Arts (here): This recent work by Vik Muniz channels the spirit of early 1950s Giorgio Morandi. Constructed from fragments of painted color, the resulting work is enlivened by layered cut-throughs that expand the single plane of the photograph into illusionistic stacked surfaces. Priced at $55000.

Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle (here): This large scale floral still life comes from a series that Thomas Ruff made in 2018. What’s intriguing about the project is that Ruff added the solarization effects seen in the images digitally (and rephotographed his results on antique papers), reimagining an antique process effect for a new age. Priced at €45000.

Catharine Clark Gallery (here): In recent years, Stephanie Syjuco has been busy digging through institutional archives of American colonial history in the Philippines, and building sophisticated artworks out of the visual evidence she has found there (as seen in a 2022 gallery show, reviewed here). This work explores errors found in ethnographic records, each page centered on factual corrections later made in the history. The resulting grid of annotated pages consistently undermines the idea that these records were unbiased or even accurate, calling into question the credibility of such imperial histories and those that wrote them. Priced at $28000 for the set of 36 prints.

Galería Zielinsky (here): These photographs document a 1978 performance organized by Vera Chaves Barcellos on a frozen lake in Amsterdam. Shiny silver sheets increasingly weigh down anonymous bodies, creating layers of tactile triangles atop the fragile surface of the ice. Priced at $36000 for the set of 6 prints.

Huxley-Parlour (here): This booth was a solo presentation of David Benjamin Sherry photograms, paired with a few recent paintings which employ similar pared down geometric aesthetics. This nested circle in radiant green pulls deeper and deeper into thick color in the center, the iterative steps in the darkroom given visible form. Priced at $21000.

For historical context, reports detailing the photography highlights from recent Armory Shows can be found here (2022), here (2021), here (2020), and here (2019), with further reports going all the way back to 2010 here.

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Read more about: Anthony Hernandez, Anthony Lepore, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Dakota Mace, David Benjamin Sherry, Erwin Wurm, Gregory Crewdson, Jojo Gronostay, Julian Charrière, Kwame Brathwaite, Michael Höpfner, Miles Aldridge, Richard Misrach, Rodney Graham, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Sarah Sense, Stephanie Syjuco, Thomas Ruff, Vera Chaves Barcellos, Vik Muniz, Wendy Red Star, 303 Gallery, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Catharine Clark Gallery, Galería Zielinsky, Galerie Daniel Templon, Galerie Hubert Winter, Galerie Ludorff, Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Galleria Lorcan O'Neill Roma, Galleria Poggiali, Huxley-Parlour, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Moskowitz Bayse, Philip Martin Gallery, Poligrafa Obra Gráfica, Roberts Projects, Sean Kelly Gallery, Yancey Richardson Gallery, The Armory Show

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