Photography in the 2015 Independent

For those used to the rectilinear rigidity of most contemporary art fairs, the Independent has come to represent a thoughtfully welcome alternative. The fair has a decidedly more fluid flow than its competitors – a jumbled cluster of angled walls spreads across three crowded floors, creating corners and wedges of awkward sizes. An absence of obvious hallways leaves gallery spaces transitioning into one another without barrier, making the experience more like wandering than dutiful down-the-aisle trudging. And even in this year’s extra densely packed version, it’s a venue of easy strolling and unexpected discovery for collectors.

As has become the annual pattern here, the photography on view has been smartly edited, generally tending toward the conceptual rather than the mainstream or the traditional. It’s a fair where earlier photo works by Dennis Oppenheim and Robert Grosvenor (neither normally called photographers) happily mix with more recent images by Moyra Davey, Daniel Gordon, and Wolfgang Tillmans, with intriguing resonances in both directions.

The slideshow of photography highlights below is roughly organized along my path through the fair, starting on the fourth floor and working down. For each image, a linked gallery/host name, artist/photographer name, associated description/commentary, and a price (as appropriate) are provided.

Karma (here): The booth contained a selection of 1980s photographs (in larger modern prints) by Robert Grosvenor. A toy tanker, a pair of floating doughnuts, and other quirky subjects were intermingled with images of high speed rocket cars out on the salt flats. This bulbous curved form in fire engine red caught my eye, mostly for its sculptural qualities. Priced at $15000.

Galerie Micky Schubert (here): Fresh off her successful inclusion in the New Museum Triennial (here), Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili shows up again here, with another selection of process-heavy compositions. This work plays games with photographic perception, combining the billowed form of a flower grid (maybe a bag?), with other paper textures/folds and hand inked lines. Priced at $4500.

Artists Space (here): The work by Isa Genzken was part of a series being sold as a benefit for Artists Space. The multi-layered, rephotographed collage combines magazine imagery with geometric lines of tape. Priced at $8000.

Thomas Erben Gallery (here): This installation by Mike Cloud turned a disassembled Annie Leibovitz monograph into a series of paper “quilts”, with triangles of messy overpainting and circular cutouts. I liked the roughness of the appropriation/deconstruction, as well as the inversions of race and gender implicit in the project. Each individual hanging sheet was priced at $9000.

Murray Guy (here): This is another of Moyra Davey’s folded mailer pieces. Many of the images are taken through a store window, capturing stamps, papers, libraries, and archives in various states of disarray, as well as reflections and refractions of the scenes. It’s a double dose of stamps – stamps in the photographs and stamps/stickers on the address-side-out area. Priced at $36000.

Wallspace (here): New works by Daniel Gordon amp up the colors even further and add a jittering second layer of depth to some of the vases and still life objects. The compositions are also getting deeper (with the focal plane set back from the front edge, creating blurs in the foreground) and the in-fill shadows are popping with more gestural authority. This image was priced at $14000.

Elizabeth Dee (here): This Mac Adams diptych is full of parallel ambiguity. The plaid jacket on the right (with the elusive facial expression) is echoed in the paid blanket covering the dead body, with yet another onlooker in plaid. I like the implied connections and the unknowable mysteries. Priced at $10000.

Fergus McCaffrey (here): Decades later, it’s getting harder to separate the conceptual projects of artists like Dennis Oppenheim and their resulting photographic documentation. This work captures the quirkiness of Oppenheim’s Maine “time pocket” where he used a tractor in the snow to carve out a small island in the middle of the International Date Line. Is it the puzzling Earth Art exercise that I find amazing, or the physical manifestation of that thought as photographs, diagrams, maps, etc.? It’s both, I guess. Priced at $70000.

Herald Street (here): A new work (diptych) by Josh Brand, pairing a refracted photograph of netting (on the left) with layers of softly pigmented transparencies (on the right), with formal echoes crossing the divide. Priced at $6000.

Three Star Books (here): This photograph comes from a series of red, green, and blue classified works by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. These images of in-between spaces have been published as a series of artist’s books (RGB), and individual prints have been made of some of the photographs, each housed in a custom color-coordinated frame. The layers of shimmering Chinese red (and the matching red frame border) made this particular image stand out. Priced at $5000.

Maureen Paley (here): I don’t recall seeing too many Wolfgang Tillmans double exposure images, so this one caught my attention. A loving touch is paired with a nighttime scene (taken from the London Eye?), making the man look like he is both decorated with light and behind bars. Priced at $8000.

Croy Nielsen (here): Mitchell Syrop’s works from the early 1980s mix an advertising aesthetic with textual word/image play. Priced at $10000 and already sold.

The Box (here): A formal fabric/drapery study by Sarah Conaway, full of whorled texture, both obvious and open ended. Priced at $4000.

Daniel Gordon, Dennis Oppenheim, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Isa Genzken, Josh Brand, Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Mac Adams, Mike Cloud, Mitchell Syrop, Moyra Davey, Robert Grosvenor, Sarah Conaway, Wolfgang Tillmans, Croy Nielsen, Elizabeth Dee, Fergus McCaffrey, Galerie Micky Schubert, Herald Street, Maureen Paley, Murray Guy, The Box, Thomas Erben Gallery, Wallspace, Independent, Artists Space, Karma, Three Star Books

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