Photography Highlights from the 2022 Independent Art Fair

The Independent Art Fair has always had a bit of a maverick streak, which has generally served it well. In carving out a place of adjacency to the larger but therefore more predictable contemporary art fairs, it has consistently been more of a place of discovery than its art fair brethren, a venue where more risks (in the form of under-appreciated and lesser known artists and artworks, edited down by sharp curatorial eyes) could be taken.

Unfortunately, this has also often meant that there was very little photography on view. While we have visited almost all the iterations of the Independent, going back roughly a decade (we missed the first couple of years, but have been regulars since 2013), we’ve only found enough photography for a full, proper review a few times, the last being in 2015 (review here). In the years since, we have scoured each booth in the hopes of finding exciting or unexpected photography, but have often come away with only a couple of pictures worth featuring.

But perhaps these trends follow some obscure but naturally repeating cycles – last year was a bit thin photographically, and this year we were happily rewarded with a much fuller harvest of intriguing photographs to consider. Interestingly, much of what was on view this year was overlooked or rediscovered vintage material. This of course fits well with the larger movement across the art world to reexamine whose artistic stories are being told and to bring a broader range of voices into the conversation.

As is our custom, the slideshow below gathers together singular photographs found at the fair, starting with the booths on the first floor at Spring Studios, and then jumping up to the seventh floor and then working our way back down. Each image is supported by linked gallery names, artist names, prices (as available), and a short discussion or commentary.

Nina Johnson (here): This booth was a solo presentation of the 1970s and 1980s black-and-white work of Martine Barrat, made in Harlem and the South Bronx. In this introspective image, she captures a moment of quiet control, with the drummer’s cuffs pulled out beyond the edge of his suit and his hand pinching the bridge of his nose, perhaps to dispel his weariness. With the background left to blur, we are pulled in close, feeling the accumulation of effort. Priced at $15000.

Helena Anrather (here): Olivia Reavey’s male nudes settle into zones of deliberate uncertainty and ambiguity. Is this intimate touch playful and gentle, or a bit more insistent and perhaps even unkind? It’s this layered unresolved dissonance that gives her works a memorable jolt. Priced at $2200.

Higher Pictures Generation (here): This set of hand-colored self-portraits by Janice Guy from the mid 1970s plays with the mirrored interaction of angled doors and the changing shapes of the artist’s poses. It’s a study of seeing and being seen, with fellow student Thomas Struth lingering in the shadowy background of one image. Priced at $25000 for the set of four. Our reviews of Guy’s 2019 gallery show (here) and 2018 photobook (here) provide further background.

Maureen Paley (here): Over the years, Wolfgang Tillmans has delivered notable images across an impressively wide range of photographic genres, including portraiture, abstraction, and the still life. As seen here, he’s also consistently mastered involved studies of drapery and bunched up clothing. This pink sweatshirt floating in water is effortlessly formal and sculptural, while still offering the intimate humanity of a few stray hairs for us to discover. Priced at $95000.

Maureen Paley (here): In this pensive nude portrait of the painter René Richard,
Peter Hujar uses the cast light (and dark shadows) to powerfully draw our attention to the man’s face, and the swirls of internal emotion found there. Priced at $20000.

Galerie Hubert Winter (here): In this 1987 Polaroid from Birgit Jürgenssen, the artist arranges a selection of high heels from women’s shoes along her outstretched arm, almost like thorns. It’s a simple but clever re-imagining, providing feminist bite to an everyday symbolic motif. Priced at $20000.

Galerie Sultana (here): This 1970s portrait by Walter Pfeiffer has been reprinted large, turning the gentle gesture of a bent head into a beguilingly subtle color study. Priced at €9500.

Ivan Gallery (here): These images by the Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu document a 1975 body art performance where the combination of a candle, a long exposure, and the artist’s nude body come together as a platform for gestural improvisation. The tracings of light feel energetic and deliberate, like a form of elusive communication. Priced at $16000 for the set of four.

Magenta Plains (here): This booth provided a succinct sampler of works by Jennifer Bolande, with these sets of images from the mid-1990s showing off the artist’s structured thinking. In each set of three photographs, the artist’s hands hold pictures of hands – first left, then both, then right. Each triplet is a study of nested touch, a smart conceptual exercise playing with the layered image/object properties of photography. Priced at $4000 each.

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Read more about: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ion Grigorescu, Janice Guy, Jennifer Bolande, Martine Barrat, Olivia Reavey, Peter Hujar, Walter Pfeiffer, Wolfgang Tillmans, Galerie Hubert Winter, Galerie Sultana, Helena Anrather, Higher Pictures Generation, Ivan Gallery, Magenta Plains, Maureen Paley, Nina Johnson, Independent Art Fair

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