Silverstein Photography Annual @Silverstein

JTF (just the facts): 57 total images, representing the work of 10 contemporary photographers, chosen by museum curators, shown through a series of rooms, all the way to the back of the gallery space. Here’s a list of the photographers (with the number of images by that artist in parentheses) and the curators who selected them:

  • Olivia Arthur (8) – Noriko Fuku, Kyoto University of Art and Design & John Jacob, Inge Morath Foundation
  • Raphael Dallaporta (10) – Francois Hebel, Les Rencontres d’Arles
  • Isabelle Hayeur (2) – Ann Thomas, National Gallery of Canada
  • Guillaume Herbaut (10) – Agnes Sire, Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Rick McKee Hock (6) – Charles Stainback, Norton Museum of Art
  • Rob Hornstra (4) – Frits Giertsberg, Netherlands Fotomuseum
  • Gaston Zhi Ickowicz (5) – Nissan Perez, Israel Museum
  • Orrie King (6) – Elisabeth Sussman, Whitney Museum
  • Oliver Sieber (3) – Bodo von Dewitz, Museum Ludwig
  • Darren Sylvester (3) – Daniel Palmer, Monash University

Comments/Context: One of the reasons that Bruce Silverstein has risen to the top among the gallery owners who entered the photography business in the last 10 years or so is that he’s brought new, fresh enthusiasm to vintage work that has been overlooked/forgotten and more generally, that he’s willing to take some risks. The Silverstein Photography Annual is an example of doing things differently, and it brings his gallery a whole bunch of ancillary benefits, even if he doesn’t sell a single piece. Think about it: he gets to broaden his relationships with key curators across the globe (who may be buyers of other work in the future), he gets to support a bunch of quality contemporary photographers (who will talk up his gallery to other artists), and he brings in a bunch of new people into the gallery to see the work (who might not already be clients). Indeed, everyone in the food chain wins in this project (Silverstein gets the benefits above, plus any sales, and the curators and photographers get much needed exposure). So as an idea, this show gets high marks all the way around.

As for the art itself, the group is solid, if uneven, as one might expect. All of it is well crafted work (it wouldn’t be in the show if it wasn’t); the harder question is whether any of it is ground breaking, or whether it has a point of view that we haven’t seen before. To my eye, there were three standouts:

  • Isabelle Hayeur’s images of model homes seem to be descendants of Robert Adams and Joel Sternfeld. They combine a commentary on how we choose to house ourselves, with an undercurrent of wry irony. The image (Catherine, 2007, above right) of the starter castle, with the Mercedes in the garage and the pumpkins carefully placed on the doorstep, could just as easily have come from Greenwich, CT.
  • Raphael Dallaporta’s still lifes of land mines are quite startling, especially when arrayed in a larger group (as they are in the show). The contrast of the objects and their purpose is thought provoking (BLU-3/B, United States, 2008 above right).
  • Darren Sylvester’s Just Death is True, 2006 (below right) is a terrific stand alone image, reminiscent of Cindy Sherman. I didn’t resonate with the other work by this artist as much, but it is hard not to be drawn in by this large scale work when you see it.

Collector’s POV: The work in this show is all generally attractively priced, ranging from $1350 on the low end to $6450 on the high end for single works (there are a couple of series that are selling for more in total, but are less on a per image basis). Since these are emerging artists, buying this work is likely either betting on the future or falling in love. If you’re the kind of person who likes to sift through lots of different kinds of work in search of hidden treasures, then this is a show for you.

Rating: * (1 star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Silverstein Photography Annual
Through October 11th

Silverstein Photography
535 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Read more about: Bruce Silverstein Gallery

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