Saturday, December 24, 2011

A thought amid a time of the year many people's vision is blurred

 There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept-Ansel Adams

Here is hoping that next year, somehow, something in the collective conscience of contemporary photography this will actualize itself in the exhibitions of 2012 and we will be blessed with quality work, both in concept and execution.

I can tell you that I look forward to Sicily, Corsica, Malta, LA. Houston, Berlin, and Paris in 2012.  My Leica and Hasselblad are going to go for a journey again.  This time the 4x5 pinhole may come too, only thing is, that will erase all room in my bag for clothes!

Here's to taking another step forward and hoping to find solace in film and camera, if only for but a fraction of a second at a time...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vivian Maier

I had met John Maloof, the man who bought Maire's work at an estate sale, and has since archived and exhibited her world all around the world.  When I read about the story, I was initially skeptical of such a person's self interest and whether or not they would be faithful to her works etc.  I talked with John for a couple hours during FORMAT International Photography Festival where I was exhibiting and he was talking about the project, and I knew after talking with him, that he was just eccentric and heartfelt enough to procure and take care of her work-that it may make its way into the public with dignity and respect.

Anyone that describes themselves to me as a third generation flea marketer can't be all bad!

The work was printed very well, on what looked like Ilford Warmtone semi-matte Fiber paper with what looked like a fairly cold tone developer, similar to Bromophen or Beers Solution.  Hank's Photographic Services printed the work and I spoke for a good while with one of the printers from Hank's that worked on the project.  A couple of the negatives were very bad and had to be drum scanned and output on an LVT film recorder.

The prints were about 10inch squares, matted with a warm white matte, and framed in a standard black wood fram, with prices of the non-vintage prints at about 1600-1800 dollars. 

Her work is very good, vernacular, beautiful, specific but timeless, with great care and attention.

I cannot suggest enough that one take the time to see this exhibit!

Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 E 57th St  New York, NY 10022

(212) 334-0010

No Picture Please! Harry Callahan at 100

No Pictures Please:

At The National Gallery here in beautiful(and I do use the term lightly here) Washington DC.   Here to see a Harry Callahan retrospective, 100 photographs, as he would be 100 years old if he were still alive.
Harry Callahan has always been one of my favorites for many reasons. He is self taught, other than some classes with Ansel Adams and the learning he accredited to his students, passionate, true to his instincts, never seemed to care if what he did had been done or what people thought of it, and dedicated himself to the craft and the art of photography-producing, however small, exquisite prints with an undeniable thirst for expression and meaning in photography.

Truly undeniably one of the great photographers of the 20th century, though without all the pomp and circumstance of many of today's artists. He exhibited a great care and humility with his students and work, and felt his work to be a spiritual expression in its essence-its core so to speak.

The work walks through the myriad of styles and techniques, or approaches, to photography he explored, through both color and black and white and spanning nearly 6 decades(an Irving Penn show of similar caliber would be nice-maybe the Getty could make such a thing happen!).

He shot color Kodachromes as early as the 40's but waited until the 80's to have them printed, as he felt there was no suitable way to reproduce them until dye transfer(dye imbibition) and Cibachrome/Ilfochrome(silver dye bleach process). Which shows the sort of care and craft that the ottoman empire showed building foundations for their mosques and temples etc. and letting them settle for 40 years before then building out level from the settled foundations, which is why they are still standing in Istanbul today.

I wanted to take a picture of one of the pieces I thought a fellow photographer, Chris Letcher, would like, similar to work he is exploring, when the security guard told me, "No pictures please." I could have missed a few heart beats, and remembered my similar experience at the Getty's journalism since the 60's exhibit. I then went on to commiserate with the guard that if Harry Callahan, an avid teacher and sharer of his work, knew that these stuffy white-'eurotrashy, hedge fundy, hamptonites'-as charles Saatchi called them in his recent article in the guardian-knew that two artists were being thwarted in their attempt to engage in a dialogue about the medium, he would probably demand that the show be taken down or tell them where to go and what to do upon arrival!

Sometimes this world just seems so full of shit, I cannot bear to understand how it takes itself seriously, and how it can possibly justify its existence. Masturbatory is not the form of self reflection needed in this case, but is unfortunately what we get.

Someone should tell the people who own the work, who evidently ask there to be no photographs, about the internet Al Gore invented, and Published books and scanners, if I really wanted a copy of an image!
 Harry-I miss you...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Catechisms, Gimmicks, and Misinformation

Recently I made a suggestion to someone making silver gelatin prints with kodalith(or similar) developer, to avoid the fogging-like, maybe not developing for 15 minutes or using some potassium bromide to avoid developer fogging(as paper doesn't like to have its Ph raised that long), not to mention safe light fogging. Their response to me was-"These aren't silver gelatin prints," to which I am sure my face lost all subtlety in expression as I asked them what type of prints he thought they were? -Anecdotal to the state of photography today!

There is no such thing as a 'Lith-Print'-they are silver gelatin prints-unless Weston was an amidol printer(later an LPD printer)-an ansco printer-or I a beers printer, or a bromophen printer!

The subtleties and tone differences of different developers are know to those of us who understand and respect the craft of photography, and chosen in respect.

Note to all those that care(probably no one)-an archival pigment print is a carbon transfer print.

Rafael, Michelangelo, Leonardo-all archival pigment painters!

I was recently printing some old 6x6 negatives I bought at a flea market in Berlin. I wanted to give them an ageless glow, and mixed 1/3 Lith developer with 2/3 LPD 1:4, developing for 3 to 4 minutes. The result was beautiful prints with glowing highlights due to loss of a stop in highlights that lith developer creates, without all the grainy flatness I was not looking for in the print.

I am still wondering what name the topical intelligence of todays photographers would give these prints-LithPD, LPLith, silver lith, lipstick on a pig prints? Not sure-but I hope some genius out there can tell me what catchy name will make my work sell or promote so I don't have to try so hard to make work I believe in-

"I was going to change my shirt, but instead I changed my mind," Winnie the Pooh.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Must Read!!

Charles Saatchi, the most important British art collector of his generation, has launched an incendiary attack on the buyers, dealers and curators who populate the contemporary art world and concluded that many of them have little feeling for art and cannot tell a good artist from a bad one.
Writing in today's Guardian, Saatchi paints a scathing picture of the contemporary art world and says that being a buyer these days "is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar".
He says: "It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, hedgefundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard." Saatchi described the Venice Biennale, scene of the world's biggest contemporary art jamboree, as a place where these people circulate "in a giddy round of glamour-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another".
"Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art?" asks Saatchi. "Do they simply enjoy having easily recognised big-brand-name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth? Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck."
His comments will unquestionably cause waves in a world in which Saatchi has taken a pivotal role.
For some he is the less famous husband of Nigella Lawson but for the art world he is of immense importance. For 30 years he has been a voracious buyer of new art and was instrumental in the success of the Young British Artists movement, buying up the best of the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and exhibiting it at the groundbreaking Sensation show at the Royal Academy in 1997.
But Saatchi says he finds the new art world toe-curling. "My little dark secret is that I don't actually believe many people in the art world have much feeling for art and cannot tell a good artist from a weak one, until the artist has enjoyed the validation of others.
"Few people in contemporary art demonstrate much curiosity, and spend their days blathering on, rather than trying to work out why one artist is more interesting than another."
Many will be surprised at the ferocity of his opinions. The Turner-nominated artist Louise Wilson – half of the Wilson twins – said she did not recognise his characterisation of collectors. "Maybe Charles is upset because he is not longer the chief proponent of the vulgarity," she said. "There are more collectors out there as opposed to the late 80s and 90s when there was just one which is a good thing."
But she added: "Many artists and art works have now definitely become a brand in a sense and some people may well go 'I'll have a Koons and a Gucci.' You can see that happening in certain contexts so in a way he does raise some interesting observations."
The curator Norman Rosenthal said it was impossible to generalise.
"It is very difficult to make a good exhibition," he said, "and the real problem is the art world has become so huge. When Charles and I were younger and doing the world of art it used to be much easier to sort it all out."
Rosenthal said Saatchi had put on extremely good shows but also shows that were not so good "and I speak as a dear friend of Charles."
Rosenthal was speaking from Miami where most of the people Saatchi is talking about have gathered for the latest fair on the contemporary art calendar. Rosenthal admitted that if 95% of the art there were destroyed then it would be no great loss.
What effect Saatchi's intervention will have on a buoyant contemporary art market remains to be seen but Sarah Thornton, the author of Seven Days in the Art World, predicted it would change little.
"This is so disingenuous of Charles Saatchi because he is selling art to these people and he is their role model. I find it shocking that he would come out and say this because his gallery has become a showroom for upcoming auction lots."
Thornton said Saatchi had made many millions selling on much of his collection. "He is feeding the people he is condemning." She put his comments down to "misanthropy".
Saatchi has had a London gallery for contemporary art since 1985 in different locations including St John's Wood, County Hall and since 2008 the former Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea.
According to the Art Newspaper's survey, in 2009 and 2010 the most visited UK show was Van Gogh at the Royal Academy followed by five shows at the Saatchi.
In 2010, Saatchi said he wanted to leave the gallery and part of his collection to the nation. A spokeswoman said negotiations to make that happen were continuing.

Expert view: Saatchi's Robert Hughes moment

The first thing to be recognised about Charles Saatchi's Swiftian explosion of rage against the art world is that he is uniquely qualified to say it. The second is that broadly speaking, he is right.
Saatchi is so synonymous with contemporary art that some readers may be baffled by his anger at the current state of it. Surely he is Mr Modern Art? Absolutely, but Saatchi has always been a collector who took risks for artists he loves. His championing of Damien Hirst two decades ago was not an attempt to follow fashion but a genuine act of enthusiasm for an artist widely attacked by critics (then as now) and mocked by the tabloids: he was right.
For me, the moment I first saw Hirst's shark seemingly swim through green formaldehyde at the Saatchi Gallery was when I knew the art of my time had teeth.
Saatchi's brand of provocative art collecting, daring the public to like what he likes, made him the natural patron of artists likesuch as Hirst and Sarah Lucas who, in the punk tradition, did not care what the public wanted and grew great on irritation. Everything is different now because, as he says, there are many collectors, and it's hard to see how they have individual taste or a sense of mission. Mega-dealers such as Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian happily "educate" the tastes of these collectors. Art fairs popularise the idea of art as cool shopping even with those who cannot afford to shop.
Here is the one weakness in his argument. While it is undoubtedly the moneyed global elite and their suck-ups who dominate the art world, there is no revolution at the gates, for art fans from much wider social spheres are sucked into this uncontroversial, irrelevant neophilia.
A broad swathe of the middle class, not just collectors, lap up the videos and pretentious installations he lambasts (he has never collected video), and dismiss any scepticism as "conservative". The art world has taken a lot of innocent people with it on the road to mindless corporate fashionability. It needs an honest critic, and maybe Saatchi's Robert Hughes moment has come. No one can accuse him of being a stuick-in-the-mud.
Jonathan Jones

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Alex Webb: The Suffering of Light

Dec 8th was an amazing retrospective of Magnum photographer Alex Webb's color work over the past 30 years.  Alex was there and signing books as well, and as he put it to me, "This is all just a little overwhelming for me to be honest."  A rare exercise in humility among today's superstars of photography.

It was so nice to see work with so much heart, thinking, and affection for color, form and subjects.  Alex's work crosses a lot of boundaries in photography; seemingly surreal, sometimes cubist, and always with the utmost care for what is and is not included in the frame.  I made sure to thank him for his continued great work in an era obsessed with emptiness, constantly referring to itself and nothing else, with post modern ironies, art stars, and words like ambiguity, mysterious, ironic, etc.

I referred to the current Gursky exhibit as an example of oversized boring work, and he cracked up laughing, and made sure to tell him what I always remember, what Szarkowski said, "Photography is the easiest thing in the world if one is willing to accept pictures that are flaccid, limp, bland, banal, indiscriminately informative, and pointless. But if one insists in a photograph that is both complex and vigorous it is almost impossible."

Images were not over sized, were printed well, and were beautifully arranged as well.

The title of the book comes from a Goethe quote, “Colors are the deeds and suffering of light.”

Truly a pleasure to the senses-as Cartier Bresson said, " You have to give pleasure to the eye."

A brief review of the Alex Webb retrospective at the Aperture Foundation Gallery.

Alex Webb: The Suffering of Light

Exhibition on view:
Friday, December 9, 2011–Thursday, January 19, 2012


Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th Street, 4th floor
New York, New York
(212) 505-5555

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Uta Barth: and to draw a bright white line with light... and Compositions of Light on White

I walked into Tanya Bonakdar's gallery hoping to see some nice soft pictures from Uta Barth, whom I have to admit I sometimes really do like.  What I found were, Noisy/Grainy prints in the front room, of curtains, evidently from her home and taken on one afternoon.  The images were nice, sans the images with her hand in them, which very clearly show the excessive size relative to format/film, poor scanning, or overworking in Photoshop.  I felt like I was in some sort of art school hell, where everything is so this and so that, and we don't even stop to consider discussing technique etc.  Somehow or another prints have gotten exceptionally worse over the last 20 years, mostly because of the ease at which people can produce images large, regardless of whether or not they call for it, or their technique can handle it.

 and to draw a bright white line with light...

I found the noisiness very tolerable in the texture of the curtains, especially since the images were face mounted to non glare acrylic, a trick similar to using watercolor paper to hide noise and poor prints.  You absolutely cannot face mount digital prints, anyone that does this and tells you it will last is a fool or a liar, I'll let them have their pick.  Is anyone anywhere that knows anything?  Might as well just get some 777 glue from home depot and some acrylic at the same time and glue that sumbitch down!

I found the entire room to sort of take on this wishy washy anything goes, isn't this a great idea vibe, so I moved onto the back room.

Compositions of  Light on White

Same criticism here of the face mounting digital prints on acrylic, but these images were much nicer to me.  First of all they were properly printed(i.e. size of the prints felt right and the noise level was down), and they felt somehow less contrived.

Overall, I believe the show is worth a visit, I however, would advise that Uta take some input from a from a framer/mounter that is willing to tell her the truth, that only Chromogenic and Ilfochrome/Cibachrome, and RC BW prints can be face mounted.

I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term -meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching - there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster. - Ansel Adams - "A Personal Credo," in American Annual of Photography, vol. 58

Friday, December 9, 2011

Banksy Quote

The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists.. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.