© John Arsenault, "Silhouette of a Leatherman," 2012, Archival pigment print, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
If you've ever taken a trip through
New England, Cape Cod or Provincetown, it goes with out saying you know
something about the quality of light out there. Those tender revealing hues of
light, and the color blue like nothing else you've ever seen; everything's
rich. That light and those blues, touch every inch of you - every inch of
everything. You can't be out there and not think about Edward Hopper's
paintings. John Arsenault's work is a lot like them, if Edward Hopper had a
hidden closest full of good shoes, leather, and a cache of kinky friends.
Similarly to Hopper, Arsenault has that sense of light and surrealism. His
subjects don't simply pose, they penetrate their frames. What on earth could
they possibly be thinking about?
What's on anyone's mind at the Eagle in LA?
© John Arsenault, "Exit (Self Portrait)," 2012
Arsenault spent the better part of two years as "barmaid," as he
lovingly refers to it, at the Eagle in LA. "A very unexpected chance." He tells
me. Lucky for us he had his smartphone camera during his time there from 2012 to 2013. The man has made
smartphone cameras an art. On a personal note, I couldn't thank him enough for
that. It's hard to believe, but no denying, the man can take the piss out of a
photograph. Touching light bleeds in the darkness of the bar. Casting hues and
dimension over bodies and surfaces. Piercing the point of vision. These
photographs are as rich as they are intimate. The bar is transformed, more
Matisse in color and treatment than one would expect for a watering-hole
suck-shack like the Eagle. For anyone who is familiar with the Eagle, LA's or
otherwise, they may find the beginning of that metaphor an alarmingly unlikely
possibility. It comes highly suggested that the photos be seen - by way of
Arsenault's show Barmaid at ClampArt gallery, in New York - or by grabbing a
copy of his new monograph, of the same title, published by Daylight. The
proof's in the seeing of Arsenault's work.
© John Arsenault, "Parachutes (Self Portrait)," 2012
"It's so important to me to be open
to the gray areas of my life. At first I didn't see photographing the Eagle as
a project unto itself. I fell into bar backing totally by chance. As I got to
know the people there I felt a commitment to them, myself, and this story."
Arsenault's work has always been very rooted in the self and the work is diaristic. It's interesting to note both the love and care in the
photo's, and the way Arsenault talks about them, and his experience. He's
always sought out this intimacy, with people, with place, with light. Oh, that
light. You don't need him to tell you his influence, the painterliness, and
gesture are clear. He has taken an otherwise cacophonous escapade and quieted
it down. Arsenault is a keeper of moments and tensions before, or maybe just
after something wonderful, something sexual, something depraved or totally
unforgettable. The environment becomes isolated and calmness sets in. But in
the dark of the bar there is never a complete assurance of that controlled
Eagle provided Arsenault with an opportunity to be a little out of place, maybe
very out of place. "At first I would come to work with this ideal of what I
should be or look like. And I realized I didn't need to pretend, it's more
important to hold onto myself." It's pretty easy to get sucked into the
atmosphere of a place, you walk different, you move different, and sometimes
you are able to forget everything just to fit in. People showing up and being
who they are and not some list of ideals is Arsenault's strongest message. It's
good to keep that in mind. The Eagle is full of vice, and it's the individual
people, the dark corners, and intimate moments that make it what it is.
© John Arsenault, "Sister Candy Cide," 2013
© John Arsenault, "Turned Off," 2012
© John Arsenault, "Exterior Landscape Number Two," 2012
© John Arsenault, "Exterior Landscape Number One," 2013
© John Arsenault, "Praying for Tomorrow," 2012
© John Arsenault, "Rose in a Bottle," 2013,
All images Archival pigment prints, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
Cara Barer dyes and crumples old books to create these wonderful sculptures which she then photographs. Now through February 27th, 2016, you can see Cara's prints in New York's DUMBO at the Klompching Gallery
"The artist's creative process includes the transformation of outdated, abandoned and obsolete books into coiled, crumpled and sculptural objects. Following this labor intensive reconfiguration, she photographs them and presents the final artworks as large-scale pigment prints - lush in color, highly detailed and impressive."
Young Antonio Pulgarin
has been impressing the photo-community a fair bit over the last couple of years. Personally, I fell for him whilst judging AI-AP's annual competition Latin American Fotografía 2
in 2013, when he entered an image from another body of work about family and identity, "Mother and I".
Here's Antonio talking about this project:
"Over the years I developed a strong connection to the Dominican Republic, the culture, and its people. My goal with this project was not only to shed light on the issues taking place in the Dominican Republic but to celebrate its cultural diversity as well. I initially began this work as a means to connect with my step-father but I connected with so much more. Not only did I build a connection with my step-father but I built one with people of Bani. I wanted to utilize my camera as an instrument..an instrument meant to unify and dispel any sense of separation. As a photographer I feel an immense responsibility to respect, honor, and protect the stories of the individuals I photograph. This sentiment is heightened with this particular project since the subject matter is deeply personal to me."
This beautiful portrait of Judy Garland by Yousuf Karsh is from 1946, a year in which he photographed many actors including Lionel Barrymore, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Joseph Cotten, Sidney Greenstreet, Boris Karloff, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lorre, Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more.
We have Alexander Fleming! Dr. Fleming was a Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist. His best-known discoveries are the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the antibiotic substance benzylpenicillin (Penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain.
is a BAXTER ST
2015 Workspace Resident. His new body of work, Tear Sheets - currently on view at BAXTER ST Camera Club of New York - pushes conversations that, as he puts it, "are my history." The images in his new body of work deal with issues of gender, identity, HIV/AIDS awareness, abstraction and photography. Silano is a photographer of photographs; a historian in many senses, and his work challenges the stigma of both the camera and HIV/AIDS. The images in the show are cultivated appropriations of historic queer ephemera, psychiatric literature like Martin S. Weinberg's 'The Male Homosexuals: Their Problems and Adaptations,' as well as various porno mags from the 70's - 80's. Magazines are favorites of Silano: Blueboy, Torso and Honcho
These weren't just the cum rag, boy blasted, flip throughs of their day, they were also a platform of activism, nightlife, awareness, and gay rights. Historically these things were used as a way of illuminating secrets. The images in Tear Sheets add to a new context of queered identity - what it is and what it is capable of becoming.
The world has changed for gays since the AIDS crisis - the death of many. Today, there are new developments in medicine, technologies, and there are new rights - HOORAH. Never before has this powerful interconnectedness been so accessible and so present; so able to bring together as well as divide. The advances of our times are exciting and contradictory. Silano's work is a reflection of these juxtapositions. The world spins forward, and we look back in commemoration - to learn and reflect, to see new. From this inquest of space and history there is discovery and invention. Here the parts come together - for Silano. The images he makes are inescapably contemporary for all their awareness and sensibility.
The wrecked savagery of sex and print are salvaged by the treatment of Silano's compositions. "The work comes from boxes of scraps that for a while I couldn't think of what to do with," he shares. The removal in the work happens as an affect of his excavating his archive. The work plays out before us. His appropriations become void and lucid, highly suggestive and pensive.
At their most basic, the photos are abstract. They posses a quality of recognition and a hunger to delve deeper - to learn more. His images are at times figurative, always sculptural - becoming almost architectural. Depth and space are a tricky deception in a photograph. Silano plays off these sensibilities and discomforts. His iconography is one of a picture's generation - an aesthetic of elimination, down to a single idea. This suggests a sense of the sublime in nature.
Silano is as much a historian as he is an archivist. When I offered him a friend's VHS porn collection a few years back, he jumped at the offer. He's a collector of things, moving, still, tactile and articulated. These parts fuse in his practice - and the images are just as much photographs as they are collage. Cutting and tearing appropriated images - placed precisely - there is gesture, and the hand is always present in front of his camera. It's interesting however to note the use of negative space, huge fields of white, sometimes black. The edges of the appropriated image, or object, casts a shadow on the voided space. Suddenly, the photos teeter in a questioning way. Depth and object are brought into the flat surface of the photo. There is a sense of forgetting, of something lost. But then, he builds on top, next to, tucked behind - overlapping so as to become something new, or at least, changing the meaning of where it began. Reinterpretation blossoms from Silano's metamorphoses.
All these pretty words for such pretty things - the facts are the facts - the work is engaging for a multitude of reasons.
Douglas Eklund, Exhibition Curator of the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, has put it best in regard to The Pictures Generation and how they, "worked at the intersection of personal and collective memory, rummaging through the throwaway products of their youth... in search of moments that both never existed yet were indelibly stamped in the mind." The scavenging of Silano's photography is addressing this history of indelible making. Some of these are before his time, but there's always a yearning to know what happened just before you got here. The work in Tear Sheets is a way of capturing and reanimating something that's been lost.
I'll give you an example: Six of the seven original members of The Village People are still around. It's a desire like that, to find out, to know that something isn't gone, and now is full of potential in its anonymity. Anyone can search for a sense of culture that seemed important at a certain time, but now is so vague, it's almost antique. Capturing that hazy memory - remembering it - and allowing it to become what it wasn't before, is Pacifico Silano's most powerful asset as an artist.
's The Phone Book is one of the first photography books that features photographs taken entirely on an iPhone, with the Hipstamatic app. The book is squarely packed with photographs our observer made on the streets both at home in NYC and abroad.
The Phone Book by Robert Herman, is out now from Schiffer Publishing
, in time for the holidays.
Face in the window, Battery Park City, New York