In all forms, languages, cultures and
creeds love is expansive and transformative. It can be a beginning as easily as
it can be an end. Love signifies all sorts. Sometimes it is intimate, literal,
and exacting, at other times vague, eclipsing, and abstracted. Talking with
Rachel Stern, curator of LOVE 2016,
she never wanted love to be a definitive thing, she always wanted this group
show to be a way to reign in the new year. And why not? After all love is not
limited, it is a vast wonder place for imagery and imagination. The show, LOVE 2016 - currently on display at
Columbia University's LeRoy Neiman Gallery - brings together a vast group of image-makers
from all over. These makers were asked by Stern to either show old work, new
work, or respond to the shows concept in a way to look towards the future.
"This is a show I wanted to see." Stern tells me with an excited smile. She is
as lovely and accommodating, as one would expect form a curator of a show about
Self-Portrait, Los Angeles June 2014 © Hobbes Ginsberg
"Responding to love is like
responding to air." Stern is like talking to an intelligently insightful
romance poem, she is full of these wonderful isms. The passion is apparent. The
show at first glance can almost seem flippant; it is not. The
gallery space is instantly atmospheric. The walls - adorned in a not so
symmetrical system of lush roses - hit you and suddenly you're in the center of
a bull-fighting ring. These icons of exaltation envelope the shows desire,
driving its diversity, while also holding its thread. Looking through the show
and its images, beyond love, what speaks so clearly is the sense of community. "I'm
always constantly wanting to make the most for my community with my community."
It is this visual camaraderie Stern shares that engages and binds these works
that could easily fall prey to distance from each other. There is an elusive
tether; something about them together is almost supernatural.
Untitled (Danny-and-Lawrence) © Marc Swanson
The works themselves run a gamut
from portraiture to conceptual - darkroom prints to sculptural and physical
objects. They're plural and unexpected; they come from artists of all ages and
walks of life. The show is inclusive and there is a sense of equality and
identity that speaks to a larger envelope that is not hung up in specifics and
titles. These people are the dreamers of dreams, the magic makers and the
paupers of a new generation. They are not as bohemian as much as they are
willing to experiment with visual language. Pushing at the possibilities and
boundaries of photography and its preconceptions. There is as much recollection
of history as there is spontaneous contemporaneity. The show is a striking
success of awkward unusual bits, always poetic, coy at times, and highly
definitive at others. It's clear, LOVE
2016 is what love looked like, looks like, and sets a temperature for the
future of its interpretation.
show isn't done." Stern tells me with a good amount of restrained excitement.
Her eagerness reads in her face, behind those comforting eyes. It reads in the
effort and love that's been put into the curation and presentation of the show
as well. What's the future? LOVE 2017
hopefully! For now this show will stand. It is an epically created environment,
it banishes the notion and expectation of white walls and stuffy spaces. It's
reinterpreting history, bouncing off its echo and allowing viewers to be filled
with love or sadness, or whatever they want. It has many feels, and maybe the
best part is the open-ended ability for individualized interpretation. These
ideas stretch - vast not weighted down - and go beyond statements or judgments.
There is a brilliantly subtle revolution brewing in the range of this broad show.
LOVE 2016 is on display at Columbia University's LeRoy Neiman Gallery through February 17th.
Checkout LOVE 2016's publication here.
You and Me Final © Kent Rogowski
(Left) Men,Mango Leaves & Dates (Right) Woman & Lychees © Micahel Bühler Rose
Suits © Martin Gutierrez
American Reflexxx (Still from video) © Signe Pierce & Alli Coates
Family Portrait © T.M. Davy
Untitled (Brooklyn) © Bryson Rand
"I was drawn to Red Hook with its edgy, worn landscapes, its ubiquitous rust, and the extraordinary quality of its light. Some years ago, while taking pictures there, I came upon an old barge moored in a small inlet in the harbor." And so begins William King
's story of a Brooklyn man and his barge.
"This photographic portfolio focuses on the maritime activities and maintenance performed by Captain David Sharps with the aid of friends and volunteers aboard the Lehigh Valley barge
. The story highlights float repair, spinning the barge, and barge assessment regarding dry-dock mandated by the US Coast Guard."
"The 101 year old Lehigh Valley barge is a historic landmark and working museum
. Due to the efforts and dedication of Captain David Sharps, with his many friends and volunteers, the Lehigh Valley is the last remaining example of the Hudson River Railroad barges."
This barge museum also holds music and other events. Check out their schedule
Nairobi-based photographer Patricia Esteve
sent in her powerful and empowering series of girls and young women who gain the strength to protect themselves at "Boxgirls
" in Nairobi. "This local association promotes boxing in areas where sexual abuse towards women and girls is very common."
links innovative projects around the world using boxing as a catalyst for social change. The skills they learn in the ring, improve their strength and resilience, allow them to better negotiate the urban environment and advance further in their schooling, family and career."
Be sure to also check out Patricia's many other important projects, over on her website
. But watch this first!
Axe Diptych © Zeke Berman
Some people are calculated thinkers,
understanding every move long before they ever make or think or speak. Others
are much more intuitive and unconscious, they are about the moment and evolving
from each one to the next. It should be said that regardless of the challenge
of understanding no one way is more right than the other - just different - and
the opportunity to compare is exciting. Julie Saul deserves a huge amount of praise
for this reason; she has brought to her gallery two photographers that make
photographs in these very opposite ways. However, they meet in such an
interesting place. What Corey Olsen has in youth, curiosity, and novelty Zeke
Berman has in wisdom, craft, and contemporaneous composition. Both are
craftsmen of still life photography, painterly and heteroclite.
Personally my favorite thing about
Berman and Olsen and their images is the first thing they bring to mind,
unequivocally that thing is their history. William M. Harnett leads to Kurt
Schwitters leads to Jasper Johns leads to these two contemporaries, Berman and
Olsen. They are sculptors, collagists, and photographers. Aficionados of light,
color, asymmetry, staged theatrics, surface, and the ordinary taken way out of
context. It's a really great show! The works are solid at times and then
open-ended at others. There is space to be filled beyond the elucidation and
perplexity in the predicament of the photos juxtapositions. Admittedly they
take a lot of time, the reward is so huge it seems insurmountable.
Garage Still Life © Corey Olsen
Corey Olsen will take you back to a familiar time in your life - long
before complication - when imagination was so important. Back when you'd
aimlessly shift through relics and the family tool chest or garage. Who wasn't
doing that as a kid? You'd find all those strange odds and ends, tools not
quite toys that blasted creativity off into endlessly unknown possibilities.
Some of the colors were bright, others faded, smells of rust and dirt, a
forgotten bicycle helmet, and all those cans of chemicals that served a purpose
that one time. Olsen assembles his birc-a-brac almost too precisely; his
lighting and perspective is nothing short of nouveau. Behind the immediacy,
carefully controlled intent, and playfulness of the work Olsen expels a certain
sense of quiet isolation. Being a kid in the stillness of Maine has clearly built
a huge sense of explorative expectation in the young photographer. Olsen
shares, "Maybe all the pieces make no sense. But my biggest hope is that people
will discover things about their expectations of everyday artifacts."
Drawing Board Diptych © Zeke Berman
Zeke Berman is an illusionist. His
photos are those of universally conveyed thoughts dealing with perception and
questioning the very core of optics. Where does something end and beginning? Is
there a front, what happens on the back? These are all challenging questions
for a photographer - who deals in a two-dimensional finished product - to take
on. "I'm trying things out and want to understand in the moment." Berman says.
The verbal understanding that he has of his photos is not to be believed. The
compositions are ambiguous, beguiling, surreal, and articulated. His still
lives are accurately laid out forms, technical and exquisite in their quality
of collage and sculpture. These photographs are seductive! Viewing them at
first glance there seems to be something mirrored or symmetrical in their
structure. Upon closer inspection the mystery of their seduction is revealed.
There's nothing mirrored about them, just when parts seem to be perfect
reflections something goes wrong, there's a shift, a change. The images have
been designed only half symmetrical. In so many ways Berman's images become Joseph
Jastrow's iconic duck rabbit.
Berman and Olsen are students of
epistemology. Their photography allows for new study, understanding, and
knowledge. These photographers are distant in years but a kin in spirit. Their
aesthetics sing to one another, they are totally without time, and demanding of
comprehension. The success of the work is reliant on the time viewers take.
Be sure to catch these two great shows at Julie Saul Gallery Through February 20th.
Garage Still Life © Corey Olsen
Letter Rack © Zeke Berman
Garage Still Life #4 © Corey Olsen
Web #2 © Corey Olsen
Garage Still Life #21 © Corey Olsen
Cubes © Zeke Berman
Carlos Alomar, guitar with David Bowie since the 1970s © Leland Bobbé
Veteran New York photographer Leland Bobbé
is making a series of the unsung heroes of music - the back-up musicians. Portrayed in simple, frank, black and white portraits, it's a glimpse at the poor drummer who's never seen, and other hard-working jobbers you might vaguely recognize.
Let's give them some props!
Liberty Devitto, drummer with Billy Joel for 30 years
Lenny Kaye, guitar player with Patti Smith since the 1970s
Ricky Byrd, guitar with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
Gene Cornish, guitar and vocals from The Rascals, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
Carmine Appice, father of heavy metal drumming with Vanilla Fudge. Played with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. Co-wrote the Rod Stewart hits, "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" and "Young Turks."
Be sure to also check out "Half Drag
," Leland's fabulous and well-loved series of half made-up drag queens.
Think of a man - I mean a real dude kind of guy. Masculinity drums up a
certain image, specific ideas and blunt mannerisms. A portrait of that man can
strip away assumptions and allow for a much more fleshed out identity. Most of
gender is read through parts of a person's body. That body becomes fleshy and naked in its insecurity, or maybe not, it can be in a persons mind and the pieces
arbitrary. Jess T. Dugan's project and new book Every Breath
We Drew deals with these issues. What is gender? How is masculinity defined?
Through Dugan's subjects she is able to establish intimate relationships; each
individual bares their experience, there's a huge sense of comfort. Dugan's
portraits build; some of the subjects have been totally marginalized by society,
many of the people in the photos are given new voice, they are dynamic.
Every Breath We Drew is a collection of
people of all different sizes, shapes, backgrounds, orientations and identifications.
Dugan is fascinated by masculinity and capturing what she refers to as "vulnerable masculinity." "I find all of
my subjects myself. It's hard to say exactly what it is that qualifies them.
Something about my initial reaction to them." The process every step of the way
is about this kind of personal intimacy. Dugan is very involved and an integral
part of the photographic narrative. She uses self-portraits throughout the body
of work; they become a constant. With Dugan as the familiar face
throughout the photos she turns into a representation of the identifiable self.
Dugan becomes anyone, in this way the viewer is interjected into the narrative
through her. Suddenly her subjects are more noticeably looking at you. The
conversation evolves, as the viewer is able to take control of the portraits.
is a huge sense of community given the nature of the images. How does a person come into their body while also connecting with others? The source of this inquiry can
be open ended; after all, it's highly individualized and deals in the self. The
images keep pushing on a desire to seek a genteel masculinity. Dugan stresses that there
is a need to redefine; masculinity is more expansive than commonly understood. The
self is a starting point, as the subjects allow their comfort to creep in, more
information is revealed. Light and pose play into these peoples places. All of
Dugan's images are crafted in the subject's home where they could be most
susceptible to allowing an authentic moment to play out. Dugan's frames are
slow, the thinking and consideration to the environment is evident, and each
moment retains a charged emotion.
Ryan and Josh, 2013
Every Breath We
Drew has a very concise interest, however it's crafted by a broad pressing
of intent. The portraits are full of unexpected juxtapositions. People are somber, they are gay, they are with child, and without specificity. A person is a glorious hairy mess. And even though
the work is very interconnected to the LGBT community the feeling of the work
goes deeper than assumptions, conditions, or titles. It should be
said that it doesn't matter who these people love or how they love, it's how they
pose themselves that allows them to be themselves.
all images © Jess T. Dugan
and woman-with-sense-of-humour Christine Anderson
has put together a charming limited edition book called "Wizard
." It is somewhat an ode to her current, beloved mechanic (who presumably has never given her the sharp intake of breath and "that'll cost you darling/love/lady/ma'am").
I love this! See? You really don't need to stray too far from home to make a fabulous project happen.
"I love my car. I hate my car.
I hate my car. I love my car.
After 14 years and 78,000 miles my car - a green Volkswagen Beetle - is still cute despite worn seats and pitted exterior. I don't blame her for breaking down once in a while. Really, I don't. You see, I'm a sentimental person. We have bonded and mostly I like to think of her as vintage rather than old. It makes me feel better about our relationship."
"Over the years, many mechanics have serviced the car. Kal, our current mechanic, has a way of giving me bad news without making me feel bad. His manner and his expertise inspired me to create the pictures featured in Wizard. Kal is a lot like the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz story and I am perhaps a bit like Dorothy in the story. I bring my broken down car for repair and he fixes the car and sends us on our way. Dorothy, of course, sends herself home with the Ruby Slippers and eventually I will find my way to a new car. But for now I am thankful the Wizard is here keeping my car and me together.
Kal allowed me to photograph his shop during working hours, giving me access to premises, people, and auto parts. This book is a portrait of Kal's car repair shop loosely based on the Wizard of Oz story enhanced with my own creative inspirations."
Examples of the book's layout
Fabulously simple series with a strong impact! Jeff Alu
's been waiting patiently for this blog post.... thank you Jeff! According to his bio, he once spent a number of years working at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA. As one does.
"The Lucerne Valley
in drought-stricken California is a unique desert location containing not only many abandoned buildings, but also a housing project/golf course site that was halted mid-construction due to funding problems."
"These shots were taken on a single visit, during a passing storm which allowed for varying lighting conditions." Jeff Alu
According to Wikipedia
, Lucerne Valley is a census-designated place located in the Mojave Desert of western San Bernardino County, California. It lies east of the Victor Valley, whose population nexus includes Victorville, Apple Valley, Adelanto and Hesperia. The population was 5,811 at the 2010 census.
Just 15 minutes, to remind you of what's important.
© 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