ClampArt


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© John Arsenault, "Silhouette of a Leatherman," 2012, Archival pigment print, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

Images by John Arsenault courtesy of ClampArt gallery. Words by Efrem Zelony-Mindell.

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?

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© 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.

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© 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 moment. 

LA's 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's show in on view at ClampArt Gallery till February 13th. His new book Barmaids is available now 

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© John Arsenault, "Sister Candy Cide," 2013

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© John Arsenault, "Turned Off," 2012

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© John Arsenault, "Exterior Landscape Number Two," 2012

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© John Arsenault, "Exterior Landscape Number One," 2013

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© John Arsenault, "Praying for Tomorrow," 2012

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© John Arsenault, "Rose in a Bottle," 2013, 
All images Archival pigment prints, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
Books, ClampArt, Efrem Zelony-Mindell, Exhibitions | Permalink |


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Coming next to ClampArt (opening February 25th) is a group show. The clue is in the title - "the exhibition addresses artists' fascination with natural history museums as seen by their depictions of museum displays, including dioramas and taxidermy, in addition to artists' interest in viewing animals through a pseudo-scientific lens" says Brian Clamp. The show includes Clamp staples Jill Greenberg, Blake Fitch and Amy Stein alongside Richard Barnes, Marisol Villaneuva and more.

This image by Ms Villaneuva is from "Uncaged: The Unnatural History of Caged Birds" a project wherein the artist "hope(s) to create a connection between the original wildness of birds, and the sense of freedom they evoke within those who view them."

© Marisol Villanueva, "Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata), Summit Rock, West Side between 81st and 85th Streets, New York," 2007, C-print (Edition of 7), 28 x 42 inches, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
ClampArt, Exhibitions | Permalink |


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Now showing at ClampArt are Jill Greenberg's "New Bears". Jill constructed outdoor studios in Vancouver and Calgary to photograph these creatures and it's interesting to see the prints in a smaller size than the big bears and the monkeys. This particular baby however was photographed in Jill's home - I wonder how many assistants queued up outside for that job!

Jane Fonda Bear © Jill Greenberg
ClampArt, Exhibitions | Permalink |


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In order to view the "New Bears" at ClampArt, one has to walk through the main gallery space which is currently showing Luke Smalley's "Sunday Drive", a haunting story of three girls readying to visit their men in prison. Viewing Smalley's work on ClampArt's website I was more drawn to the "Exercise at Home" series. If only Smalley had used new bears instead of twinks...

Luke Smalley, "Exercise at Home," 2007, Digital C-print, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
ClampArt, Exhibitions | Permalink |


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ClampArt artist Rachel Papo is the winner of the 2009 'Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year' Lucie Award for her project on young Israeli women serving their mandatory military duty, 'Serial No. 3817131'. Sadly, there's not much by way of images from this year's International Photography Awards competition winners on the Lucies website - just an un-navigatable video of stills. Which is odd.

Rachel thanked Mr. Clamp upon receiving her award, saying he is the nicest guy in the business. Which is nice.

Talking to Family, from Serial No. 3817131 © Rachel Papo


Awards, ClampArt, Photographers | Permalink | Comments (1)

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ClampArt is showing Amy Stein's 'Domesticated' from September 10th to October 31st 2009 at their 25th Street gallery in Chelsea, NY. As usual for Clamp, the opening was packed.

Trasheaters, 2007 © Amy Stein

ClampArt, Exhibitions | Permalink |

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