The mood was light as the 34th edition of the AIPAD Photography Show opened its doors last night to a buoyant crowd of dealers, collectors, curators, and fans. Photography, a medium that has grown comfortably into its malleable place within the art discussion, certainly attracts a friendly crowd, with dealers popping into each other’s booths throughout the evening.
“Howard Greenberg was impressed with these,” Steven Kasher said, pointing to his cleverly curated corner, where Marcella Cacciola’s “Brass on Tin,” 2013, was paired with a tableau of 1870 cartes des visite portraits of students at a blind academy. Cacciola’s work, an assemblage of contemporary tintypes featuring face-on, close-up portraits of street jazz musicians in New Orleans, evokes a memorializing quality similar to that of the small albumen prints from 1870, which had also been arranged as a grouping.
Portraiture was alive and well, with some fantastic inclusions from Julie Blackmon, at Robert Mann Gallery, of her seemingly stylized vignettes of nuclear families, and Song Chao, at M97, whose shots of mine workers read as political statements that are visually reminiscent of work by Michael Halsband.
The conversation between contemporary and classic could best describe the wares on offer at AIPAD — and not simply because vintage photo dealers sat snuggled beside crossover galleries. Take 798 Photo Gallery, for example, which arrived from Beijing with up-and-comer Zhang Wei, whose series “Artificial Theater” is a mixture of old and new techniques and subjects. By referencing Renaissance portraiture, such as the work of Leonardo DaVinci and Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, Zhang layers composites of computer-generated imagery of women’s faces and bodies to create a final black-and-white image that feels entirely familiar but in fact has never existed. Similarly, Ysabella Lemay, who was introduced to the market through Santa Fe’s Verve Gallery, stood out at Catherine Edelman’s booth with her “Photo Fusion” series, which slyly combines black-and-white nature shots with overlaid almost-surreal flora and fauna in vivid colors. Lemay’s works veer on kitsch but her many layers remain subtle and delicate, especially in how they pop off their Plexiglas mounting.
Non-traditional photography materials were in full force, seen in work by Kamil Vojnar, whose small haunting images are printed on canvas at Verve, and Timotheus Tomicek, whose moving photographs are singular images that sway. The latter’s “In Sync,” 2014, with two flames flickering, is a clear reference to Gerhard Richter’s “Two Candles,” and is tucked in the corner of Jenkins Johnson’s booth.
Yossi Milo swapped his usual people-focused offerings for complex textural works, including Chris McCann’s modernist mash-ups with burns and slashes a la Yves Klein’s “Fire” paintings and Lucio Fontana’s signature oeuvre. But the radical constructions of Marco Breuer, which relinquish the use of a camera and instead are hand-wrung manipulations of material, speak to the medium pushing its own limits, a phenomenon that lately has taken an institutional center stage — the recently shuttered MoMA “New Photography 2013” exhibition is one such example.
Of course, AIPAD offers plenty reminders that the origins of photography are still are as edgy as ever. Work from the 1870s by Charles Marville, on view at Hans P. Kraus, are sensitive sepia-toned albumen prints that serve as proof that the five classic principals of photography — frame, balance, light, perspective, and tone — render timeless images. With many booths transparently labeling work and even disclosing prices, AIPAD epitomizes the convivial fair-going experience — which, perhaps like the medium itself, hardly lacks for variety but certainly retains its focus.