25 years of Photo LA is beginning to feel like we are witnessing the fair's quarter life crisis. As an event solely dedicated to the art of photography, this years' overall exhibit was less impressive than past with the exception of excellent programming and panels. Spending a total of four days at the fair itself allowed me enough time to peruse the aisles filled with galleries displaying salon style walls, vendors with crates of prints, art magazines or showcasing their latest product. Okay I might be over exaggerating but overall I left less enthusiastic about what I saw and more impressed with what I heard.
Their was an eclectic blend of interesting and relevant topics encompassing the photographer’s world during the four days in discussion ranging from social media, Latin America, music, Mapplethorpe, activism and more. “Rock in Photography” was moderated by Grammy Award winning and former Creative Director of Rhino Records, Hugh Brown with a panel made up of legendary music photographers like Guy Webster, Neal Preston, Alec Byrne and MJ Kim. All discussing the infamous stories that took place behind the scenes of their most iconic shots.
Art Critic & Curator Shana Nys Dambrot was the moderator during “Artists Take Issue: Photography and the Aesthetics of Activism." discussing documentary photography as a narrative to demonstrate the current political, socioeconomic, environmental climates. Filmmakers, Photographers and Mixed Media Artists included Zoe Crosher, Jay Mark Johnson, Austin Young and Osceola Refetoff.
One of the more relative discussions was on the impact that social media outlets such as Instagram is changing the way we discover art. “The Instagram Effect, How Instagram is Changing the Way We See Photography” was timely and necessary for more artists and content creators to hear. More and more articles are published revealing the way institutions use Instagram. Artsy recently published successful photojournalists ditching traditional methods to focus as Instagram as a key ingredient in gaining more exposure in their careers and developing their own branding, “From North Korea to Baltimore, Instagram Is Fostering the Next Generation of Photojournalists.”
“With over 400 million users, the site has seamlessly captured the speed and ease of mobile technology while at the same time couching itself in the cherished tradition of the craft of film, through it's use of "filters", many of which imitate classic film stocks. The focus of this panel will be to discuss how Instagram is changing not only the creation and distribution of photographs, but also the notion of what it means to be a "photographer". Questions such as, "are we now all photographers?" and "how do we differentiate between fine art, professional and amateur photographs on Instagram" will be explored. The panel will also consider the future of Instagram in relation to the ever evolving media landscape, with specific focus on moving image content.” - Ivan Shaw Executive Photography Director, Vogue.
Robert Mapplethorpe, the iconic photographer, is having quite a resurgence. Mapplethorpe was once thought as a "controversial" photographer exploring the male nude as a black and white photographic landscape. He was also well known for his often collaboration with close friendship and NYC Punk-Poet Goddess, Patti Smith. “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures” the documentary just premiered at Sundance, while the Showtime original series “Just Kids” based Patti Smith’s book is in development. Hollywood just announced the stars in Mapplethorpe's biopic cut to his upcoming photo retrospective with Getty/LACMA opening in LA March 15th 2016. The exhibit will be an in depth look at the work and life of Mapplethorpe, shedding some on the artist's enigmatic qualities. This display will be an exploration into the mind of one of the most influential modern masters of our time and not to be missed.
The panel "Beyond Good and Evil" was moderated by The Associate Curator of Department of Photographs at J. Paul Getty Museum, Paul Martineau and included panelists Ryan Linkof, Associate Curator for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures as well as Michelle Brunnick the Curatorial Assistant in the Getty Research Institute's Curatorial Department. Within 90 minutes they took us on a brief tour highlighting staples in Mapplethorpe's career and personal life. This will be landmark retrospective exhibition for both museums. The exhibition features work drawn from the joint Getty/LACMA acquisition of art and archives made in 2011 from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Curating the exhibition are Paul Martineau, and Britt Salvesen, curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings Department at LACMA. The two complementary presentations are designed to highlight different aspects of the artist’s complex oeuvre.The exhibition reexamines the arc of Mapplethorpe’s photographic work from its beginnings in the early 1970s to the culture wars of the 1990s, and features his most iconic images of portraits, still lifes, and figure studies alongside less-known photographs. It also explores his fascinating early drawings, collages, sculptures, and Polaroid photography; working materials from his archive; rare color photographs; and seldom-seen video works. Robert Mapplethorpe will be on view March 15–July 31, 2016, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, and March 20–July 31, 2016, at LACMA.
Strong original imagery and concise mini exhibits felt strong by the following : 1650 Gallery out of Echo Park, The Artist Corner Gallery, with their second annual “Round Hole Square Peg” exhibit, Duncun Miller, and Icon Fine Art with their display of Lisa Leone’s work, a look into old school hip hop culture with photos of Nas, ?uest Love, Grandmaster Flash, The Pharcyde and Wiggle Records. (Sorry kids)
In the age of where technology is no longer seen as a luxury but as a necessity, everyone with a smartphone is a photographer or sorts, Photo LA provides competitions like Focus for Emerging and mid level photographers where the winners are displayed for broader exposure and allowing the medium to be seen as it once was, a skill made up of composition, light, shadow and contrast. As a curator that deals with mostly photography its becoming more (painfully) obvious that there are fewer galleries, collectors and investors willing to back photographers than any other platforms (although all creatives have gripes when it comes to capital.) Overall with the docent tours, programming and exhibit the fair itself was pleasant serving is niche artist. LA Artweek in review next.