SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
JANUARY 19-22, 2006
Presenting its fifteenth installment this year, photo l,a, has matured into one of the better art photography trade fairs in the United States. Improving on last year's event with its overabundance of conventional or gold chip photography, this year's fair featured more contemporary and diverse work. On opening night, the fair was packed with collectors seeking new discoveries and a large public audience filled the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for the remaining three days of the fair. The seventy-three exhibitors seemed generally pleased with the response and the business being conducted.
There were countless works to peruse. Current Aperture and Flash Art favorites Lisa Sarfati and Loretta Lux graced the walls of the Yossi Milo (New York) booth. Lux's unusual portraits of children are compelling, but Sarfati's C-prints of young American adults have an overdone, Nan Goldin feel. Sze Tsung Leong's large C-prints continue the popular international investigation into bleak urban landscapes as another well-worn post-modernist theme. Photo-eye (Santa Fe) presented dye coupler prints by Doug Keyes, whose images of artists' books are cagey and art smart. A similar eye candy experience was found at the booth of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art (Santa Fe), which was devoted mostly to Michael Eastman's strikingly large-scale, C-prints of interiors from ruined Cuban villas, as well as his dramatic vistas from his "Vanishing America" series (2005), and his most recent inkjet landscapes.
A number of artists pointed their lenses at action figures, models, or artificially created landscapes and interiors as point of view or subject matter. The use of kitschy, plastic figurines by artists seems to be reaching a crescendo. The Stephen Cohen Gallery (Los Angeles) exhibited artist Tracey Snelling's Convenient (2005), an ingenious tabletop model of a drive-in movie theater. The movie screen is a laptop computer screen playing a program of random images. From G. Gibson Gallery (Seattle), Lori Nix's appealing C-print Paradise (2001) seems to be either a re-photograph of an existing artificial landscape with a waterfall or a shot of a model or poster. Either way, the engaging image works well because of its unrepentant cheesiness.
Represented by Charles Guice Fine Art Photography (Berkeley) is the video Winter in America (2005). This fine work by Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi uses action figures left behind by a murdered relative, which brings an unspoken gravitas, taking it beyond the infantile and superficial into a very different realm of experience. Guice also exhibits strong work by Carrie Mae Weems, especially Black Love (Triptych) (2003).
There were other quirky surprises around the corner from Guice. From Michael Dawson Gallery (Los Angeles), Claudia Kunin's series of anaglyphic prints "Ghost Stories" (2005) require 3-D glasses. …