Monday, September 22, 2003

  This evening - a look at 9 photography exhibits currently up at galleries on and below 25th street.

First on my itinerary (mapped primarily through pointers at the Photography Guide) was the Leica Gallery with an exhibit of B/W and color photography by Constantine Manos, a Magnum photographer, and the winner of the 2003 Leica Medal of Excellence. Leica never disappoints, staging stellar exhibits by high-caliber photographers year after year. In the black-and-white portion of the show is a selection of Manos' photographs from Greece, taken in the 1960s and 70s. Fragments of life in the countryside, unchanged for generations, are captured in all their quiet majesty. The mundane is incessantly paired up with the extraordinary. Warm and true, stoic and festive, the faces photographed by Manos have the echoes of Electras, Clytemnestras, and Medeas in them.

"Greece. Peloponnesus. 1964. Woman tending her goat", Constantine Manos. "Greece. Crete. 1964. Priest tending his vineyard", Constantine Manos.

The "American Color" section of the exhibit, full of late-afternoon sunlit sidewalks and inhabitants of Florida and California, appealed to me less. But they are undoubtedly masterful, witty and wicked photographs, bursting with color and personality, screaming with them. (Although not all of the images linked to above are part of Leica's exhibition, many that are just as spellbinding are.)

Next on the trip was the wonderful Joseph Jachna retrospective at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery. The various permutations of water are tightly packed into small, exquisite and refreshing prints. The photographs are lush and stylish, and the tiny gallery space makes for intimate and joyful encounters with them.

On to Yossi Milo Gallery for the latest installment of Shelby Lee Adams' "Appalachian Lives". Here, after maneuvering toward a narrow and discreet stairway that's squeezed on the sides by an auto body shop and a warehouse, you're in for a treat. There isn't a single false note in Adams' photographs, with every face terribly expressive. The rooster, the hen, and the cow - included. Although staged and elaborately lit, the pictures and the people appear real, genuine. They're soulful but, thankfully, not mawkish, or, worse, loaded with manufactured angst. The continuation of Adams' Appalachian series is fun, mischievous, and excellent. See more examples elsewhere online. By the way, at least a couple of Loretta Lux's pictures are also on display at Yossi Milo.

At the Klotz/Sirmon Gallery the new double-feature of Pavel Banka and Josef Sudek was still in the installation stage at the time of my visit. Sudek, of course, is always, always a joy. Light, effervescent and profound but short of frothy and forlorn. Well-known and oft exhibited, Sudek's treasures are unlikely to become obsolete or tiresome. Read about Sudek and indulge at leisure - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

There's a good selection of Banka's older images at the gallery's site. I was not smitten with the current offering up on display -- possibly because I looked too hastily at the large prints, obstructed by an installation ladder and a broken light. Klotz/Sirmon's announcement states that Pavel Banka will be in attendance at the opening reception on September 25th.

Photography by Josef Sudek

Over at the In Camera Gallery is a very energetic, gushing collection of B&W photographs of water and bathers by the Australian Paul Blackmore. All of the images can be viewed online but a visit to the gallery is in order to appreciate their great grain and experience being surrounded by this powerful cluster of prints.

Didier Massard is presently showing a group of gigantic conjured up landscapes at the Julie Saul Gallery. While the feat of constructing such elaborate and life-like mirages ought to be commended, the fact that sources of these images are polished maquettes is very apparent and, somehow, almost unpleasant. The smaller pieces are less imposing, more modest, and, nicer. In my view, the fabricated minutia of the landscape models are not interesting enough to warrant 47"x37" presentation. (On an unrelated note, has anyone else been irritated by a louder entrance door than the one at this gallery?..)

Up at the Pace/Wildenstein Gallery is a presentation of 76 (!) photographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. The gallery's space is vast (too high and wide, really), and the medium-size prints snaking along all of its walls haver a dizzying, onerous effect. The best among them are photos of the aging and infirm, as well as those with the motif of pairs of children and parents at the beach or in the countryside. Quite a significant number of pictures, I feel, perhaps, could have been edited out of the show without damage to its integrity. Many of the best ones seem to beg to be printed larger and displayed with more wall-space between the frames.

"American Typologies" by Jeff Brouws i currently on view at the Robert Mann Gallery. This too is a rather large show and one that is arguably more digestible thanks to its categorized and partitioned nature. Most of the photos can be previewed online, but, when possible, an eye-to-print encounter is still desirable. Though at this particular exhibit the majority of the images are not given the dignity of frames and (plexi)glass and are simply pinned to the walls. The offering is diverse enough to appeal in part or in full. Strangely enough, I preferred the color series of beautifully lit barns and whimsical multi-color California homes to the long an uneventful compilation of B&W gas station portraits.

My final visit of the day was to the new, lovely, and friendly Miller-Geisler Gallery, where the exhibition of Jocelyne Alloucherie's art happened to be surprising, inspirational and affirming at once. From the liberating three-quarters frames to the magic of tree shadows on pavement (for which I've always held the highest regard), this rare, for the U.S., look at Alloucherie's work reveals her creations as succint, sweet, and unique. This show, especially, is not to be missed.

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