Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy 100th Birthday to Milton Rogovin!

Milton Rogovin by Alec Soth. 2004.

Sometimes life gets in the way of the art. This is one of the few plausible explanations of why Milton Rogovin, who turns 100 today, is not more widely know or celebrated than he is. I have been lucky enough to represent Milton’s work for the last few years and have put up a show that re-opens next week and runs through January 16. If you don’t get a chance to see it in person, I hope you’ll check out all the pictures on the Danziger Projects website. (Click here to view.) Hopefully you’ll see why he’s such a photographer’s photographer – a particular favorite of Alec Soth and Tanyth Berkeley amongst many others.

Rogovin’s pictures consist almost entirely of portraits of workers and the working class. His prints are nearly all a modest 8 x 10 inches – a size that suits his commitment to activism above art world recognition and his dedication to social issues, most notably the plight of the miners around the world; the decline of the American steel industry, and the struggle of the working people of his home town of Buffalo, New York.

This is not to say Rogovin is unknown. In 2007 he received ICP’s prestigious Cornell Capa Award and his work is in the collection of most major museums, but it would be fair to say he’s not a household name.

Deceptively straightforward, Rogovin’s photographs reveal a personal style that up-ends the usual balance between a great photographer and the subject. While most masters of photography wittingly dominate the picture, in Rogovin's work the subject commands equal strength. The photographic style is deadpan. The camera simply provides a stage for his subjects to present themselves as they see fit. Rogovin trusts them and their ability to present themselves as the unique individuals they are. Whether because of his respect and empathy for his sitters or the sincerity of his humanism and politics, this seemingly simple concept re-addresses the delicate balance of power between the observer and the observed.

Still healthy at 100 years old, Milton is celebrating his birthday with friends and family in Buffalo. So let’s salute an artist without artifice, a democrat of the darkroom.

Happy Birthday Milton!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Prints of Denmark

For the last five years, Danish photographer Thomas Bangsted has been creating these chaotic, strange, and memorable images. What I like about Bangsted’s work is that it seems so painterly in the way it evolves. Unlike most contemporary photographers Bangsted does not work in series – each work is quite unique, has its own size, and its own character. This does not mean I’m against seriality, but the non-seriality of Bangsted’s work is just one of its distinctive characteristics.

I’m not sure if there’s anything particularly “Danish” about the work (many of the pictures were taken in America and England). Unlike Dutch or German photography which seems to be flourishing, I'm not aware of a school of Denmark – but there is a distinctive grey light to Bangsted’s work and a moodiness that would not be out of place in a contemporary production of a play about that other famous Dane.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dutch Humor

A little Dutch humor. Photographer Jaap Scheeren, one of the contributors to "Dutch Seen" at the Museum of the City of New York, devised this pseudo scientific experiment in collaboration with fellow artist Hans Gremmen. It's a little difficult to follow exactly what it's all about, but whatever it is, I found it quite compelling! In Gremmen's words:

Is it possible to create a three dimensional colour separation? That was the question that triggered us (photographer Jaap Scheeren and me) to start this experiment. A bouquet of fake flowers was arranged as starting and striving point. The next step was to create four still lives of this bouquet: one in Cyan, one in Magenta, one in Yellow and one in Black. These still lives were photographed and merged into one image. In theory this should have been the same as the starting point, but in practice it became “Fake Flowers In Full Colour”.

I think the point is just to make an intriguing visual, playing with the conventions of 3-D, but what I like about the image(s) is that just when you think there's nothing new that could possibly be done with a particular subject, along comes something that's playful, intriguing, oddly beautiful, and original.

For those interested in exploring further, there's Scheeren's website, Gremmen's website, a lengthy Dutch text, and a place to order the book if you're still interested in digging further into this puzzle.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Magnum Xmas

First card in was from Magnum Photos with a large selection of Xmas and winter themed photos from which I've selected my favorites. Strangely for Magnum no credits were attached. I believe the one above is by Leonard Freed and was taken in 1958 which makes it pre-date Mario Giacomelli's famous series of student priests playing in the snow. The one of the inflatable Christmas figures behind a fence is by Martin Parr. Other than that we will have to make this a guessing game. The last picture in my edit is of two brothers meeting at Christmastime in 1963 after being separated for years by the Berlin Wall. The moment was captured by Ian Berry.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Season's Greetings

With a gallery owner, an editor in chief, and a teenage daughter in the family, it's never easy to find a Christmas card everyone agrees on. This year proved particularly challenging as my daughter's braces came off a week ago requiring a new visual. However, thanks to the trusty (albeit focus challenged) iPhone and the Matt Umanov guitar store on Bleecker Street where my son was trying out banjos, we came up with this e-card that everyone was happy with.

The family picture Christmas card seems a particularly American tradition. I think Europeans find it a bit embarassing - either deludedly self-promoting or too personal, but I think it's nice to see how people's kids are growing up or how Mom and Dad look hiking in Yosemite!

Our best card photographically had to be a picture of the kids taken by The Sartorialist a couple of years ago but he's been so busy with his book tour there was no chance of that this year.

Clearly the photos above are no great shakes aesthetically, but as the readership of this blog is a photographic one, send in your Xmas card photos to and I'll post a selection.

Happy Holidays!

J&J (&J) by The Sartorialist. 2007.

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Pioneers!

I guess I'll have to be content with being the first gallerist with a blog as the Fraenkel Gallery have beaten me to it on being the first gallery with an iPhone app. Congratulations to them.

On their app you can see current and future exhibitions, explore the work of gallery artists, order gallery publications, and find your way to the gallery via Google maps.

For the free download click here:.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Send in the Clones

After my experience last week of nearly touching the moon (or at least a piece of moon rock) I had almost given up on the chance to touch a miracle - when a woman in the park told me about a pair of cloned puppies who occasionally showed up in Central Park in the spot where our dog, Jenny, sometimes runs off the leash. A couple of days later, the dogs appeared, and while they were not very co-operative in posing together, they were indeed quite miraculous. A nearly identical pair of female twins (clones can only be the same sex) they were normal in every way, although according to their dog walker (below) they acted somewhat older than their age of 6 months.

I did, of course, pet them - reflecting on the many things that have occurred during the last few years that have changed our life in both small and large ways. I don't mind the idea of cloning beloved pets. There are not many medical, technological, or scientific breakthroughs that I have a problem with. But I'm still thinking about what the change from analog to digital photography means to us. What's worse? The drawers stuffed full of old snapshots or the outdated computers with pictures that have not been transferred or stored properly? What's better? The carefully assembled family album, or the beautifully organized iPhoto library? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Art Basel Miami - the quick rundown

There's no question about it, Art Basel Miami is bigger, better, zanier, and more unique than any other art fair I've participated in. It's energizing but also a real energy suck no matter how successful you are. However, I'm pleased to report we had a very successful fair, exceeding expectations. So sorry about the delay in the report, but there has been a lot of follow-up to do. This is good news.

Regarding the picture above, I kid you not. This is a finished booth at Art Basel Miami, as are the next four below. Click into them for a more detailed look and tell me what you think. This is contemporary art.

Given the above, it wasn't a huge surprise that our booth had a steady stream of traffic that made it, according to most reports, the most crowded booth at the fair. When asked to define the gallery's aesthetic, I sometimes answer that it's about the nexus of quality, originality, and accessibility - which is not the hippest place to be - but in contrast to much of the minimalism, conceptualism, and what sometimes I can only see as cases of a real Emperor's new clothes syndrome of art, it pays off.

Anyway, this is the Danziger Projects booth below.

Before the fair.

During the fair.

Nevertheless, I did steal away to look for good things for the blog. But with the vast array of works and galleries, it was paradoxically difficult to choose a top ten, but here goes. I've mixed media as the fair had less photography this year than in years before. I wonder whether this is an early sign of a trend of contemporary art galleries (as opposed to photography galleries) backing away from photographs.

Jorma Puranen from Galerie Anhave in Helsinki painted a board black and then went outdoors to photograph an icy landscape reflected in the shiny paint.

I've always liked the work of Beatriz Milhazes and was taken with this cheery collage at John Berggruen.

One of the better examples of Thomas Ruff's enlarged j-pegs. It's one of those "why didn't I think of that" ideas - but he did it first.

A portrait from Rineke Dijkstra's surprising new series of Liverpudlian ladies.

And one of the latest from Thomas Struth's "Museum" series.

I'm a sucker for Cy Twombly. This collage is from 1971.

A long shot and detail of the Taschen special edition of Norman Mailer's "Moonfire". Designed by Marc Newsom, there are only 12 copies - each with a different sample of lunar rock. This one - the largest - sells for over $1 million. It's the closest I've been to the moon, but I was sorry not to get to hold the rock and be able to say I had touched the moon.

The appeal of this is that it's sometimes how you feel at the end of the day.

And this painting my Mel Bochner is how you sometimes feel in the middle of the day. I also like the Yves Klein blue.

And last but not least, this large scale and show-stopping charcoal by Robert Longo. I was not the only person to appreciate this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bear With Me

Miami Beach on the morning of my departure. 12.7.09

Art Basel Miami Beach was a great success. So great that you'll have to excuse me for not blogging, but I literally did not have a spare moment and am now catching up with all the necessary follow-up. But you are not forgotten! A top ten, fair trends and observations, and pictures of our booth are coming! Stay tuned.