SEEN in Art / March 2014

As ASMP NY’s Fine Art Chair, I welcome this opportunity to write a monthly column about Art Happenings for ASMP NY’s new online magazine. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of fine art photography exhibitions, panel discussions, book signings, events, openings, and film screenings which occur in NYC every month. There is no way to include everything!! (That’s when Bing and Google are your best friends.) This curated column will, by necessity, touch upon only a very few of the many worthy events and will include commentary of things I’ve seen as well as current and future happenings.
One of the reasons we (ASMP NY and I), more than any other photographer organization, are committed to spending time covering Fine Art happenings is because I believe at the heart of every editorial & commercial photographer is a fine art photographer, which is what drew her/him to the field of photography in the first place. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fine art photographer, knowing what is being exhibited and shown is an integral part of being a successful photographer.

NYC was home to many (too many?) Art Fairs in early March! ASMP NY Board Member April Renae and I went to the The Armory Show where we met up with Fine Art Reviewer Pamela Jean Tinnen; Pamela had been recruited to be a tour guide for the show. We were treated to a wonderful discussion with the funny and charming Duane Michals as a panelist. We learned he loves books and doesn’t like exhibitions (although he’s had plenty.) He doesn’t believe the “giant” photos he sees exhibited in galleries work in books. He spends his money on buying books—which, he said, explains his wearing 50-year-old clothes. And, by the way, he still uses a rotary phone. The panel was moderated by Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Founder and Publisher, OSMOS.The other panelists were Christophe Boutin, OneStar Press, Paris and Anna Moschovakis, Writer, Translator and Member of the Ugly Duckling Presse publishing collective. Photographer Tamara Rafkin, visiting from Belgium, who will be exhibiting at OSMOS, gave me this heads-up.
After leaving the panel, we navigated the show where most of the photographs seemed to be printed for people with bad eyesight, due to their huge size. Spontaneously and independently, April and I joked the photographs were larger than our apartments.
Although, we didn’t see the entire fair, we were rewarded with visiting Ani Molnar, the first Hungarian gallery to exhibit in the history of the fair, which presented a site specific work by Estonian photographer Dénes Farkas. Dénes, whose work was exhibited at the Estonian Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, said his thesis was on André Kertész, one of my all-time favorite photographers, which seemed more than a happy coincidence.
The following day I visited the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) Show at the New York Armory. Maybe because it was smaller and quieter, the galleries and art seemed more accessible and rewarding. Maybe it was just because the art was more rewarding.
One of the highlights was Arne Svenson’s “The Neighbors” at the Julie Saul Gallery. Svenson, as you might recall, was sued by some of his Tribeca neighbors for invasion of privacy. Judge Eileen A. Rakower dismissed the lawsuit because “An artist may create and sell a work of art that resembles an individual without his or her written consent.”
© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.
Other highlights were Irving Penn’s “Earthly Bodies” at Pace/MacGill Gallery and Robert Kinmont’s “My Favorite Dirt Roads” at Alexander and Bonin
© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.
Last, but definitely not least, was feasting on several photographs at the Howard Greenberg Gallery. These included wonderful photographs by Walker Evans (printed in 1935), Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen as well as “Apartment Complex” by Edward Burtynsky. The Howard Greenberg Gallery also showed 4 sublime Saul Leiter’s at The Armory Show.
© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.
Non-photography art which, not for the first time, captivated me was AD Reinhardt’s black paintings at David Zwirner. I first saw this work when I was photographing at night and became excited to see work darker than what I was photographing. When is black truly black? When is it nuanced black? How can something so dark communicate emotion? I only have questions, not answers. Reinhardt is known for saying “Art is Art. Everything Else is Everything Else.” Non-photography art, which I had never seen before, which absolutely mesmerized me was James Castle at Peter Freeman, Inc. Castle, as I learned, was born deaf, in Idaho, and self-taught. His work was described as having been made as “found paper and soot.” “Found paper” was whatever he found in the general store his parents owned — such as the back of an oatmeal or match box. “Soot” came from the stove, which he wet with his saliva. Freeman gave out a beautiful 16-page foldout with Castle’s images and an excellent essay written by Joseph Grigely.
Some of the worthwhile art fairs I didn’t get to were Pulse, Independent, Last Brucennial, Fountain (with work by ASMP NY Member Stephen Mallon) and SCOPE (with work by Member Barry Rosenthal). Put them on your schedule for next year.
The most gratifying event I attended was a lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Members-Only lecture “Photography from the Museum’s Collection”  was given by Jeff Rosenheim, the Met’s Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs. As images were projected, Jeff gave fascinating commentaries (anecdotes, back stories, significance) on each photographer and the work. In addition to Atget, Evans, Brassai, Stieglitz, Strand, Levitt, Bresson, Arbus, Polidori and other well-known luminaries, he discussed photographs he acquired for the museum and its blockbuster exhibition on Civil War photography. This included Sojourner Truth’s portrait, prints of which she sold herself to raise funds for her many causes; this was the first time a photograph had ever been used for this purpose. 


An exhibition of Garry Winogrand’s photographs is scheduled to open in late June. Jeff, who studied with Garry, said his class was “the scariest” since Garry insisted the photographer was “responsible for every square inch of the picture.” Some of you may remember that in 2011, Jeff was on a panel, Curators and Dealers, with Howard Greenberg (Owner, Howard Greenberg Gallery) and Brian Wallis (Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator, International Center of Photography), which I moderated for ASMPNY. 
Thank you for reading! Looking forward to seeing you at some of these happenings and sharing more with you in next month’s column!!

Congratulations to Susan May Tell for receiving a MacDowell Colony Fellowship for the summer of 2015! Tell is an artist whose fine art photographs have been widely exhibited, collected and featured in solo museum and gallery exhibitions. Before choosing to only photograph personal projects, she was a successful editorial and news photographer who spent four years based in Cairo and four in Paris working for the New York Times, LIFE and TIME Magazines, followed by 10 years as a staff photographer and photo editor at the New York Post. A highly sought after speaker, portfolio reviewer and juror of fine art photography competitions and exhibitions, Tell is the Fine Art Chair of ASMP NY since 2008 and produces its acclaimed annual Portfolio Review. She is the Fine Art columnist for SHARPEN.

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