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AIPAD 2014: Through a photographer's perspective

AIPAD 2014: Through a photographer's perspective
"Starlight Trajectory" © Kevin Cooley, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

NYC-based photographer Timothy Pakron reviews AIPAD 2014 and the wider scope of photography in the art world today. 


The 2014 AIPAD photography show consisted of work from 80 of the world’s leading photography art galleries, beautifully presented at the historic Park Avenue Armory in New York City’s Upper East Side at the beginning of this month. The work presented was a wide range of museum-quality work, including contemporary, modern and nineteenth-century photographs, as well as photo-based art, video, and new media.  In comparison to the last two years, this year  stood out due to the high volume of experimental techniques creating one of a kind works. In previous years, AIPAD's focus seemed to be more steered towards modern and nineteenth-century photographs, with an emphasis on black and white photography. Overall, the 2014 show featured a wide range of bold and refreshingly unique contemporary and classical photography. 


Kevin Cooley's work was featured by the Kopeikin Gallery of Los Angeles. Striking photographs from his "Controlled Burns" series strongly held their space on the gallery wall.  Thick, billowing clouds of smoke captured in a single moment offer the viewer an insight and appreciation to a beautiful pattern and texture. Close by, a photographic quadriptych documents rocket exhaust transform into a seemingly perfect cumulus cloud. But it was "Starlight Trajectory", a unique photogram with a size of 40" x 105" that was one of the most exciting and unique works displayed at AIPAD this year. A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. In a controlled environment, Cooley, while attending his Bemis Center residency, created a body of photograms where the source of light was created by exploding fireworks. Using large sheets of color darkroom paper for exposure, the fireworks were set off. The exposed paper was then left to capture the energy and movement of the firework, while solarization creates unique colors. From a distance, the image itself is captivating and intriguing, with a strong composition and impressive scale. Upon closer inspection and with the process being revealed, one cannot help but be blown away by the staggering effort and creative genius that is behind this piece and it's family of work. 


"Controlled Burns" © Kevin Cooley, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles



Von Lintel Gallery provided a large body of unique work that left viewer wondering how exactly some of the pieces were actually photographs. Similar to some of the previously mentioned work by Kevin Cooley, photograms seemed to be the theme of Von Lintel Gallery's featured work this year. Klea McKenna's work displayed intricate and delicate photograms of rain drops on gelatin silver fiber paper. Across the gallery booth, Floris Neusüss's work provided the viewer with complex and sophisticated photograms that resembled abstract paintings. Composed of rich blacks and whites, sharp lines, and jagged edges, Neususs's work gives the viewer a taste of the amazing photographs that can be created without a lens or a camera. Here you can watch a video of the artist explaining more about his work and process.  


"Nachtbild (63)" by Floris Neusüss, courtesy of the artist and Von Lintel Gallery


"Nachtbild (71)" by Floris Neusüss, courtesy of the artist and Von Lintel Gallery



Julie Saul Gallery from New York displayed work by artist Tanya Marcuse, from her series "Fallen". The work featured was photographs of decaying fruit, flowers, and other plants. Standing back, the large scale and luscious palette gives the viewer the presence of a painting.  Moving closer, the sharp detail lets the viewer know it is indeed a photograph. In her own words, "I picture the garden: unruly, wild; lush with rot and overabundance.  The uneaten fruit of the tree lies decaying on the ground and floats down streams.  I try to create photographs perched between decay and new life, randomness and order, flatness and depth, the natural and the fantastical."


Fallen Nº 439, 2010, pigment print, 37 ó x 47 .” framed, ed. of 7, Image courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery


Fallen Nº 89, 2010, pigment print, 37 ó x 47 .” framed, ed. of 7, Image courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery



From Brooklyn based gallery, Klompching Gallery featured work by artist Jim Naughten from his "Hereros" series. Set in front of vivid blue skies, portraits of Herero tribe members of Namibia were documented wearing beautiful patch work dresses and pastel fabrics. These iconic photographs catch the viewers eye from a distance, inviting them to come in for a closer look. Naughten describes the work as such: "These portraits are not intended to serve as a conventional documentary of Herero culture. They do not capture the subject in a snapshot of everyday life nor with objects typical of routine or social station. Subjects are removed from their home and intentionally suspended in a confrontational posture. As such, their identity as Herero tribe members is reified in their garments and their gaze, a colour and vibrancy brought into acute focus by the contrasting setting." 


Herero Woman in Patchwork Dress, 2012 © Jim Naughten  Image: courtesy of Klompching Gallery, New York.


Herero Woman in Pattern Dress, 2012 © Jim Naughten  Image: courtesy of Klompching Gallery, New York.




AIPAD is a uniquely wonderful art fair in the sense that is dedicated to the medium of photography. Because of this, it allows the work to be more accessible to the viewer.  The contrast of all different types of mediums can be distracting at times at other contemporary art fairs. The level of uncertainty wandering around booth to booth, although exciting, can almost be unsettling. With AIPAD, there is a sense of relief knowing that photography is exactly what you get. And when the work looks as though it is not photography, it makes it that much more fun to explore why it is in fact a photograph. As an art form, photography will always need the opportunity for viewers to understand that the medium itself is a vast and comprehensive world of work that is constantly growing and changing. 


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