Photo London 2016 Assertively Swaggers After Last Year’s Experiment
This year’s Photo London moves with swagger after last year’s experiment, asserting itself as an international event of note, clear and focussed rather than brash, assured rather than overproduced. The majority of the works on display are, on the whole, still saleable, but most galleries are playing less safe than they did last year, showcasing some of the work about which they seem excited, as well as those pieces they can be sure of banking on. The setting, at Somerset House, gives the enterprise a site-specificity lacking with some of the other international photo fairs, allowing the visitor to flow through a space with a sense of trajectory, rather than through a non-descript grid in a convention/exhibition hall . Photo London is still a blue-chip fair, competing with major rivals in Paris and New York, but, perhaps because it’s still new, and perhaps because we don't’ really do photography that much in London, it has more charm to it, and less to prove.
As one enters the courtyard, the new Pavilion houses major galleries with major work. London galleries include Hamilton's, Hackelbury, Daniel Blau and Atlas, all showcasing their heavy hitters. Walking around the ground floor, many of the exhibitors display interesting work in the corridors. Christophe Guye Galerie (C3) have some interesting work by young Korean hot-shot Ina Jang.
Ina Jang, "Untitled" | 2015 © Ina Jang / Courtesy Christophe Guye Galerie
Christophe Guye also have an excellent selection of Stephen Gill work, a pleasure to view on the wall as well as in a book.
Stephen Gill, "Untitled", from the series 'Talking to Ants' 2009-2013, © Stephen Gill / Courtesy Christophe Guye Galerie
Opposite, also in the corridor, Howard Greenberg (C7) have an interesting set of still lives shot by Joel Meyerowitz to document objects he found while in Giorgio Morandi’s studio, he, great painter of still lives. Clever and neat.
Joel Meyerowitz, Morandi’s Objects, 2015/ © Joel Meyerowitz / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery
French establishment In Camera Galerie (F7) have some interesting work by Jean-Christian Bourcart within their space. Referencing FSA work, but overlaying poignant, poetic text onto the images, Bourcard wades in the waters of photographic mythology.
Jean-Christian Bourcart,"Untitled 38" | The dawn came, but no day 1939 - 2015/ ©Jean-Christian Bourcart courtesy in camera galerie
Flowers Gallery (F4) have set out an airy and breezy space by one of the balconies on the first floor. Using its architectural features tastefully, this stand illustrates the special quality of using a building like Somerset House, as it allows work to breathe, and be stumbled upon. Columns are used to hang small prints from Michael Wolf’s vernacular Hong Kong work.
A partition wall is used to hang a montage of Julie Cockburn’s embroidered photographs.
Most successful is an installation of an Esther Teichmann work, featuring an image as wallpaper pasted, as well as an enigmatic bathing nude, framed and matted.
Galerie Thomas Zander (A2) pull out all the stops with their space, showing an abundance of work. In the corridor, 18 prints from the wonderful ‘Given Names’ project by Dieter Meier, in which he photographed pedestrians in New York, then gave them invented names, foregrounding, in so doing, the power inherent in the act of naming, but also the anchoring potency that text can give to an image.
Dieter Meier "Given Names" | Given Names (Portfolio of 18 silver gelatin prints) 1970/ © Dieter Meier courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne
Inside their space, a wall of images (70 of them) from Tod Papageorge’s "Studio 54, New York" series, one of the photobooks of the year in 2015. It’s an impressive display.
Tod Papageorge, "Studio 54, New York" 1978-1980,© Tod Papageorge, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne
Do not miss Anrea Grützner’s really magical work at Robert Morat Galerie (A4). Abstract compositions of commonplace interiors, her work is a joy.
Anrea Grützner, "Erbgericht 7" | Erbgericht 2013 Courtesy of Robert Morat Galerie
Eric Franck FIne Art (B2) have some outstanding portrait work from the wonderful Tom Wood, and the now seminal ‘On a Good Day’ series from Al Vandenberg, now finally a publication to coincide with the fair, published by Stanley Barker. It’s such a great shame that Vandenberg only recently died.
Tom Wood, New Brighton, 1985/ Eric Franck Fine Art
Al Vandenberg, From the series’ On a Good Day’ 1977/ Eric Franck Fine Art
There’s a much better selection of work in this year’s ‘Discoveries’ section. Roman Road (D5) are showing Anthony Cairn’s ‘LDN’ work, in which the artist photographs London as a site of perpetual change. Although the photographs, in themselves, are pedestrian snapshots (probably the point), the process (the title of Roman Road’s selection here) , whereby Cairn’s 35mm transparencies are part-developed, solarised, and then re-developed before being printing onto pre-coated aluminium sheets, do create fascinating images.
"Antony Cairns: LDN, Installation View" | 2016 Roman Road
Also in the discoveries section is some strong work at Turkish gallery X-Ist particularly in the images of Ahmet Polat. A dynamic selection here, empathetic and well observed.
My discovery of the year, though, came at the Rolf Art stand, also in the Mezzanine. An Argentinian gallery located in Buenos Aires, they have managed, in a relatively small space, to curate connections between 3 of their represented artists in ways that are both subtle and poetic. I will be eternally grateful for having been shown, here, the work of Humberto Rivas, a legendary figure in Argentinian photography that, I now realise, I should have known more about. A photographer of urban landscapes, the images on display here, street corners in both B.A and Barcelona, are really masterful; subtle, pregnant, poignant-utterly special. Other images of Buenos Aires’ shop-fronts and street corners from other artists dovetail nicely, particularly a fantastic image from Marcos Lopez, whose work Parr-like in its use of colour and exploration of kitsch, but also uniquely South American.
Humberto Rivas, "Untitled" | Landscapes 1982 courtesy of Rolf Art
Marcos López, "Red Corner" | Tristes Trópicos 2003 courtesy of Rolf Art
There is, of course a lot more to see, including some excellent commissioned exhibitions; even further reason to visit.
Words/Photos Kerim Aytac © Artlyst 2016