For my Contact Photo weekend, I’d expected the Sunday to be the shorter of the two – instead under the bright sun I was able to visit MOCCA, the remaining Queen Street galleries, the Gladstone, the Drake, drive across town to the Corkin, and still take a leisurely pace back to the airport.
Of the work I saw, there were only a few standouts, but they were well worth the trouble…
My vote for most under-appreciated were Wilma Needham’s prints at New Gallery, a space that was quite empty the two times I visited. The prints have a sense of disconnection and depth that, for me, made vivid senses of physicality, of mortality, and yet from them a great, simple beauty.
I was happily surprised to find that Ryoko Suzuki’s Anikora-seifuku prints were really as great as their size (and prices) might indicate – a benefit of their scale is that the photographic reproduction of the small hand-painted anikora dolls, when on a six-foot print, give the impression that the surface of the print itself has been painted. From the catalog I noticed that a few of these prints had already been tagged “sold” – the most conservative ones in my opinion, which gave me the impression that the buyers must have been institutions.
A bonus while at the Corkin was picking up a signed Photo Poche by Sarah Moon, who I have long admired and think of as one of the key figures, though she has never (afaik) used one, in the iconography of modern toy camera users.
At the Gladstone, the most appealing work was in the collective Exposed show – not across the board, but a few of the photographers there had compelling voices. One, Jimm Tran, showed work that was nothing like the event and wedding portfolio he displays on the web: instead he had a series of fantasy portrayals of “american dreamgirl” scenarios as created in a low-budget way by a young southeast-asian transvestite. One might think it just an épater le bourgeois gesture, but genuinely I found the work touching, a collision of impossible (or at least implausible) cultural and personal ambitions and expectations.
In the same show I enjoyed the color styling of Tammy Hoy, though her subjects seemed painfully reminiscent of artists like the Parke-Harrisons and obviously an iconic bowler hat borrowed from Magritte. A real standout were the fictographie prints of Jérôme Bourque. The other work in the group show was decent enough – perhaps becasue it was all part of a group and no one collection needed to carry the show. The other, single-artists shows at the Gladstone left me feeling cold, including the appealing surfaces of I Am Elvis – too slick, too designed to please, too Entertainment Magazine for my taste.
A curious aspect of a show like Contact is that, as I hear it, if you can set up photos in your garage and pay $400, you can hang a yellow tag outside and call yourself a Contact site. While this doesn’t fly well among the main gallery rows, I was surprised (well, not really) to find not far from the Corkin a small (and busy) gallery, complete with a Contact tag, full of photos that were classic, colorful photo.net standards – vine-surrounded doorways, archways, late-day-lit and person-less travel fare of old buildings in Provence (or was it Venice? Does it matter?). Who will sell more dollar volume by the end of the show – the $6k Suzuki prints or the $600 generica? Hmmm.