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Joe Shore, Marilyn Monroe (In shorts), 1952 © Joe Shore and Fahey/Klein Gallery, LA
Joe Shore, Marilyn Monroe (In shorts), 1952 © Joe Shore and Fahey/Klein Gallery, LA

Sohei Nishino’s Diorama Map San Francisco, 2016 is a good metaphor for photofairs San Francisco which debuted recently. The pleasure of them both – the Nishino and the photo show – was incremental, built up of many impressions, collectively producing a unique and unexpected experience. The work had been commissioned by and was viewed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at the fair with Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery. The Unseen Eye made several visits to this new art fair and is pleased to offer a positive report.

There were about 40 galleries set up in The Festival Hall at Fort Mason overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Some were familiar from the New York- London-Paris circuit like Edwynn Houk, Robert Koch (with fresh captivating color photographs by Trent Davis Bailey), Robert Mann, James Danziger (with Paul Fusco’s powerful R.F.K. funeral train series), and Wolfowitz (with Ed Burtynsky and the Eye’s personal favorite, the ingenious Jim Campbell) and Peter Fetterman, Fahey/Klein, and Beijing’s Three Shadows. Berlin’s CAMERA WORK chose this occasion to make its US photo fair debut with enormous prints, dwarfing their already sizable Martin Schoeller portraits.

At the center of the fair was an installation titled “Insights: New Approaches to Photography since 2000” curated by Allie Haeusslein, Associate Director, Pier 24 Photography, and Alexander Montague-Sparey, who directs both photo fairs Shanghai and San Francisco. He should be commended for both, heightening interest in the Pacific Rim photo market. Haeusslein chose process-based, often camera-less, abstracted landscapes by California or West-coast artists like Matthew Brandt, Chris McCaw, Christine Elfman, John Chiara. Montague-Sparey selected less experimental international artists. The Insights were not always to the Eye’s taste, summoning up memories of Andy Warhol’s late 1970’s Piss Paintings, but it overwhelmingly declared the fair to be contemporary and forward looking. In particular, the Eye found the unique and disparate constructions by Brooklyn-based, Dutch artist, Sebastiaan Bremer’s to be eye-catching in their complexity and mix of media. Bremer is represented by Houk.

On opening night the space somewhat overwhelmed the installation, but by the weekend, when there were crowds, this seemed less of a distraction. Not only was the emphasis on new, but also on size, with some very big pieces on view like the enormous color Italian interiors by Turkish artist Ahmet Ertug  with Sinen Yoruk at Ellipsis Projects. One of the these was reproduced to monolithic proportion and served as the entrance piece to the fair and site of many “selfies” by fair attendees.

Ellipsis was one of four galleries in the Platform part of the fair making their US fair debuts. In this group, Mike Tam of New York’s Rubber Factory had Kate Stone, with writer Hannah Schneider and their collaged story telling about the disconnect of end of romantic relationships. East Wing from Dubai had Ikonics by Adrian Sonderegger and Jojakim Cortis who re-create famous photographs as studio miniatures which they then rephotograph. Their take on the William Eggleston Red Ceiling was a stunner, imagining what that original room might have looked like less close up, with the intense red and the karmic drawings fully illustrated. Shown here is their version of the 1945 Atomic Bomb Explosion press photo. Photofairs San Francisco proved to be a good introduction to a number of other galleries new to the Eye. Uniformly this is a younger generation of motivated, engaging and engaged dealers.

Steven Harris at M97 Gallery showed the artist Wang Nigde with magical washes of color or branches achieved with Dura-trans like strips of film arranged horizontally on a plain white surface so that light can project through and onto it. Not the most intimate stuff at the fair, but the most inventive.

Flowers Gallery from London and New York had Boo Moon who captures black and white landscapes that are moody and lyrical, and Tristan Hoare had Alejandro Guijarro’s graphically smart blackboard . Less abstract and more familiar was the strong grid of Todd Hido opposite Larry Sultan at San Francisco’s Casemore Kirkeby.

Ironically the handsomest, most impactful and resonant of anything at the fair were the black and white square format images by Matt Black at Magnum Photos, at once classic and contemporary. Black is fast emerging as a young Modern Master. All in all, photofairs San Francisco was a treat, off to a worthy and impressive start.


W.M. Hunt 2017

W.M Hunt is a photography collector, curator and consultant who lives and works in New York. He is a professor at School of Visual Arts and is on the Board of Directors of the W. Eugene Memorial Smith Found. His book entitled “The Unseen Eye” (published by Aperture) and focusing on his personal collection is one of the most intriguing compilations of photographs.

PHOTOFAIRS in San Francisco
January 27-29, 2017
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion
2 Marina Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94123

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