Photography has been chasing painting since its invention, or so the story goes. But not so at AIPAD this year. Art fairs give viewers a lot to look at in a limited space; they give us a snapshot that is as much about economic bottom lines as about artistic horizons. The closer those two extremes get, the healthier the medium. Images like the following, to me, close the gap.
Light is photo's material muse, and it was a show stopper in two photos by James Welling at David Zwirner's booth. Welling went to Philip Johnson's famed Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, and shot prismatically gorgeous, blown-out images like the ones you see here, on site, using gels but no manipulation post capture. What results is a triple threat: someone else's art from the past (Johnson's), inside a work of contemporary art (Welling's), that's about the medium itself (photography).
Roman Signer-esque ephemeral gestures were captured on film by Finland-born Inka Lindergård and Swedish-born Niclas Holmström, who released a highly reflective powder into the air by the beach at night and made it look like mist caught in the camera's flash. On view at Grundmark Nilsson Gallery, both are under 30, and the fun they seem to be having fixing light onto paper is palpable.
Swiss-born artist Beatrice Helg (who showed at Joel Soroka Gallery) makes somewhat more ponderous images but with a nicely evasive shimmer in a series that, appropriately enough, is entitled “Crepuscule” (Twilight). The metal plates nest within one another as if on a proscenium stage set, and the corrosions are the result of the artist playing with acids and such before making the shots. Scale? Context? Who cares. Helg's facility with conveying visual weight (think: abstract oil painting) render questions like these moot.
Likewise, Lauren Semivan, brought by Bonni Benrubi Gallery, blurs the lines between fine art and photographic art — quite literally. She makes ephemeral drawings in charcoal on the wall, photographs them, erases them by wiping down the wall, and starts again. The photos last; the drawings don't. We'll be hearing more from this young, Detroit-based artist.
And finally, in deference to the art of the photogram, that early, boundary-crossing process, we get an embarrassment of riches at Alan Klotz's booth in the form of Theodore Roszak's geometric compositions from the late 1930s. Museum curators buy them because they know that artists (like Roszak, who is better known for his sculptures) often prefer to work in more than one medium, and that all are equally valid — and valued. Those who have an eagle eye for tracking an artist's vision, no matter the material in which it's expressed, beat the market at its own game.