We’ve long looked to the Los Angeles area as a beacon for what’s new in film and streetwear, but LA increasingly takes the lead in art and culture as well. As we enter a new year, we look to Southern California to see what’s happening in photography, from art fairs to museum exhibitions. We look back to see how scientific documentation unfolds, and how a queen embraced the world of photography, and we look forward to see what’s new on the scene.
In 1839, the world’s first commercial telegraph line came into operation, the Boston Morning Post recorded the first use of the word “OK,” and Louis Daguerre took the first photo of the moon and received a patent for his camera. It was the year that the medium of photography was announced to the world, and the young Queen Victoria was a convert; she started collecting photos in the 1840s. A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography(February 4-June 8) highlights the queen’s passion for photography and includes daguerreotypes, portraits of the royal family, and prints by Julia Margaret Cameron and Roger Fenton, among others. Also on view is Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense, which brings together three series by the artist — habitat dioramas, wax portraits, and early photographic negatives. Offering objects of cultural and historical significance, Sugimoto explores the way the past ceaselessly impacts the present.
Collecting is a personal art: we gather that which is meaningful; that shows us a way of making sense of the world. Marjorie and Leonard Vernon’s photography collection encompasses 3,600 images that span the entire history of the medium. Two hundred and twenty of these images — all of which are now owned by the museum — are on view through March 23 in the exhibition See the Light — Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, which uses a historical perspective to showcase parallels between photography and science over time.
Rich with photography and video installations of various kinds, the museum is showcasing local talent in Staking Claim: A California Invitational. This second in a triennial series highlights work being done by 16 photographers living and working in California; all work was done within the last five years and is on view through January 26.
As we’ve gone from wondering what is out there to documenting what we find out there, photography has played a vital role in our shifting perceptions of the universe. At the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, about 100 miles north of LA, images drawn from the collection examine the connection between science and photography in Heavenly Bodies (February 22-May 25). Focusing on images of astronomical subjects, the exhibition spans the period from the 19th century through today, showing us that our viewpoint and means of documenting may change — but our curiosity about the world only increases.
LA’s longest-running photographic art fair, photo la celebrates its 23rd year by moving to the downtown LA Mart, the city’s new destination for art and culture. Works from the 19th century through the present will be shown in the 60,000-square-foot Exhibition Hall. Lectures, roundtable discussions, and tours also will be available. One highlight: The fair will honor celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland, who has shot more than 2,000 assignments and 600 celebrities.
From Eugène Atget’s cool elegance to the bleakness of Dorothea Lange, the images in the Classic Photographs fair run the gamut. Programs include curator tours and complementary XRF analysis. Twenty-six galleries and dealers are included in this event, which has grown from a small art fair in 2010 to the comprehensive program it is today.