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05 June 2007

Photo-London, Part I

Evan Mirapaul writes from Photo-London on June 2, 2007. The fair ran from May 31st to June 3rd.

A former 19th century fish market, Old Billingsgate was the site of the Photo-London fair this year. The closest thing we have to it in New York is the Lexington Avenue Armory, though Billingsgate is quite a bit smaller. This makes for a rather intimate fair (just 42 juried exhibitors). After having been to the behemoth fairs like Armory, Art Forum, Basel/Miami, and Paris Photo, the smaller scale was welcome and pleasant. At least on the days I went, the fair was not too crowded, and seeing the work on display was easy.

Several works immediately caught my eye. At Zebra Gallery (London) Julia Glover had a new take on stereoscopic images I found intriguing. She mounts stereoscopic viewers on matte board in a frame so it appears on first blush that the viewers are the Duchamp-like art.But when you step up and look into the lenses you find a voyeuristic look into dark, crowded rooms occupied by a man surrounded by the ephemera of whatever collection he has created. Entitled "Men Only", I found it very good and not a little creepy. The 3-D effect of the stereoscopic viewer makes one feel as if you are literally looking through a hole in the wall to spy on a private scene. Fascinating.

I suspect some readers will share my weariness at seeing so much Photoshop-created faux reality. Still, a few photos in this genre bullied their way into my imagination. Galeria Bacelos (Spain) is showing the work of Victoria Diehl. Ms. Diehl superimposes parts of a human figure with parts of decaying statuary. The net effect is haunting.Though the figure alone would be beautiful and the statuary alone would be perceived as beautiful, the combination is a kind of horror show. By using male and female models, Ms. Diehl effectively asks questions about aging, the nature of beauty, and what it means to idealize the form.

Another Photoshop work was created by Chen Chieh-jen. Best known for his video art, the Parisian gallery Alain Le Gaillard showcased his photography. Of particular note to me was his photo "Self-destruction 1927-1997". Mr. Chen inserts himself into an historical photo of Chinese civil war from 1927 mirroring the violence in the original photo by showing himself both being beheaded and beheading others. Chen has stated that he does not consider himself a political artist but an artist from a violent culture. He seeks to portray that violence which he feels is an indelible part of his self.

There was also "straight" photography that was of note to me. Many viewers will know the work of Helsinki school artist Jorma Puranen. Purdy Hicks Gallery (London) was showing some of these exquisite large-scale photos of reflections. Sumptuous.

The photo work of Sean Scully was beautifully presented at Ingleby (London).His "Walls of Aran" series was presented as both visually poetic and typological.

Both Purdy Hicks and and Ingleby had the work of Susan Derges.It seemed that this artist was being re-examined and reappraised, perhaps because the show is held the UK. Regardless, I like her work very much.

There was much more art to comment on. In the next installment I'll mention a few more artists, and provide an account of a fascinating panel discussion with Bill Hunt, Greg Hobson (from the National Media Museum , Bradford), Francis Hodgson (Head of photo dept., Sotheby's London), and Jeffrey Boloten, moderated by Anna Somers-Cocks (founding editor of "The Art Newspaper").

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