DATE: April 11, 2008
If you are a traditionally minded photography
collector, you should spend this weekend at the Aipad Show, the annual
fair by and for members of the Association of International Photography
Art Dealers. With more than 75 dealers from around the world, this
elegant expo presents thousands of pictures representing nearly the full
range of the history of photography. At the early end there are
mysteriously spectral mid-19th-century prints at Hans P. Kraus Jr. and
Galerie Daniel Blau. Many galleries are showing works by canonical
20th-century figures like Edward Weston, Walker Evans and Diane Arbus.
As for contemporary work, there is Jeff Brouws's
nocturnal 1993 picture of a Missouri motel's neon sign at Robert Mann.
Bringing us up to the present, A Gallery for Fine Photography offers a
major work completed just three weeks ago by Sandy Skoglund. A zany,
staged picture in vivid, synthetic colors, the approximately 5-by-7-foot
print depicts a boy, his parents and the family dog in a bizarre
wonderland with grass made of colored pipe cleaners, furry trees with
dancing legs and a family of pudgy mannequins covered in fake fur.
Most galleries display miscellaneous selections from their inventories,
which can make for an exciting experience. You never know what treasure
might be hanging just down the wall. Tucked in a corner at William L.
Schaeffer's gallery is one of the show's strangest pictures: an unknown
19th-century medical photographer's portrait of a handsome, bearded
young man with one shoulder transformed by a horrifying growth as big as
The show's random diversity can also be exhausting for the casual
visitor, as the many different genres on view — including fashion
photography and photojournalism, as well as fine art — begin to blur
together. There's a lot of repetition. Works by Aaron Siskind, for
example, are on view at more than 20 dealers.
It is a pleasure, then, to visit two booths that have organized small,
single-artist shows. Laurence Miller Gallery has a selection of works by
the great street photographer Helen Levitt. It includes amazingly
empathetic black-and-white pictures of children at play and examples of
her later work in color, like the image of a girl looking for something
under a car's avocado green tail with a sky blue Volkswagen bug parked
across the street.
In contrast to Ms. Levitt's lively urban poetry, a show at Pace/MacGill
presents dreamy photographs of rural subjects by John Szarkowski, the
much revered former curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art,
who died in July 2007. His work creates a soothing oasis of calm in the
midst of the busy marketplace. KEN JOHNSON
The show is open on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on
Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; (202) 367-1158, aipad.com.; $25.
By Ken Johnson, Roberta Smith, and Karen Rosenberg
For The New York Times