This major survey exhibition of Idris Khan’s work at The New Art Gallery Walsall features many of his significant bodies of work drawing from his range of interests from classical music to religion. Khan works with photography, sculpture, film, painting and installation adding layers upon layers to conceal and reveal.
As well as his earliest work White Court (2001), a photograph of a squash court taken at his former primary school in Walsall where his mother use to play, there are new sculptural works, seen for the first time. The exhibition is a quiet, sublime, sensitive and immaculate monochrome display.
Paris Photo, in its 20th anniversary year, was an inspiring, mesmerising and hectic celebration of all things photography. It was wonderful to experience the fair and all the participating events, galleries and museums around the city in such a vibrant atmosphere after the horrific attacks and tragedy of last year.
The fair included over 180 galleries and publishers in the most beautiful of spaces, the Grand Palais. On entering one is in no doubt that one is at the largest, most prestigious and important photography fair internationally. Amongst my favourite galleries Gagosian, Flowers, Purdy Hicks, Hamiltons and East Wing stood out. The fair showcased work by the most established galleries and masters of photography as well as smaller and more emerging galleries and photographers. Walking and negotiating yourself through the very busy isles and stumbling across photographs by Cecil Beaton, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Weegee and Sally Mann, to name but a few, was such a treat. The fair was a hotbed of the very best in photography old and new.
Paris Photo 2016
As well as the commercial galleries Paris Photo offers so much more and ‘The Pencil of Culture’ exhibition was a highlight. The exhibition included 100 remarkable works drawn from the Centre Pompidou designed to tell the story of its acquisitions. The institution has over 400,000 prints in its collections, one of the most important photography centres in the world. Andreas Gursky, Sherrie Levine, August Sander and Allan Sekula were amongst those on display. The title of the exhibition ‘Pencil of Culture’ refers to the progression of photography from Fox Talbot’s Pencil of Nature and remarks on photography’s progression to become an indicator of culture.
The fair, the participating galleries, curated spaces and the photo books space, which was a hive of activity, were a significant reflection on the changes in photography, photography consumption and audience engagement.
On venturing outside the fair and to three of my favourite spaces for photography I visited Le Bal, Jeu De Paume and Maison Europeene de la Photographie, all of which had the most stunning, unique and fascinating exhibitions.
Le Bal was hosting ‘Provoke’ an exhibition of Japanese photography from the 1960s which took the audience through political and social change and tensions via documentary photography and the back lash from art photography at that time. The exhibition was dynamic in its curation and mixed media and a feast for the eyes and senses informing us so much about Japanese society at that time. Jeu De Paume had the equally provocative and extraordinary ‘Uprisings’. This exhibition asked the audience member, what makes us rise up? The exhibition explored upheaval, tension, burden, unrest, insurrections and condemnations without scenes of aggression and violence. Both exhibitions showed people in solidarity through times of conflict and the essential role that photography plays as document and vehicle for change.
Maison Europeenne de la Photographie had five remarkable exhibitions, too many to see in one visit. Focussing on two solo exhibitions in the museum, the photographs of Andreas Serrano celebrated his portraiture and the way in which he depicts our troubled times through the people he chooses to photograph. His America series featured portraits of Ku Klux Klan members, beauty queens and many individuals of post 9/11 American politics and society including Donald Trump. The series made in his native Cuba were portraits of the beautiful, eccentric and bizaar. All were contemporary, loud and troubled portraits and yet evocative of the oil paintings of portraits by old masters. Works from his ‘Sign of the Times’ were also exhibited, a series of large scale portraits of homeless people, also exhibited were their signs as messages for help.
In huge contrast was Harry Callahan’s ‘Aix-en-Provence’. This exhibition featured the photographer’s black and white photographs from the late 1950s when he secured a sabbatical from his teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago and settled in Provence. He photographed figures moving through the lights and shadows of the old town reminiscent of a scene from a Hitchcock film.
Paris Photo will never disappoint but 2017 was a remarkable year and befitting of an anniversary.
Ewen Spencer’s ‘Kick Over the Statues’ at Fabrica for Brighton Photo Biennial is an energetic, atmospheric, statement exhibition. Spencer is known for shooting for visually driven style magazines, focusing on youth culture and creating artwork and campaigns for bands such as The Streets and The White Stripes. The photographer created this work during the summer, along the streets of London’s Notting Hill Carnival, setting out to celebrate the culture, style and subcultures.
The exhibition is an honest depiction of youth culture and the streets. Here subculture is in the hands of the young, as they take and reinterpret the youth cultures of the past, re-appropriate, occupy the streets and urban spaces and fill them full of colour, energy and atmosphere. The space at Fabrica is curated to show the work as a visual, imposing feast, jauntily dominating and creating an unnerving but very enjoyable experience.
The exhibition, hosted by Brighton Photo Biennial at the Brighton University Gallery, seeks to distinguish the historical and contemporary expressions of the Black Dandy phenomenon in popular culture. This project features portraits of black young men who defy stereotype and our understanding of masculinity within the Black community. It intersects class, ideology, ethnicity and style.
The subjects are all black men yet they are diverse in ethnicity. They are photographed in in city-landscapes across three continents in a mix of Victorian fashions and traditional African fabrics. The project is not specific to locations or communities and acts as a visual counter argument to what has previously been embraced by the mainstream. The exhibition provokes and celebrates and is beautifully presented.
The Peter Kennard exhibition at mac, Birmingham, entitled ‘Off Message’ is a retrospective featuring works from 1968 – 2016, curated by Craig Ashley. The works featured are testimony as to why Kennard is considered one of Britain’s most important political artists.
Off Message, mac Birmingham
Kennard uses recognisable images, often from the media, works with them to ensure they become powerful, often unacceptable representations of war, politics and the impact of weapons and political decisions. An image of a broken missile, which can be seen in the exhibition, is perhaps the artists most famous work, a 1980 photo-montage he produced for the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
The exhibition and the work is as relevant today as it was when it was created and many of Kennard’s recent collaborations, including with Banksy, further evidence his relevance today.
The William Eggleston Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery features 100 works from the 1960s to the present day. Although small, and left wanting more, the exhibition is momentous and both the big and small moments captured hold significance. Eggleston’s pictures are the portraits of a place and time.
Born in Mississippi Eggleston photographed the south, the colour and the temperature. The exhibition starts with black and white photographs but even then Eggleston says he was thinking in colour. The earliest colour photograph is ‘By God it all Worked’ (1965) which was a joy to see. The boy pushing trolleys in the early evening heat and sunset, his golden hair, the metal trolleys and metallic reflections is an intimate story of an everyday scene.
Eggleston’s photographs are of the mundane and the eccentric lifestyles, they are psychologically ambiguous and show the shifting, changing, developing world. As to be expected the exhibition shows how much he was a pioneer and master of colour.
This exhibition at Spike Island brings together multiple strands of the artist’s research and practice in an engaging and monumental exhibition that includes existing and new work. It is the artist’s largest exhibition to date and it lays bear much of Whipps’ working methodologies including in depth research and the archaeology of image and material.
This is not a photography exhibition but the history and methods of photography support and form the basis of much of the content. The process of setting an image, the photograph as document is presented against a world that is changing, where progress is made and new technologies and industries interupt. In the exhibition archival material, photographs and objects trace the histories of three types of stone. The exhibition grows out of years of research, includes works made over the last 10 years, alongside new works including a new film work that attempts to bring the strands together and act as the core.
The title Isle of Slingers, is Thomas Hardy’s name for the Isle of Portland in Dorset, a place of unique geology. His naming derives from sixteenth century accounts of the islander’s skill of slinging stones at strangers and visitors to keep them away from the island.
The major exhibition at Tate Modern examines the relationship between photography and performance, from the invention of the medium through to social media projects. There are those that documented performance formally and for the artist’s record, such as Shunk-Kender for Yves Klein from the late 1950s to the early 70s; those who used photography as part of their performative practice such as Dan Graham, through to collaborations with performance artists, performing icons and actions and photography as self-portrait through to mass photography and Instagram.
There are themes but they are broad, rich and varied. There are five rooms that make up the exhibition taking you on a journey from Nadar’s studio through to Amalia Ulman’s Excellences and Perfections project from 2014 that was made on Instagram using selfies and captions to create fiction and a changing identity. Just outside the exhibition, on the entrance wall, is a large photograph taken from Romain Mader’s 2012 series Ekaterina, a series that features his smiling bride, a fictional story of snapshots to chronicle lives or in this case imaginary lives and a relationship that never took place.
The exhibition at Media Space, Science Museum, tells the story of the invention of the negative-positive process, and the transformation of photography. Talbot’s revolutionary experiments and invention see him presented as the father of the photograph. The exhibition is informative, shows a wealth of important works from the collection and demonstrates Talbot’s ambitions and mission, as well as the work of some of his contemporaries including Anna Atkins, Louis Daguerre, Hill and Anderson and Clavert Jones. The display reveals the extent and impact of Talbot and includes the first publication illustrated by photographs, his Pencil of Nature, and his iconic, seminal early masterly works from the 1840s. The Science Museum presents the invention and subsequent work as science, industry and art innovation and the narrative as the indexical capture of nature and document.
The large exhibition, curated by Martin Parr at Barbican in London, provides a snapshot of Britain from the 1930s to 2014, seen through the eyes of international photographers (that is photographers from overseas). There are 23 photographers in number many of which are looking at the big occasion and cliches in Britain, and often in London, including the business man in bowler hat, the royal event, the sports championship, urban decay, industrial communities, swinging 60s London, union jacks, red telephone boxes, glass milk bottles and other such quirks. Then in the works exhibited, made in more recent years, the faces affected by life, industry and poverty and the homogenised high street and way of life.
British photographers at this time were making work that was quite different, high fashion shoots and celebrity portraits, and more quietly by the 1960s a more humanistic realism that showed the truer streets and communities of Britain. There is lots of great work to see here, and often photographs not seen before by many icons of street photography, accompanied by a stunning array of photo books. Amongst my favourite works were Hans van der Meer’s pictures of local football matches in the north of England, depicting a cold, misty Sunday morning, community amateur football with the hills of the peak district in the background. A further favourite were Garry Winogrand’s quieter streets of London and surburbia and the humorous gesture and witty moment captured as a less energetic version of his New York photographs.