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Guest Blog by J. Sybylla Smith
Le Mois de Photo, the Month of Photo, organized by, the Maison Européenne de la Photo, (MEP) usually coincides with Paris Photo, but not this year. Going forward, it will be held in April. Nonetheless, an abundance of significant photography offerings were to be had outside Le Grand Palais during my November visit, and my wish list remained hefty. Here is the second of my two reports from 2016 Paris Photo – this one concentrating on events outside Le Grand Palais.
I attended a talk given by Andre Serrano at the Mona Bismarck American Center, supplementing his solo exhibit at MEP and providing insight into some of his seven bodies of work on view. America, his large-format color portrait series was inspired by his experience of 9/11.The Klan explored his fascination with masks and identity. Nomads began in Serrano’s words as a “polyphonic testimony to the poverty of our world”: he brought the studio to the street and took dignified portraits of individuals living there. Sign of the Times includes cardboard signs used to beg which Serrano purchased for $20 each. Move Art exhibited Residents of New York, in the 4th Avenue subway station and this engendered an invitation to photograph in Belgium. The resulting Denizens of Brussels, are displayed tacked to the wall in a reference to the transient nature of migration by refugees in cities worldwide.
MEP also hosted a charming and poetic Harry Callahan exhibit chronicling his first European sabbatical, predominantly in Aix-en-Provence. Exploring the graphic play of shadow and light, these silver gelatin prints represent a portion of the 130 prints he donated to this French museum.
Another delightful exhibit featuring an American icon was Avedon’s France: Old World, New Look at the Bibliothèque Nacionale de France, or BnF. The title references the remix of Proust’s Paris with the sculpted Christian Dior silhouette of post-war fashion. The exhibit portrays his deep affection for Paris, especially as the Visual Consultant to the movie Funny Face in 1956. Avedon’s work with Jacque-Henri Lartigue on his monograph, Diary of a Century, was included. Magazine spreads and covers from Egoiste, the creative incubator publication he worked for in the 1980’s, were also featured. The BnF exhibited donated work by an undiscovered photographer, Nicholas N. Yantchevsky, Lumiere sur la ville. These haunting and mysterious 1950 street images of Paris are a clear homage to Brassai.
Fotofever is an annual photo fair that occupies Paris Photo’s former exhibition space in the Carrousel Du Louvre. In it’s 6th year, it hosts 70 international galleries with a focus on encouraging collecting, with all works priced below €5000. It is informal and intimate. Photo Saint Germain features 15 days of exhibitions in 40 galleries and museums, with talks, guided tours and studio visits concentrated in this art-filled Left Bank neighborhood. I continue to be smitten by the luscious ambrotypes, a wet plate collodion process, utilized by Parisian photographer Eric Antoine and exhibited at Laurence Esnol. His beautiful new series is titled, Complexe de la Simplicité.
Traveling the city on the Velib bike system is especially conducive to stumbling upon hidden exhibits. I discovered Todd Hido’s, Intimate Distance, at La Galerie Particulére: a fresh narrative created by weaving selected works from series made over the past twenty years. Hido’s monograph of the same title was published in Fall 2016 by Aperture. My second surprise was a standout exhibit for this unabashed fashion photography groupie. Entre l’Art et la Mode (Between Art and Fashion) is a formidable selection from the extensive collection of Carla Sozzani. A gallerist, editor and founder of the Milan fashion mecca and concept store, 10 Corso Como, Carla Sozzani has a superbly discerning eye. The Galerie Azzedine Alaïa is a beautiful setting recessed in a cobblestone entrance whose rectangular cathedral-height lead and glass roof is a striking companion to these historic images. Lastly, the stars aligned to allow me to have a swift view of Joel Meyerowitz’s Taking My Time, Part 1. The Polka Galerie, tucked away in a gated courtyard was technically closed but took pity on this soggy biker. Meyerowitz’s impactful and witty images brightened the gray day.
The Centre Culturel Suisse and the Institue Suedois are favorite haunts in the Marais district. I attended a thought-provoking round table, Post Photography: A New Paradigm, hosted in collaboration with the Swiss Fotomuseum Winterthur, A wide range of photo luminaries weighed in on the compelling future of our medium. The Institute Suedois featured installation and large-format work by Swedish conceptual artist, Annika von Hausswolff, Grand Theory Hotel: a surreal exploration into her central themes of patriarchy, capitalism and the subconscious. Le Bal is a destination bookstore, cafe and gallery in the 18th arrondissement. It hosted Provoke: Protest and Performance – Japanese Photography in Japan 1960-1975. Four international museums researched 3-plus years to deliver this in-depth look at the impact of the cult magazine and the photographic reaction to social and political turmoil.
Lastly, a trip to the biannual Offprint Paris, the Art Publishing Fair in the Beaux-Arts de Paris is fun and fed my book habit with non-traditional publications. It is an offshoot of the permanent bookshop LUMA Arles and is host to 130 independent publishers.
If you are in the Boston metro region next week, you can enjoy a lively presentation highlighting the best of 2016 Paris Photo with Sybylla Smith and MFA, Boston curator Karen Haas at the Griffin Museum of Photography on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017. For information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/396552204020124/
Feature Image: 2016 Paris Photo outside Le Grand Palais (photo by J. Sybylla Smith).
J. Sybylla Smith is an independent curator with over 25 solo and group exhibitions featuring over 80 international photographers exhibited in the U.S., Mexico and South America. Smith consults with individual photographers and arts organizations to develop exhibitions, educational programming and written content including artist statements and marketing material. An adjunct professor, guest lecturer and thesis advisor, Smith has worked with the School of Visual Arts, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Wellesley College, Harvard University, and Emmanuel College. She lectures and conducts workshops on Concept AwareTM, her original creative framework for concept development.