Now in its seventh year, Classic Photographs Los Angeles brings together galleries from across the United States to exhibit the best in both contemporary and vintage photographs. Taking place at Bonhams LA on the 30th and 31st January, the focus is, of course, on trade but the fair also serves as a meeting and networking moment for galleries and as an exhibition platform open to all. Over the next two Point 102 blogs we take you on a pick of some of our favourite images from the fair this year.
Alexey Titarenko’s atmospheric image of New York’s Morningside Park in northern Manhattan could be a still from The Exorcist. Two ghostly black figures, almost imprints or scorches on the snow instead of people, they seem to glow against the landscape. Titarenko had his first solo exhibition in 1978 but was only able to officially declare himself an artist in Russia during the height of Perestroika in 1989, he was also key in the establishment and organisation of dedicated photographic exhibition space Ligovka 99. Titarenko now lives in New York and his work is represented at Classic Photographs by Nailya Alexander Gallery.
John Schott’s image from the ‘Route 66 Motels’ series was made during the summer of 1973 on a road trip from the Midwest to California. Schott slept in the back of his pick-up truck during his time on the road which makes it ironic that his photographic gaze would turn to the motels he encountered on his journey. Although the photograph is Untitled it shows the El Rey Inn in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Inn opened as the El Rey Auto Court in 1936 with 12 guest rooms and is still open today with 86 rooms in keeping with the original Spanish colonial and Pueblo style. Schott is represented at the fair by Joseph Bellows Gallery.
This 1972 image from Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) shows the Twin Towers which had, only two years before this photo was taken, been finally topped off and named the tallest building in the world. The Hungarian artist started making photographs whilst working as a clerk on the Budapest stock exchange before moving to Paris in 1925 to pursue a career as a freelance photographer. Kertesz emigrated to New York in 1936 due to the difficulties of impending war and worked for much of his professional career as a commercial photographer. He spent his retirement re-focussing his attention on more personal interests and subjects and travelling to show his work internationally. Kertesz is showing as part of the Catherine Couturier Gallery portfolio.
Stephen Shore made this 1974 photograph of the corner of Twenty-First and Spruce St in Philadelphia at a pivotal moment in his career. Aged just 24 it was the year he was awarded a major solo exhibition at the MET consisting of 224 images made during a road trip across America. The museum went on to buy the whole suite of photographs for their collection. By this time Shore had fully embraced colour photography as a medium and continues to be a leading and influential figure in the field. I was curious to see how much this particular view of Twenty-First and Spruce St had changed in the years since the photograph was taken in 1974 and it is possible to visit almost exactly the same spot in which Shore took it on Googlemaps. Everything is as it was in the 1970’s bar the style of the cars parked on the street and the absence of a rather nice tree. You can see the view here. Shore is represented at the fair by Gallery 19/21.
Raoul Ubac (1910-1985) moved from Belgium to Paris in the late 1920’s and quickly adopted the prevailing Surrealist style in his photography. He studied in drawing and photography at the School of Applied Arts Cologne and it was during a trip to Dalmatia that he began to make images and drawings of stones of which this photograph is an example. The stones are lit against a deep black background much like the traditional method of photographing classical sculpture – the shadows accenting the contours of the surface. There is also something accidently comic in the form, you can make out a small unhappy face etched into the stone giving the shape the look of an undulating worm-like form perhaps emerging from the depths of the ocean. Ubac is represented at Classic Photographs by Gallery 19/21.
Another one from John Schott, this time from the series Mobile Homes 1975-1976 portfolio. Schott already published a selection of photographs from the Route 66 Motels series with Nazraeli Press in 2013 and it seems they are all set to publish another book for Mobile Homes in 2016. It’s hard to tell from Schott’s website exactly but this work appears to come from the California Mobile Architecture 1975-1976 project which Schott embarked on just after his Route 66 trip. Apparently approximately 20 million people currently live in mobile homes, or trailers, in America. South Carolina and Mexico top the charts with over 15% of residents living in this type of accommodation. The work ‘mobile’ of course is misleading, most mobile homes have no real mobility beyond the ease in which they can be manufactured and installed on site. Schott’s mobile home is definitely a permanent fixed abode with trees and shrubs landscaped around it. The home’s aspect on the end of the row means the asphalt of the road curves around it and in the black and white image you can feel the heat and a stark white light melting the pavements, beating down on the mountains in the distance. This is a world where living happens but nothing seems to be alive.
Los Angeles Classic Photographs is open 20th/31st January at Bonhams LA, Sunset Boulevard
Running parallel to the fair proper there is a whole programme of talks, tours and photographic book singing/launches. Click here for the full programme.