Last year’s Art of Photography Show suffered a drop in both submissions and sales thanks to the moribund economy. This year, the numbers are back up, and the 2011 juror, Anne Lyden, an associate curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, had to sift through precisely 15,444 submissions.
Entrants paid $25 to submit one photo to the show and $10 for each additional image. Combined, that’s a large chunk of change, which brings up the question of who really benefits from juried shows like this one. Certainly, it isn’t the thousands of photographers who didn’t make the cut. For the winners, there are cash prizes ranging from $2,000 for first place to $400 for an honorable mention, and marketing, catalog and production costs no doubt eat up a good portion of the entry fees. As for the rest of the participants, some might be offered a show or other opportunity due to the exposure but, arguably, juried exhibitions that aren’t held at established institutions, even those with a notable juror, look less impressive on a CV than a show at a museum or reputable gallery.
All that aside, beneficiaries of large-scale juried shows like this are the folks who get to see dozens of pieces—109 of them in this case—of curated, contemporary international photography.
Lyden’s selections—at the Lyceum Theatre Gallery in Horton Plaza through Oct. 23—are diverse and edgy, and while a few of the choices aren’t terribly impressive, others are stunning, beautiful or jarring works that will make you linger.
If you’re a big fan of the technical aspects of photography, you might not see as many alternative processes as you’d like, but as photography guru and dealer Joseph Bellows said recently in an interview at his La Jolla gallery, “Nowadays, there are all the different ways you can produce photography, but it’s always been about the final image for me.”
For first place, Lyden chose two photos from a body of work by a Japanese artist who goes by the pseudonym Photographer Hal. In each photo, a man and a woman are pictured huddled together in a head-to-toe configuration and wrapped tightly with vacuum-sealed cellophane. In one photo, the couple is naked. In the other, they don a mix of skimpy punk-rock clothing and underwear. In both, the couple appears to be dead, frozen or asleep. The end result is a startling composition that raises questions about intimacy and love in the age of shrink-wrapped consumer culture.
Another showstopper is “Chernobyl Pripyat: General Store” by Kate Sobol, an austere photo of a rusted cash register left over from the nuclear fallout.
In terms of presentation, there are works hung awkwardly above water fountains and jammed far too close to public restrooms, photos hung so low you have to squat down to see them and works put in places you’d never think to look. Overall, it seems like The Art of Photography should whittle the final photos down even further or perhaps organizers should consider renting a proper gallery with enough room to really show off the work.
Speaking of good contemporary photography, JDC Fine Art (2400 Kettner Blvd., Ste. 208; jdcfineart.com) is a new gallery in Little Italy. When it opened a few months ago, gallery owner Jennifer DeCarlo told us she’d be focusing on more challenging contemporary photography that “has a darker shade of reality to it.” Meet DeCarlo at the new Art d’StradaLittle Italy Association, Art d’Strada has an environmental theme and businesses and galleries are participating by showing artists working with reclaimed or salvaged materials (littleitalysd.com). event from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, on India and Kettner between Grape and Laurel streets. Put on by the
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