The Ubiquitousness of Photography

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The Ubiquitousness of Photography

In the last 25 years photography not only shed off the image of stepchild of the art world, but came to prominence, if not outright dominance in the contemporary art scene. When the first gallery specializing in photography opened in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago - that was news. Today there are many such galleries. When the Getty Museum, around the same time, decided to form a new department devoted to collecting and exhibiting photography - that was big time news. Today, virtually all museums are eager to show and collect photography.

The recent visit to a cluster of galleries on La Cienega Boulevard, south of the 10 Freeway, proved my point about the ubiquitousness of photography in today's art world. Out of five galleries that opened in this new area within the last year, three galleries currently have a photography exhibition, though none of these galleries specialize in photography.

Anthony Goicolea, Tree Dwellers 2004; C-print, 72 Sandroni Rey presents an exhibition of young artist Anthony Goicolea, known for his large color photographs depicting a group of dressed and undressed young boys or girls, involved in vaguely inappropriate activity in the midst of an unsettling environment. The amazing thing is that all the characters, in these earlier photographs, thanks to ingenious makeup and digital wizardry, were clones of the photographer himself. In his new body of work Anthony Goicolea plays out his fear and fantasy of kidnapping, creating photographic tableaus tinged with vulnerability, playful kinkiness and fairytale wistfulness. Each scene shows a group of identically dressed young people whose faces are hidden from the viewer. Now the artist no longer uses himself as the model for his photographic fantasies, but hires friends and acquaintances for role-playing. Impressive as they are, I find these new photographs, without the androgynous presence of the artist himself, to be less effective and less interesting. There is a short, slightly tedious video alluding to childhood fears and fantasies of kidnapping. There are also a few figurative drawings showing the artist's less than sufficient skill in handling this medium.

Juliana Paciulli, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Adrienne, 2003; framed, archival inkjet print, 48Recently relocated from San Francisco, the Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery presents the work of three recent M.F.A. graduates who use photography in their art in quite an assured way, though without too much originality. Juliana Paciulli's oval shaped large color photographs steal the show with their Neo Rococo sensuality of domestic scenes populated by nubile, young women wearing nothing but a smile.

 Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (Malibu North), 2004 C-print, 23 At Blum & Poe, there is an exhibition of the German photographer Florian Maier-Aichen, who obviously spends quite some time here in California, whose landscapes he captures in both black and white and color photographs. The secret is that all the landscapes are altered through digital manipulation, creating a strange and unnerving balance between the presumed objectivity of documentary photography and the uncontrollable forces of nature. But nature in this case is digitally altered by the artist, permitting him, for example, to twist huge bridge structures into a pretzel form, or paint the Malibu hills flaming red. Makes for a very tired variation on the fashionable Dusseldorf school of photography.

Blum & Poe Gallery
Florian Maier-Aichen
"The Bridges of Cologne"
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.
10:30am - 6pm
Ends August 14

Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery
"Fresh Air"
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.
11am - 6pm
Ends August 7

Sandroni Rey
Anthony Goicolea
2762 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Ends August 14