The 19th Annual International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition, better known as Photo LA, landed at the Santa Monica Civic over the weekend of January 15-17, with a show that somehow seemed smaller than in recent memory. More than 30 galleries and art groups from around the world were exhibitors and the prevailing trends seemed to be black and white, celebrities, and occasional nudity.
An immediate eye-catcher was the series “Created Equal,” by Mark Laita at the Fahey/Klein Gallery (Los Angeles). These larger-than-life black and white portraits of “family groups,” included a Mormon husband with three wives, and a strutting fur-clad pimp with three “working girls” in black vinyl panties.
Even larger were the chromogenic prints of Alex Guofeng Cao at Pan-American Projects (Miami). Cao’s technique creates pictures of celebrity faces from many small prints of other celebrity faces. On display were Princess Di wrought from tiny faces of Princess Grace, James Dean made from tiny Elvis faces, and Marilyn Monroe created out of tiny Mona Lisa faces.
Offering more substance were the documentary photos of David Hume Kennerly at Frank Pictures Gallery (Santa Monica). Taken over a 40-year period, Kennerly’s historic shots included a long-haired George Harrison from 1974, JFK a few minutes before his assassination, and Muhammad Ali’s only fall during a 1971 fight with Joe Frazier.
The Blind Photographers Guild’s exhibit was a revelation at last year’s show and this year, again, there was beautiful work on display with the color underwater photos of Bruce Hall. Legally blind with limited vision, Hall also did a series, “Face to Face with Autism” about his two sons.
The Guy Hepner Gallery (West Hollywood) featured black and white glamorous erotic compositions by Tony Duran, with leggy, shiny-skinned models. Willem Photographic (Monterey, California) offered more celebrities, with Herb Ritts’ humorous sepia portrait of Madonna wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and Firouz Zahedi’s famous poster of Uma Thurman sprawled on a bed, from Pulp Fiction.
The exhibit’s featured host, David La Chapelle, was represented by a photo-sculpture on display in the lobby. Called “The Crash: Intelligent Decadence,” this structure was made from cardboard imprinted with sepia-tone photographs of car wrecks, showing that photography can be combined with other disciplines to create a whole work.
For all the glamour and glitz that met the eye, however, one photo stood out for this reviewer. At the Czech Center of Photography booth, small black and white reproductions were for sale for relatively low prices (e.g. $600). Many of these were regrettably tiny images but one larger one was impossible to not notice. A photo from a series called “Cabbage,” it featured an obese woman climbing into a bin of cabbages at a market. A couple nearby chuckled and said they loved it but wouldn’t buy it for $600. Nobody could say what motivated the photographer to shoot this scene, but, as with the provocative classics of Diane Arbus, “Cabbage” reminded one that creative photography and art can make a person think.
Mirror Contributing Writer[email protected]