If there’s one city that thrives on images, it’s Los Angeles. That’s the impetus behind bringing one of the biggest photography art fairs in the world, Paris Photo, to the city.
Of course, the images produced by L.A. aren’t traditionally still photographs, but that didn’t stop Paris Photo director Julien Frydman and independent curator Douglas Fogle from bridging the divide between the photography and motion pictures. Starting with the location -- Paramount Studios’ New York Street backlot -- Paris Photo Los Angeles’ ambience and programming are designed to transport visit from a typical photography fair to an inspirational space, where “you enter into a dreamland,” says Frydman. “Those New York facades, they put you in a state of mind in between fiction and reality. Artists working in the medium of photography always question this relationship to fiction and reality. You’re in a different mood, and that’s unique.”
Thursday night kicks off with a series of previews and parties, followed by the fair’s public days of Friday through Sunday, which features 72 exhibitors. To get a sense of how significant it is to the Los Angeles art world that Paris Photo picked L.A. as its first outpost location, the 16th Paris edition of the fair in November welcomed a record 54,000 attendees to the French capital, with galleries reporting that sales were brisk. David Lynch served as the fair's VIP, selecting 99 of his favorite finds among the booths and giving a talk on his selections.
Fogle, formerly the chief curator at the Hammer Museum, put together the Sound and Vision program of talks and book signings, meant to link photography and film in both an artistic and pop cultural sense. “When Julien came to me, he had talked about wanting to expand the world of what they traditionally looked at for Paris Photo,” Fogle tells THR. “I said, ‘You should really think about the moving image.’ A lot of contemporary artists have just thrown those media-defining qualities out. They pick up a camera when they need it; they pick up a video camera when they need it. It just seemed really obvious.”
The participation level is world class: Speakers include internationally renowned artists like Doug Aitken, Thomas Demand, Roe Etherdige, Sharon Lockhart, Catherine Opie and Alec Soth. A conversation between Gregory Crewdson, whom Fogle points out sees himself as “more of a director, even though he’s doing photographs,” and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner caps off the weekend on Saturday at 2 p.m. Fogle has also put together a series of screenings illustrating the convergence of film and photo -- classics like Bruce Conner’s sexy 1966 piece Breakaway starring a young Toni Basil and Chris Marker’s La Jetee, a science fiction film made almost entirely from still images, are paired with newer works from Philippe Parreno and L.A.-based artist Kerry Tribe. “There are a lot of connections that we want to explore with the moving image industry,” says Frydman.
The fair itself will feature a diverse array of work available from Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, William Klein, Annie Leibovitz, Linda McCartney, Leonard Nimoy, Man Ray, Irving Penn, Richard Prince, Herb Ritts, Mario Testino, Inez + Vinoodh, Ellen Von Unwerth, Wim Wenders, and Ed Ruscha, who was recently named to the Time 100 most influential people list. There will also be book signings with William Eggleston, Opie, Soth and Etheridge. “The photo book is an important element,” says Frydman. “It’s the narrative form of photography.”
Among the artists to watch out for is Boston-based photographer David Armstrong -- considered to be a member of the Boston School with Nan Goldin, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Jack Pierson, and the late Mark Morrisroe -- who is exhibiting a series of yet-unseen photographs in a solo booth for Brachfeld Gallery. The photos depict Armstrong’s wild young crew who traveled back and forth between the Lower East Side and Provincetown, Massachusetts in the mid to late-‘70s, and provide a generational context for Ryan McGinley’s liberated youth photographs. “I also have these much more formal portraits of these same people, Heavily influenced by a lot of formal portraitists like Diane Arbus and Peter Hujar,” Armstrong tells THR.
Armstrong, who is known for primarily using natural light, describes L.A. as a bit harsh for his taste, photography-wise. “It’s divine today,” he says, noting a rare gray spring morning. “But in L.A., I feel totally, completely exposed, like I’m going to self-immolate like a vampire. But Jack Pierson loves it and a lot of my friends moved out here, which is great. My favorite part of the year here is in February when it rains more.”
Frydman, on the other hand, sees nothing but clear skies for the future of L.A. art photography. “I’d say that this city is fit for the arts,” he says. “It’s a completely different flavor, but it has something like Berlin, where it is a city for the artists, run by the artists, and there’s the art schools. But, the fair events still need to be improved.”
Also on view will be Andy Warhol’s BMW Art Car, which he painted in 1979.
Tickets are available for $28 with weekend bundles at $40. Friday and Saturday show hours are noon to 7 p.m. Sunday is noon to 6 p.m. The show is held at Paramount Pictures studios at 5555 Melrose Ave.