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Luke Smalley & Bruce Davidson

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Luke Smalley: Sunday Drive @ ClampArt

I was only able to see about 8 openings yesterday because I had meetings and couldn’t come out until 6pm. And, out of the 8, 6 of them sucked. I found more people agreeing with me as I ran in to other people looking for new and fresh art. My biggest pet peeve was how many portrait photographers were flooding the art scene this week. I guess oversized shots of people’s faces just didn’t resonate with me. I understood the concepts, I saw their value, and I saw the effort and work behind them but they really didn’t “wow” me. Would I want to have a 3’x4′ photo of a homeless person looking at me from behind my sofa? And will that REALLY be socially significant in 5 years?

There were two photographers that DID stop me. One was Luke Smalley. I won’t say why I liked all of his work, I just did. That’s the thing about really good art: you just like it. Artwork with reds sell better than artwork with browns. And art with cows have a MUCH harder time selling at Christie’s and Sotheby’s than artwork that doesn’t have cows. People will never say “I like this because the red” or “I like this better than the other work because there are no cows in it,” but people will make up SOME story in their heads. So I don’t know WHY I liked Luke’s work but I DID like it. In fact, MANY people liked it (ClampArt does an exceptional job at bringing in really good work).

Luke was presenting in the same gallery as Jill Greenberg. I understand the appeal of her work and I liked the large shots of bears with her signature lighting but I kept thinking they compared to kitten posters with taglines like “Hang in there.” She is going too commercial for my taste (it doesn’t help that her monograph is loaded with sales pitches by comedians and celebrities). Maybe that is why ClampArt stuffed her in the back room.

Bruce Davidson @ Bryce Wolkowitz.

The other was Bruce Davidson showing at Bryce Wolkowitz on 24th. The gallery was featuring shots from around the US dating five decades. There was a lot of cultural significance in each of the photos. I was eavesdropping on one of the dealers while she explained each piece to a potential buyer and, well, everything about the presentation from mounting to explanations was just sweet. The photos were approachable, the gallery staff was approachable and the small space was accommodating.

Bruce’s work in portrait was everything the other portrait shooters lacked. They all had an eye however he has a sense for art and telling stories. He wasn’t just shooting blank faces and attaching some meaning as the others were doing, Bruce shot people and let people attach their own meanings. He wasn’t “trying” to be someone else (you can read that in SO many contemporary artists!) but he was just himself and at peace with his work.

I missed everything at Pace Wildenstein and several other key galleries due to getting caught up in conversations with friends I hadn’t seen in a while (I tried to go in to Pace Wildenstein but it was closing. Chuck Close was leaving and our eyes locked briefly, I feel like he was saying “Yep… come back tomorrow. You’ll enjoy yourself”). Also, I was told Bill Viola at James Cohen Gallery was really good so I will be sure to check it out Saturday when I have some free time before a shoot.

(PS: I have this habit of changing the home page on every Mac I see to my site, MichaelDonovanPhotography.com. So yesterday I changed the homepage at ClampArt to mine just as I got caught. I hope they have a sense of humor. Please let me know if you need me to come in and change it back.)


Written by Michael Donovan

06/11/2009 at 9:23 am

Posted in art, Photography

3 Responses

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  1. Aha – – so you were the person I caught on the computer back in the office! No worries. At least now I know you weren’t back their stealing my mailing list. . . Thanks for the review. B


    06/11/2009 at 11:30 am

  2. I mean back THERE


    06/11/2009 at 11:31 am

  3. HAHA! I’m sooo glad you saw this! Yes, I’m the culprit! You caught me just as I switched Safari but I didn’t have time to change your firefox. 😀

    Btw- I didn’t mention in this but I ended up going to ClampArt three times last night within a 1.5 hour section of time. And a lot of my friends were walking away pretty happy as well. The shot of the three girls in the car (used for the promo card and book cover) is just simply awesomeballs. Kudos to you and your crew!

    Michael Donovan

    06/11/2009 at 11:39 am

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