Archive for May, 2008

Pascal Dangin

May 6, 2008

Pascal Dangin by Josef Astor

This week’s New Yorker has an entertaining profile about Pascal Dangin, retoucher extraordinaire and owner of Box Studios.

I first heard about Pascal Dangin when I saw the Guy Bourdin exhibition at Pace Macgill a few years ago. I was really impressed with the color and over-all look of the prints. I asked too many questions and found out that they were made by Pascal from the original vintage chromes specifically for the exhibition.

From what I could gather, there was quite a bit of work to do in order to get the colors to pop the way Bourdin meant them to. I’m not sure about what went into scanning and printing them but you could tell that someone worked extremely hard to make them as gorgeous and meticulous as they were.

For comparison, see the current Marvin E. Newman exhibition at Silverstein Gallery consisting of recently printed Inkjet prints of vintage chromes. While I admire Mr. Newman for dedicating himself to the newest in print technology (I was told he made the prints himself), I really wish he could have worked with someone more experienced on them. Not all the pictures are lacking but a whole bunch (even visible in the Jpgs online) seem to be flat with little color and no real blacks. I’m easily disappointed especially when I’m expecting images to just pop off the page.

I guess it would be interesting to see what someone like Pascal Dangin could do with Marvin E. Newman’s vintage photographs (the exhibition is still worth seeing either way).

Dangin has worked with the cream of the crop for years now and has built up an enormous business with 80 employees at his beck and call. Mario Sorrenti, Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, Annie Leibovitz, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and Philip-Lorca diCorcia all trust and rely on his eye to clarify and perfect their images.

I suggest reading the entire story written by Lauren Collins as it contains quite a few interesting tidbits about the commercial photographic world of magazines and advertising.

Here are a few choice quotes in the meantime.

from Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

About the Dove ad campaign:

“Do you know how much retouching was on that?”

“But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”

About bad retouching:

“I want people to have an understanding of the skeleton and musculature and how it works. There is nothing worse than looking at an ankle or a calf that’s wrong. This is what bad retouching can do—you see in magazines girls having their legs slimmed and they no longer have tibias and femurs, and it’s weird.”

About celebrities and fashion:

“But this world is not reality—it’s about drawing people toward an ideal vision, if we’re talking about fashion photography. You have to think that celebrities are playing roles the same way they do in movies.”

As an added bonus watch this video that circulated a few years ago showing what actually happens to a model from a photo shoot to the finishing touches on a computer.

Charlie White – Jonestown

May 5, 2008

Jonestown, 2006 by Charlie White

I can’t get this photograph by Charlie White off my mind since I first saw it a few weeks ago (was it part of Mark Wyse’s Wallspace exhibition?).

I recall seeing his last exhibition Everything is American at Andrea Rosen Gallery a few years ago. The memory of most of the images lingers in my mind but I don’t remember seeing the Jonestown photograph on display there.

What strikes me about this photograph is how real and yet how fake it seems. It’s quite a sensational picture. One knows it’s staged and yet the emotional pull it has is extremely captivating and sad. When I first looked at the image, I didn’t realize what it was about because I didn’t read the title.

Last night I watched a PBS documentary called Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple. The documentary charts the entire history of Rev. Jim Jones and the church he founded called The People’s Temple and the tragic mass suicide (some call it murder) that occurred in Guyana on November 18, 1978.

The documentary is chilling, creepy and just flat out scary. Even now it’s hard to believe that things like this are capable of happening to people. Now looking back at the Charlie White photograph, I understand what’s going on (they are drinking a poisonous death inducing Kool-Aid mixture) and the picture becomes even more powerful, sad and deranged.

I wonder what Charlie White is up to now.

Lykke Li

May 5, 2008

The number of Swedish artists I’ve been listening to over the past few years keeps growing. It’s almost out of control. I’m beginning to think that there is something in the milk over there.

With El Perro Del Mar, José González, I’m From Barcelona, The Knife, Peter Bjorn & John and especially Jens Lekman, I can’t seem to get enough Swedish music.

I’m now obsessed with another Swedish singer, this time it’s Lykke Li. Her debut album Youth Novels is out now and there are a bunch of songs I can’t get enough of.

Little Bit is a great track with an infectious pop beat (and seriously sexy lyrics). Combine that with Lykke Li’s sugary sweet voice and it’s bound to get you moving.

The absolute stand out song on the album though is Dance, Dance, Dance. If it doesn’t make you want to dance then you’ve got problems. The layered beats and gorgeous vocal harmonies play out nicely and eventually a saxophone chimes in. Before you know it, the song ends with what I can only describe as a Paul Simonesque Caribbean tinged Calypso sound. It’s all quite unexpected and lovely.

Listen to more songs on her MySpace page and download an earlier song called Tonight from her website.

Lykke Li performs this Wednesday and Thursday in New York City opening for El Perro Del Mar. Unfortunately both shows are sold out but one can always try Craigslist.

Steven Shearer

May 1, 2008

Band, 2005, by Steven Shearer

The New Museum has another great exhibition on display right now called Double Album: Daniel Guzmán and Steven Shearer.

As much as I enjoyed the work of Daniel Guzmán, I’d like to keep my words here focused on the work of Steven Shearer, an artist who lives and works in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

I found Shearer’s work which consists of drawing, painting, photography and sculpture to be quite illuminating especially in relationship to many contemporary photographers like Wolfgang Tillmans and Roe Ethridge who use their photographs within the setting of larger photographic installations.

Over all, Shearer works like a scavenger (mostly from the internet) as he explores adolescence, rock and heavy metal culture, gender identity and a whole lot more.

Longhairs, 2004 by Steven Shearer

Some of my favorite works in the show are the ball point pen drawings (somewhat reminiscent of R. Crumb but much darker in tone) and the red crayon drawings (heavily influenced by Symbolist artists like Edward Munch as well as Old Master Drawings). The drawings are inspired by Shearer’s enormous image bank of over 30,000 Jpegs and other images which he uses as raw material for his art.

Shearer’s photographs or digital collages are also culled from his vast image archive. What Wolfgang Tillman’s might do with many photographs on a single wall, Shearer does with many photographs in a single photograph, albeit with more clutter.

Repose, 2005 by Steven Shearer

For example, Shearer collected hundreds of images of people sleeping and constructed a large digital collage of all these photographs together. Repose has an inherent amateur aesthetic built in (as do all the collages) due to the low quality images Shearer uses as material and yet the finished piece holds a strange hypnotic power as if one was staring into a sea of dead people.

Repose (detail), 2005 by Steven Shearer

What amazes me most about Shearer’s work is how the various pieces in every media sit together so seamlessly. This triggered the comparison to Wolfgang Tillmans or Roe Ethridge. There is something about these photographers and how they are able (“allowed”) to photograph anything they want and still have it “fit” within their larger oeuvre of work. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails miserably but it’s the capability to combine disparate images that continues to astound me, especially within this contemporary photographic climate which craves serial based imagery.

Double Album: Daniel Guzmán and Steven Shearer is on display at the New Museum until July 6, 2008.