The fine art photography fair Paris Photo Los Angeles kicked off Thursday night at Paramount Studios with a private dinner hosted by fair director Florence Bourgeois, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer and Barneys New York.
The soiree, held amid the faux grit of the studio’s New York backlot, drew Hollywood players, including “Modern Family” creator Steven Levitan and his wife, Krista; Showtime President David Nevins and wife, Andrea; TV exec/DJ Rawdon Messenger and his wife, stylist/designer Maryam Malakpour and others.
Before digging into dinner by Jon & Vinny, the latest restaurant from L.A. chefs (and UTA clients) Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, guests wandered the buildings of the backlot, checking out work on display by 79 exhibitors from 17 countries.
I enjoyed “California Unedited!,” a collection of late 19th century glass plate photographs depicting the Central California community of San Luis Obispo through the eyes of one photographer, Richard J. Arnold.
The glass-plate negatives were discovered at a yard sale and endowed to the El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society, where volunteers painstakingly cleaned and restored them using horsehair brushes and distilled water.
The resulting portraits are both beautifully delicate and historically powerful, as they depict a diverse group of people young and old, including Latino, Asian and Native American immigrants. Some of the photographs look like they could only be from that time, and some look like they could be from any time. (The hipster facial hair, rakish headgear and artisanal-looking neckties … they could have been plucked right off the streets of Silver Lake yesterday.)
There are also some side-by-side photos that Arnold used to demonstrate to potential subjects how he could remove their age spots, wrinkles and scars using fine brushes — the earliest form of airbrushing.
The Bruch Kapson Gallery space has a great little exhibition of Edward Curtis copper photogravure printing plates. Curtis began work on the printing plates in 1906, for his “North American Indian” series, transferring his glass-plate negatives onto the copper plates, which were then chemically etched. While hundreds of prints were made, only one plate for each image exists. And they are quite stunning, with a warm glow and fine details that made me wish they could somehow be made into jewelry.
From a style perspective, it was a treat to see some of the fashion photographs of Guy Bourdin, particularly his edgy 1978 images for shoe designer Charles Jourdan (in the Louis Alexander gallery space), and how his style is echoed in the work of Melanie Pullen’s "High Fashion Crime Scenes" (Jenkins Johnson Gallery).
I also enjoyed Ralph Gibson’s sun- and sand-soaked nudes (Etherton Gallery) and the printastic portraits of Moroccan dandies by Hassan Hajjaj (Gusford Gallery).
Artnet has called Hajjaj the next David LaChapelle. Inspired by club culture and hip-hop, he designs the colorful clothing worn by his subjects. The photographs are so hyper-realistic (they are printed on metal) that the patterns jump out and grab you. That feeling is heightened by Hajjaj’s use of frames incorporating found objects, such as boxes of Chicklets and cans of tomato paste. They’re a trip.
Paris Photo Los Angeles is open through Sunday. For more info, go to www.parisphoto.com/losangeles.