December 2008

During John Coffer’s wet plate workshop at Camp Tintype  last May, he set up his 20 x 24 camera and gave a brief demonstration of how it works.  It’s just a really big view camera with some movement (front rise and fall).  John mounted the camera on a small wagon chassis in order to move it to nearby locations where he photographs.  The most difficult part of using this camera is, of course, pouring collodion on the mammoth 20 x 24 plate.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any footage online of John pouring a mammoth plate; but many people who have seen him do it speak of his technique with awe.


John Coffer's 20 x 24 Wet Plate Camera

John Coffer's 20 x 24 Wet Plate Camera



Coffer in Action With Mammoth Plate Holder

Coffer in Action With Mammoth Plate Holder



The 20 x 24 camera was made by Ray Morgenweck of The Star Camera Company.  His calls it  “The Mathew B. Brady 20×24 Majestic Imperial Wetplate Camera.”  Morgenweck has been making a wide range of  Daguerrotype and wet plate cameras for a number of years.  He is in high demand; and there is often a waiting period of several months.  So if you order from him, you’ll have to be patient. Oh, and unless you’re John Coffer, don’t even think about asking for the 20 x 24.  Ray will just laugh.  


Description of The Mathew B. Brady 20×24 Majestic Imperial Wetplate Camera

From The Star Camera Website


All great things are named after significant people, and indeed this camera is worthy of carrying the name of Mathew B. Brady. Possibly the largest wet plate camera available, the Brady is capable of making 20X24 Wetplate or Tintype images. It is built on the pattern of the early 1900’s Cycle cameras, which have a retracting rise and fall lensboard carrier and a front door which folds up and creates a ‘case’ for the camera. This is NOT a camera for those just beginning the process, and indeed this particular camera went to the man I feel who is most able to handle it, Mr. John Coffer of Dundee NY. This camera uses a Dallmayer 30″ Camera Obscura Lens, and future ones will require a lens similar to this in size and focal length. In addition to the rise and fall lensboard, the camera has a bellows tilt adapter on the rear which can carry the plateholder for greater control over the foreground in your images. Available only on SPECIAL ORDER.


The Mathew B. Brady 20x24 Majestic Imperial Wetplate Camera

The Mathew B. Brady 20x24 Majestic Imperial Wetplate Camera. Asking Price: $8,700.00.





The Mathew B. Brady 20x24 Majestic Imperial Wetplate Camera

Front Standard Retracts Into Camera Casing.





Closes Up Nicely And You're Ready for the Airport!

Closes Up Nicely And You're Ready for the Airport!

I’m a fan of  Amy Stein‘s photography blog.  It’s one of the best around.  Her latest solo show, Domesticated, opened on December 11th at The Print Center in Philadelphia and will be up through February 14, 2009.   Amy graduated with an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and teaches at SVA and Parsons.  Not the standard photo background, she received her undergraduate degree (BSc) in Political Science from James Madison University and went on to earn an MSc in Political Science from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.      


Watering Hole (from Domesticated) by Amy Stein.

Watering Hole (from Domesticated) by Amy Stein.



Trash Eaters (from Domesticated) by Amy Stein.

Trash Eaters (from Domesticated) by Amy Stein.



Hillside (from Domesticated) by Amy Stein.

Hillside (from Domesticated) by Amy Stein.




Free and Open to the Public
11:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Tuesday through Saturday

The Print Center
1614 Latimer Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215 735.6090
215 735.5511 fax


Excerpt from Alison Nordström’s introduction to Domesticated, a new book of photographs by Amy Stein, published by Photolucida:


“Amy Stein crafts photographic allegories set simultaneously in a number of different liminal spaces. Her sure and realistic color works manifest the place where the human-built meets the wild, but in addition they show us where the factual descriptive image meets fiction. Despite their apparent realism, her images are posed and constructed, sometimes using models and taxidermy props, sometimes using the bodies of dead or living animals to re-create, record and perform actual events that occurred in the small Pennsylvania town of Matamoras, which Stein has claimed as surely as Faulkner invented and limned Yoknapatawpha County. What at first appears to be a series of photojournalistic decisive moments is revealed, at a second look, to be a powerfully imagined vision that establishes its strength through its very artificiality.”

— Alison Nordström is curator of the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.


Conditional Painting (2008).  18 x 24 Gouache and Graphite on Panel

Conditional Painting (2008). 18 x 24 Gouache and Graphite on Panel


I came across William Powhida’s work in Art Lies No. 59/Fall 2008. His series of text paintings critiques the power structures of art institutions and their privileged position as arbiters of aesthetic value in the market, while mocking his own desire to be part of that system. Powhida also makes fun of the games and sometimes grandiose notions inherent in the drive toward art world fame. In one of those works, Conditional Painting, he sets forth the criteria which must be met before his painting may be deemed a work of art. He is playing on the same conceptual turf that Robert Morris occupied with Document (1963), a legally notarized letter in which he negated – by mere declaration – all aesthetic value of Litanies, a work he had completed for Philip Johnson and for which he had not yet been paid.


Text from the painting


Dear Museum Types,

This is not a work of art. While it may look like a painting, I assure you it is not. This is a conditional painting that will remain incomplete until certain conditions are met. If these conditions, which I shall propose here, are indeed fulfilled then this will be more than ART. It will be a MAJOR work of staggering implications. If they aren’t met, I retain the right to deny that the object is complete.

The resolution of this painting is contingent on my inclusion in (A) a major museum show, (B) the Venice Bienniale, (C) Documenta, or (D) OK the Whitney Bienniale.* Once I am selected to be in a PRESTIGIOUS institution then this painting will be ‘finished’…by a FAMOUS artist, not merely an art fair sellout. Becoming an institutionally recognized artist will make ALL of my work valuable, but will ONLY complete this painting.

While the recognition is important it doesn’t guarantee continued success. What WILL be remembered is the conditional painting. It is an HISTORIC act that will finally elevate the extremely important role of the curator to producer of meaning. Just imagine the looks of stunned AWE on the faces of museum/biennial/bienniale/Documenta visitors realizing the implications of the PRESENCE of the COMPLETED work of art. It is a beautiful thought.

The only missing party here is a collector (museum) brave enough to purchase an incomplete, conditional painting. Again, I deny that this is ‘art’ until the above conditions are met. The thoughtful person or institution might consider the POTENTIAL value, cultural or otherwise, of this rad BRILLIANT idea. This isn’t my concern, money or recognition. NO, my concern is purely about FINISHING my art. I will wait until I am DEAD which will really increase the value of the object. Please, before everything comes crashing down, help me. I must finish this one.


William Powhida**

* The biennial cannot suck.

** This doesn’t indicate a finished work. It is a facsimile of a signature. I will leave an authentication with my estate.


From the Museum of Modern Art Website



Litanies by Robert Morris

Litanies by Robert Morris


Each of the twenty–seven keys in Litanies is inscribed with a word from a text by artist Marcel Duchamp (American, born France. 1887–1968), whose emphasis on the ideas presented by a work of art rather than its aesthetic appearance informed much Conceptual art of the 1960s. When Litanies was purchased by architect Philip Johnson, Morris did not receive payment in a timely fashion. He createdDocument in response. The typed and notarized text serves to negate the “aesthetic quality and content of the original work,” which is presented as “Exhibit A” in frontal and profile views. Johnson then purchased Document, thereby accepting the loss of the value of his first acquisition.


Document (1963) by Robert Morris


Robert Morris: Document. 1963. Typed and notarized statement on paper and sheet of lead mounted in imitation leather mat, 17 5/8 x 23 3/4″ (44.8 x 60.4 cm). Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2008 Robert Morris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Emily Bicht recently showed some of her Ready to Rumble series at Fountain Art Fair in Miami (Dec. 3-7).  This mixed media series explores the power dynamics of gender through male vs. female wrestling depictions.  Fountain Art Fair is an alternative exhibition venue that is willing to show artists who do not fit the conventional gallery mold and who are willing to take risks with their work.


The Takedown (Mixed Media on Panel, 24" x 24")

Ready To Rumble: The Takedown (Mixed Media on Panel, 24″ x 24″)


Pieta by Emily Bicht (Mixed Media on Panel, 24" x 24")

Ready to Rumble: Pieta (Mixed Media on Panel, 24″ x 24″)


Set against a decorative backdrop, the male and female adversaries in Bicht’s panels occupy a rather compressed space, which intensifies the struggle at hand.  After seeing her work online, I recalled attending the Sigmar Polke retrospective at MoMA in 1997.  He achieved the same sort of compressed space in his ballpoint pen drawings and paintings from the 60s.  One of Polke’s drawings from that retrospective was Damen-Ringkampfe (“Lady Wrestlers”), which assumes the vantage point of the male gaze (looking upon women combatants for entertainment).


Damen-Ringkampf by Sigmar Polke (1968).  Ballpoint Pen, Watercolor and Silver (11 5/8 x 8 1/4")

Damen-Ringkampfe by Sigmar Polke (1968) Ballpoint Pen, Watercolor and Silver (11 5/8 x 8 1/4)


Bicht’s work is more compelling in that subverts the expectations of the gaze.  Male and female are engaged in a contest that is just as much symbolic and psychological as it is physical.  Will one gender or the other prevail; or will some equilibrium ultimately be achieved – a draw?  Jungian psychology, which has been informed by alchemical  texts, suggests that each person’s psyche has both masculine and feminine attributes.  We seek balance, which is only achieved after a long struggle of our inner opposites.


Engraving from an 18th century version of the Rosarium philosophorum.

Male/Famale Unity: Engraving from an 18th century version of the Rosarium philosophorum.


Ready to Rumble taps into the theme of physical struggle for power that can be dated by millennia, as the depictions below from ancient Egypt and Greece demonstrate.


Egyptian Depiction of Wrestling (2500 B.C.)

Egyptian Depiction of Wrestling (2500 B.C.)



Depiction of Wrestling from Greece (500 B.C)

Depiction of Wrestling from Greece (500 B.C)



The Greek forms look similar to those in Bicht’s Domestic Wrestling animation below.





Bicht’s work also reminds me of Wrestling Ladies, a theatre piece developed by Tory Vasquez and performed at P.S. 122 back in March 2003.  Vasquez received a supporting grant for her project from the Creative Capital Foundation.



Wrestling Ladies Promotional Photograph (2003)

Wrestling Ladies Promotional Photograph (2003)



Project Description from the Creative Capital Website


Wrestling Ladies transforms a theatrical venue into a wrestling ring. In a visual style inspired by contemporary underground comics, the work depicts characters as combatants, superheroes, and saints who all struggle to transcend their given and created identities. The audience is witness to both their public battles and private histories. The primary character is an eleven year old girl Chasity a.k.a Devilish Angel who is obsessed with wrestling. The other characters include: Her mother, Maria Elena Vazquez, a ruthless champion; her soon to be stepfather, Louis, manager/coach of the ring; and her friend Lizard, a wrestler who keeps her company and protects her from evil. The action moves fluidly from fight scenes to surreal dances to moments of unexpected tenderness.



 Fountain Art Fair Press Release 

Fountain Miami, the alternative art exhibition known for presenting cutting-edge and independent art galleries, sets up shop in an industrial warehouse located at 25th Street and North Miami Avenue for its latest installment this December. Fountain is a guerrilla-style art event, dubbed by many as the “Anti Art Fair” for its brash, off-the-wall offerings of non-traditional art exhibitions in the art fair environment.

Recruiting avant-garde galleries who showcase progressive primary-market works, Fountain breathes fresh life into the Miami Beach “Basel Frazzle,” giving gallery-goers and art enthusiasts the opportunity to see new works without traditional booths or selection juries. While most fairs have fallen into the hands of corporate management, Fountain remains independent, and as such presents work in a forward-thinking manner. Unencumbered by the strict presentation guidelines and parameters found at other fairs, Fountain preserves the visions of galleries and dealers to provide an environment reflective of the artists and their works.

Fountain’s venue, a large and dramatic 16000 square-foot complex with both interior and exterior exhibition areas, is adjacent to all the major Wynwood fairs. Participating galleries receive approximately 1200 square feet of exhibition space, so visitors can expect massive installations of contemporary painting, sculpture, performance and new media art.

Artnet – the most widely read art site on the web – describes Fountain: “Likeability and chutzpah used to be what art was about. That, and a little guerrilla mentality, which you had at Fountain in spades. This is the place where you reminisce about the good old days, when you did it yourself, when inspiration and magic struck like a bolt from the blue. Here at Fountain, the artists and dealers are hungry and they welcome all visitors warmly. They are having fun and that’s the vibe. I felt like sitting down, having a beer, and hanging.”

Fountain Miami 2008 participating galleries include:

Glowlab – New York
Leo Kesting – New York
Open Ground – Brooklyn
Radau – Miami
Jonathan Shorr Gallery – New York
Yum Yum Factory – Brooklyn
Dada Art Gallery – Philadelphia
Briceno Gallery – Miami

Fountain was launched in March 2006 in New York in an effort to leverage support for independent galleries overlooked by the larger, corporate-sponsored art fairs. The name “Fountain” is a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s controversial sculpture which shook up the art world when it was rejected by the Society of Artists’ exhibition in 1917. Similarly, in defiant contrast with The Armory Show, Art Basel Miami Beach, Pulse, Scope and the numerous other international art fairs, Fountain has received wide public support and critical acclaim for its experimental slant. In form and spirit, the artwork exhibited at Fountain reflects the avant-garde attitude of the Dada art movement, while attracting the attention of the international clientele and top collectors who attend the more traditional fairs.


Oval Office by Thomas Struth



 Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present the first solo exhibition of new work by German artist Thomas Demand in the UK since his acclaimed Serpentine exhibition in summer 2006. Following an invitation from the New York Times, Demand has created a timely and unnerving body of work which examines the literal and metaphorical seat of global power in the twenty-first century – the Oval Office in the White House, Washington, D.C. 

The Oval Office, the official workplace of the President of the United States of America, is one of the most instantly recognisable interior locations in the world, its image a symbolic shorthand for the exercise of ideological and geopolitical will. Yet Demand’s photographs, rather than capturing the original Oval Office in all its formal opulence, instead depict a meticulously recreated life-size model, fabricated from paper, cardboard and confetti. Each of the five images of this near-perfect reconstruction of the most powerful room in the world is articulated through a complex compositional language, making the reading of each photograph an aesthetically and conceptually troubling experience. 

Demand’s photography has long focussed on painstakingly detailed reenactments of specific and familiar places, public or private sites often loaded with social and political meanings. His models are highly detailed, yet they retain subtle but deliberate flaws and anachronisms to disrupt the viewer’s comfort with the scene. This series also renders an immediately recognisable scene alien through an innovative attention to perspective and formal composition. The oval shape of the Oval Office is not usually a prominent feature of the multiplicity of images of this iconic space, yet in Demand’s rendition, the eye is fascinated by it. Similarly, the viewer’s expectation is that this room will be inhabited, either by politicians or actors pretending to be politicians, and that it will be experienced on a human scale and at eye level. However, Demand’s Oval Office is conspicuous in its human absence, an emptiness that is heightened by the ground-level and bird’s eye perspectives from which the room is viewed. 

The effect of Demand’s work has been to challenge any complacent assumptions about photography’s claims to verisimilitude, and to complicate conventional notions of authenticity and artifice. However, in the context of this new body of work, Demand’s practice gains an ever more politicised momentum. Blurring boundaries between believability and pretence in the Oval Office necessarily points to a critique of power as it has been wielded in the White House. Photographing a near-exact replica of the US President’s office suggests intriguing connections between statecraft and stagecraft, and the disposability of the construction materials (each of Demand’s models is destroyed after it has been photographed) undermines any naïve faith in the permanence and unshakeability of American, or indeed any, political authority. 

This new exhibition marks a distinctive counterpoint to a number of Demand’s recent major works. Tavern (2006), currently on view at Tate Modern, is, like this body of work, a suite of five images which take a media-saturated location, in this case the site of a horrific murder in Germany, and powerfully evoke a sense of ambivalence and the uncanny in how images of such memorable and familiar places are received. It can also be viewed as a companion piece to Demand’s Embassy, part of his presentation at the Fondazione Prada at Fondazione Giorgio Cini, in Venice in June 2007. Embassy centred on the reproduction, physically then photographically, of Niger’s consulate in Rome, which was the ultimate destination of a trail of political intrigue involving the recent history of nuclear proliferation, and the basis of America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. These photographs depict a highly politicised and geopolitically significant space, but one which was cluttered, dark, unknown and locked away from view. This contrasts with Demand’s image of the Oval Office – an eerily airy and instantly recognisable political environment which is defined by its public accessibility, and whose image is so widely dispersed it looms ever-present in the collective visual vocabulary of contemporary Western culture. The connection between the two works, in political and aesthetic terms, is confirmed by the presence in these photographs of a framed image of a black figure that appeared in Embassy. Not only does this intervention jar with the viewer’s visual expectation of the Oval Office, but it reifies the problematic ways in which race, history and the Third World might be located within the American political order. 

Thomas Demand studied at the Düsseldorf Academy and Goldsmiths College. Solo exhibitions include the first solo exhibition by a contemporary artist at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, following its reopening in 2005, which was followed by an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2006. Recent exhibitions include Fundación Telefónica, Madrid and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany. In 2004 he represented Germany at the São Paulo Biennale. Demand lives in Berlin, and in 2009 he will have a major exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.