Vince Aletti

  • Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and his New York Galleries

    Picabia called Alfred Stieglitz “the man best informed in this whole revolution in the arts,” and the founder of the Photo-Secession often supplied the historical staging grounds for that sweeping turnover. Beginning with “291” in 1908 and continuing at the Intimate Gallery and An American Place, Stieglitz gave the avant-garde a New York home mounting Picasso’s first US exhibition and early shows of Matisse, Brancusi, and Cézanne, as well as Americans Arthur Dove, Paul Strand, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe. With almost 200 works by these and others, the National Gallery places Stieglitz

  • Vince Aletti

    I MISSED THE PERFORMANCE THAT ENDED WITH Hiroshi Sunairi pissing into a prop toilet at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in January 1999. I skipped the songs and outbursts at the February 2000 opening of his P.S. 1 studio space. I never listened to any of his cassette tapes. I did see his spread in the April 1999 issue of Playguy, in which the naked “young artist” (he claimed to be nineteen when he was in fact twenty-seven) photographed himself in the shower with a plump hard-on, though that’s probably beside the point, too.

    But not entirely, because Sunairi’s photographs—or, more accurately, his

  • Vince Aletti

    VINCE ALETTI

    1 Saul Fletcher (Anton Kern Gallery, New York) Fletcher’s third show of unfashionably small color photos was his knottiest, most personal, and most resolved yet. Working within the very real confines of a parlor room in his London house, the artist imagines another, stranger world and peoples it with members of his family, theatrically transformed into black-comic figures. Fletcher himself appears as a hunchbacked ogre whose left leg ends in a long piece of shattered wood—a character in a fairy tale too frightening to tell. No less ominous were the still ides, arranged against

  • FASHION VICTOR: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF ALEXEI HAY

    FOREVER TORN BETWEEN ITS AMBITIONS as art and its allegiance to commerce, fashion photography is so confident right now that for all intents the distinction has dissolved. Serious fashion types call the genre's most accomplished image makers “auteurs,” and the conceit seems more apt than ever. If the fashion photograph has traditionally been calculated to seduce, to startle, and, of course, to sell, today it often simply sells itself. Forget the clothes; forget the model; vision is all. Take twenty-seven-year-old Alexei Hay: Lifted out of the editorial context, his pictures rarely betray their

  • Edward Steichen

    Edward Steichen's work might look musty and overrefined these days, but there's no denying the influence of his switch from impressionist Pictorialism to crisp modernism, or the definitive elegance of his work in both styles, or his crusading, entrepreneurial spirit. By the time Steichen put down his camera in 1947 to become the first head of MoMA's department of photography, he'd cofounded 291, New York's inaugural photo and art gallery (with mentor Alfred Stieglitz) and landed a lucrative contract with Condé Nast. Much of the vintage work curator Barbara Haskell has gathered for this retrospective

  • Pierre et Gilles

    In the decade since this French collaborative team last showed in America, the artifice, theatricality, and narrative pizzazz that mark their hand-painted photographs have found a sympathetic echo in work by a slew of artists, including David LaChapelle, Mariko Mori, and even Gregory Crewdson. But viewers of this twenty-two-year survey may still be unprepared for Pierre et Gilles's seductively gaudy, frankly homoerotic utopia, where saints, sailors, and movie stars inhabit the same candy-colored never-never land. Curator Dan Cameron emphasizes the team's work of the '90s, which has taken a

  • Art and the Camera

    F. Holland Day (1864–1933), monied Boston aesthete and eccentric, took up Pictorialist photography in his twenties and became one of its most artful and popular proponents. Working in an allegorical style that recalled Julia Margaret Cameron, he turned out moody portraits and vaguely homoerotic male nudes, most in rich, warm-toned platinum prints. For his most famous and controversial series, Day starved himself for weeks, grew his hair long, and posed on the cross in little but a crown of thorns. Nearly all of Day's work was lost in a 1904 fire, but what survives retains a heady perfume of

  • CAFÉ NOIR: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF ED VAN DER ELSKEN

    Anticipating the moody verité of much recent photography, ED VAN DER ELSKEN’s vignettes of left bank demimondaines, Tokyo Yakuza, and Soweto insurgents are gaining a new following. As the Dutch artist’s first full-scale retrospective goes on view at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, VINCE ALETTI examines van der Elsken’s autobiographical legacy.

    Who am I to spout about life, love, happiness? About whether all’s right with the world, or whether it’s just a vale of tears, so store up your treasures for heaven. I think it’s unbelievable, fabulous, this life of ourseverything, the birds and the bees, the