New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Five Decades of Passion. We are the World: Figures and Portraits
reviewer #1

The two shows at the Fisher Landau Center are both just extensions of the Center’s ongoing über-show – which is the story of the well-connected New York art scene of the last part of the 20th Century. Fortunately for photography fans, this was a splendid time to be collecting, and Mrs Fisher Landau was a woman up to the task. The lower two floors of this warehouse/museum are devoted to the collecting done from 1989 to 1991, and although haphazard in thematic unity, offers some sparkling photo gems. The largest and best are three of Rodney Graham’s straight-forward, beautifully printed, large-format images of oak trees, hung upside down – the cause of much late 20th century knicker-twisting. They are everything a photograph of a tree can possibly be, and since Graham was taken with the then fairly unusual tactic of printing only a single copy of each image, they are not seen often enough. A beautifully simple Adam Fuss (also of course one of kind) hangs nearby. The third artist of note is Fariba Hejamadi, a California artist very much a product of the navel gazing institutionalist school. Her two large hand colored photo-projections of museum scenes onto emulsion covered wood or canvas still manage to be wonderfully emotive.

Upstairs is the more thematic show modestly entitled “We Are the World” portraits of movers and shakers of the New York Art Scene of the late 20th Century. The first image encountered is Neil Winokur’s portrait of Andy Warhol, and Warhol is the overriding presence, both in works - not one, but two silk screen portraits of Mrs. Fisher Landau - but in overall outlook. We soon encounter an immense polaroid portrait of Hillary Rodham Clinton taken in 2000 by Chuck Close that makes you feel you have gotten closer to the then First Lady than any human being possibly ever has. The strongest work here however, is by Mapplethorpe. Mrs Fisher Landau may have been only spending money on the Warhols, but she made a brave step to be photographed by Mapplethorpe. The resulting portrait is given the full Lisa Lyons treatment and presents a very strong, intelligent and self-possesed woman, a real power photograph. Two iconic self-portraits, the one with a cigarette and the one with the skull are present and still vital.

The only slip in quality comes with a large wall of photo’s by Timothy-Greenfield Sanders, all with the same book-jacket quality, “I would make a fascinating talk show guest”, straight in the eye look. All the more telling because across the room is a slightly wider range of portraits by Peter Hujar, where one feels you are encountering real people, interesting, with barbs and foibles intact.

Five Decades of Passion. We are the World: Figures and Portraits

Fisher Landau Center for Art
38-27 30th St.
Queens         Map

718 937 0727

Saturday, January 2 to
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Hours: Thurs-Mon, 12 to 5