November 9, 2012

Steve Kahn, Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolia

Steve Kahn: The Hollywood Suites
Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolia 
November 10, 2012 - January 5, 2013

Joseph Bellows Gallery presents the first San Diego solo exhibition of Steve Kahn’s critically acclaimed photographs from the 1970s. These pictures, collectively titled "The Hollywood Suites,” were all made in run-down apartments. Alternately provocative and haunting, they were the subject of solo exhibitions on the West Coast and in Europe during that decade and included in noted group exhibitions such as “Exposing: Photographic Definitions” at the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art in 1976 and “The Altered Photograph” at P.S. 1 in New York in 1979.

The series divides into two groups of pictures. "The Hollywood Suites (nudes)” features sexually charged pictures of young women, often partially clad and sometimes cropped. In “The Hollywood Suites (mirrors, windows and doors),” he concentrated on architectural interiors, making arresting use of windows and doors. The images themselves are grainy and offer an unnaturally sharp contrast between darks and lights. Select examples feature doorways embellished with geometric patterns done in twine.

Of the series, STEVE KAHN comments:
The explorations presented in this portfolio followed a year's work with porno industry models in run-down apartments in the old Hollywood district of Los Angeles. On one occasion, the model didn't show up, and I found that I could investigate the same issues by photographing the room itself - without the models. This discovery led to the next body of work: "The Hollywood Suites (mirrors, windows and doors)". These were studies of the room - exploring the contained through explorations of the container itself. How one takes on the nature of the other...
 It was clear that in the previous work I had been creating existential encounters with the models, confronting my own complex responses to a very loaded situation. By removing the extreme content, I could focus on other, more generic issues. It was time to investigate the immediate environment for the ideas it embodied. What could I learn from the walls and their portals, about the inside and out...?
Steve Kahn, who was born in 1943, was part of an important generation of Los Angeles photographers that included Robert Heinecken, Ilene Segalove and Jerry McMillan, among others. They brought a conceptual and collage approach to the picture. Many were chronicled in the important exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum, Proof: Los Angeles and the Photograph: 1960-1980 and Kahn is also included the 2011 book, L.A. Rising: SoCal Artists Before 1980.

“I've been concentrating on this time period and how it relates to what was going on in Los Angeles at the time,” says Joseph Bellows. “I like the gritty, abstract quality of this work."

Steve Kahn achieved this look in his “Hollywood Suites” by making the original pictures with black and white Polaroid prints, copied onto a grainy 35 mm film and then printed on silver gelatin coated paper. All prints in this forthcoming exhibition were printed in the seventies.

A native of Los Angeles, Steve Kahn worked as a photographer in Los Angeles from 1968 to 1985, after earning a B.A. at Reed College in Oregon. He moved to New York in 1986 and has enjoyed a career as a prominent commercial photographer, with a number of high profile companies as clients. In 1999, Rizzoli published his book “Soho NY,” which documented the area’s historic architecture and its artistic community. 

He was the recipient of a Young Talent Purchase Award from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1979 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship a year later. Kahn is represented in many collections; they include: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Dallas Museum of Art. He has taught at the California Institute of the Arts and, more recently, at Pratt Institute in New York.