Itamar Freed’s “Starry Night,” inkjet spring on archival paper, (c) 2017. Courtesy image.

Kudos to the organizers of Photo LA, whose fairs I’ve attended for many years, mostly at Barker Hangar, as it’s so convenient for those of us in Santa Monica, and it’s an enormous venue that can easily support the massive numbers of galleries showing off their artistic wares.

This year, of course, we have COVID19 to thank for its physical shutdown. But I think they did a great job of creating their first-ever virtual fair. It took an enormous amount of ingenuity and technological skill, and while seeing an art object in real life, in real size, and in person is completely different from viewing it online, hats off to these folks for making a successful effort to simulate the booths that would otherwise be hosting these galleries’ images.

VIRTUAL COLLECT + CONNECT

VIRTUAL COLLECT + CONNECT presented by Photo LA was made possible by using an app called Whova. Remarkably, there were more than seventy-three 3D interactive gallery exhibitions, curated installations, virtual programming on Zoom and, though I didn’t participate, they even had coffee and cocktail hours.

When I go to such shows in person, I’m always overwhelmed, overstimulated and after a while, my eyes just can’t take in any more images and my brain won’t process them. Doing this online instead was both easier on the feet and ears (it gets noisy in those halls) but somehow a little more exhausting. I could only take in a handful of the gallery offerings because my eyes just don’t can’t be on a screen all day.

Nevertheless, it was a pretty seamless experience, and a few notable galleries and artists surfaced for me.

PATRICK TSCHUDI

Peruvian-born photographer Patrick Tschudi, represented by the Alex Schlesinger Gallery from Zurich, Switzerland, caught my eye, because in this Black Lives Matter era, he uses black dots to create pictograms, ideas that can be easily grasped as physically recognizable objects. The idea is to make the figures he depicts universally acceptable, reflecting his view that globalization can create homogeneity in society and individuals.

Park Gathering from 2015 depicts a large and tightly packed crowd of people, children and families (clearly not created in the COVID19 era), picnicking and partying on a wide green lawn, a man barbecuing, umbrellas, tents and booths in the background, lots of activity buzzing in the foreground, and everyone’s head is represented as a black dot. He works from photos, creates digital drawings, and gets them processed and printed in a photography lab.

ITAMAR FREED

Litvak Contemporary, based in Haifa, Israel, represents photographer Itamar Freed. He does abstract photography commingled with nature photography. The results are magical. A beautiful deep blue background makes a lightly-leaved tree, with pieces of cut fruit and colorful birds gathered on its branches and a tropical plant at its base, jump out of the frame, and is both representational and pure fantasy. His time-lapse image of the Milky Way, set between two treetops, is breathtaking. And his many natural world photos are exquisite to behold and remind us of what a paradise earth can be.

ALISON JACKSON

I nearly fell off my chair, when I saw a photo of Queen Elizabeth feeding her Corgis (with Royal Canin, of course) and later, sitting on the loo…and of course I had to know, WTF! Well it turns out that photographer Alison Jackson explores our fascination with celebrities, using look-alikes to stand in for them. She’s commenting on the public’s voyeurism, and our need to believe in the images we see and are seduced or influenced by. She has the Queen, Charles and Camilla and other Royal Family members (Diana, for example, flipping the bird!) doing the most unexpected private (and not-real) things. These really grabbed me by the throat. She was represented at Photo LA by the Knight Webb Gallery of London.

ALEJANDRO CHASKIELBERG

Shown by Almanaque in Mexico City, Argentinian photographer Alejandro Chaskielberg makes images that feel like hallucinogenic, neon-glowing, black-light visions and are simultaneously completely realistic. Case in point: in Labyrinth Gaucho, a labyrinth made of tall hedges, cut into undulating shapes, are shot at night, looking off into the horizon. Each nook and cranny is lit from below with a neon green light, and standing in front, with his hand on his heart in a spotlight, is the Gaucho, who appears in a woven and patterned cape.

Chaskielberg also works with groups of people, using smart phones in various settings. In Virtual Dreamers, wide tracks are raked into vertical rows and terraces on a sandy uphill slope, and they become the bed for more than 25 people, who lay scattered about in them, arms upraised and phones in hand, with a different bright color bathing each of them, all set against a setting sun in a landscape format. It’s mighty pretty.

TIRED OF STAYING HOME?

What’s old is new again: Go to The Rose Bowl, Thursdays—Sundays, now through August 2, for the Tribeca Drive-In series. Yep, just like the old days, you can smooch in the car—or just watch the movie!—while enjoying iconic films, special comedy acts and more.

Just a few of the features include the 4th of July celebration with The Wizard of Oz, Field of Dreams and a 25th Anniversary screening of Apollo 13. There’s a Kids Night, a Ladies’ Night, Time Travel Comedies and other themed programming. See the whole lineup here: TribecaFilm.com.

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various publications.