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May 23, 2006

Loretta Lux, Photo Art Super Star to Stay, or Over Priced Flash in the Pan??

Happy Tuesday MAO readers.. So.. I'm hearing from several of my NYC photo/art crazy obsessed friends.. Don't miss the new Loretta Lux, completely new "Sold Out," show at the Yossi Milo Gallery!!

The_waitinggirl_lorettaluxIt's her second solo show, and its up till June 24th. Here is one of Loretta Lux newest classically disturbing works. "The Waiting Girl", Ilfochrome Print, 2006.

For those totally clueless who are not familiar with Loretta Lux, these are combination works of photography, painting and digital software manipulation. One expert,in American Photo determined her technique as "Gaussian Blur, Unsharp Masking, and Level Controls from Photoshop"

Her work has been hotly trashed, & praised debated in envious art circles..But the question remains..Loretta Lux, is it Photography, or Contemporary Art??  Is she an Art Genius or a passing fad? Is her haunting Child images a MUST HAVE for any serious modern collection or a total waste of money? Her work is reported in Yossi's press release to be currently included in many high profile museum collections, though I have yet to see it on display at a US museum.

As for me.. I hated reacted strongly to her work when I first saw it, I think it's scary,creepy somewhat original, but felt it was a total rip off a bit expensive. They typically cost about $25k+ for the larger prints 20x20 inches, edition of 7, and around $9k+ for the 11x11inch edition of 20, which I thought high for such a brand spanking new artist.  Doing the simple math, this values each image Loretta creates at about $350,000 in total. Which, I'd guess, probably puts her in the top 15% of all living producing contemporary artists today. Is this reasonable??  It's also been curious to see her work come up so soon at auction several times in the last 2 years. Are art insiders flipping these over hyped works for a quick buck before it crashes?   But so far, they've always been selling at auction for at least 90% of the current retail price and sometimes way higher.

Well.. MAO readers.. So.. Clearly I have no idea why so many lemmings people are paying so much for collecting these.. What do you think?

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Loretta Lux work will mesmerize you!
She's a Genius.

MAO you're such a cynic!
Love your blog.. but you're so wrong on this one.

MAO has a valid point. Her work is interesting and haunting and I like it but there's nothing groundbreaking. For a fairly new artist, her work is a bit too expensive. Call it hype. I think Beate Gutschow is more innovative.

Totally wrong on this one MAO. Look at all the imitators starting to appear. She could be classified as groundbreaking and influential.

Bias Disclosure: I have 3 Lux's....but I got em when they were cheap.

I disagree with you entirely on your Jennifer Bartlett critique. But, I'm still debating this one. I usually agree with you on your photography assessments. But, like I said, I'm still debating this one. There's something there, I just have not figured out what yet (and that can be good or bad). hmmm...........

Hey Chris..
I think people are imitating the LUX work because it's selling at sky high prices!! And it's so easy to produce..not becasue it's great art!

I'd suggest you think about selling some of your 3 LUX works ASAP! Cause you may see them selling cheap again!

My questions is how her work is basically a vapid continuation of Margaret Keane, JG Brown and countless others who fetishize children in creepy pictures. The fact that no one has seized upon this fact baffles me. Although technically accomplished, her sucess has more to do with adult's perceptions, projections on and obsessions with children.

Remember, JG Brown, a NYC painter who painted street kids at the turn of the century, was one of the most sucessful painters in NYC at the time. Just like L.Lux, he couldn't make enough of them, and now how many of you have ever heard of JG Brown?

Adam

My feeling is that her work is basically a vapid continuation of Margaret Keane, JG Brown and countless others who fetishize children in creepy pictures. The fact that no one has seized upon this fact baffles me - but speaks to the poverty of photography criticism. Although technically accomplished, her sucess has more to do with adult's perceptions, projections on and obsessions with children.

Remember, JG Brown, a NYC painter who painted street kids at the turn of the century, was one of the most sucessful painters in NYC at the time. Just like L.Lux, he couldn't make enough of them, and now how many of you have ever heard of JG Brown?

Adam

I've got 3 JG Brown's too....

I love the work, love it!!!

But she is priced waaaayyy above her peers. It's unjustifiable to me really. Unless I really had a ton of money to blow I wouldn't buy it.

Will people still be clamoring over paying 10/25k for her photographs in 40-50 years when there's a whole new crop of photographers and her stuff looks dated? Might be, but only the shadow knows...

Very speculative. The things that go up the highest fall the hardest.

Awh gee, I don't know, I think it reminds me a little too much of ...uhm, Anne Geddes. Oofa.

I know, I know it's slightly more "macabre" but only one step away from calendar art in my quite humble opinion.

The comparison to JG Brown is great. These are just glorified genre pictures. While the pictures are moderately interesting, I cannot believe the hype on these, and the fact that collectors are buying into it.

Hey Chris..
I think people are imitating the LUX work because it's selling at sky high prices!! And it's so easy to produce..not becasue it's great art!

Good Point MAO. WORD UP!

The work is lovely in many ways, but the hype is definately overblown. You could make a good case that the entire body of work is a predictable evolution of one or two Diane ARbus images.

The prices? Ridiculous. And she is supposedly a very exacting businessperson as much as an artist. Just because she "came of age" in a strong contemporary art market? Just to put it all in context, I bought three Rineke Dijkstra classic images (editions of 15) between 1998-late 1999 for a total of $5,000).

Loretta Lux will go down as a crowd pleasing photoshoppist.

I really hate her.

She has a slightly facist digital trickey with an obsession for old forms of beauty. It's this perfect thing that is so clean, precise and pure that it falls into self parody. In order to make people spend 25k on something so empty, there has to be the a conviction of depth, but she doesnt even have Koons or Warhols blankness. She wants desperatley for people to think there is some of that socio-political work that has gone into the pretty blankness but i dont see it.

The other weird thing, is the complete lack of n respect for her mediums (either fotos or painting), she cant take pictures well enough for them to be arresting, and she cant paint in a way that is interesting on its own, shes stumbled into a time where the politics and aesthetics of digital manipulation are a fecund territory, and is using that fecundity to convince the market of her skill, she fails.

(Sidenote: The easiest thing in the world to make money off of is the sentimental feelings people have about animals and children, Lux takes advantage of this ease, and doesnt criticise it, like for example Mann does)

(Sidenote II: She is the 21st equivlaent of this

I don't know that this was masterfully schemed to induce profit. And I don't have a problem about her medium. This is now, people craft images, not paintings or pictures. I don't care if she can or can not copy a master painting.

I do care that although appealing, her stuff runs a strong risk of looking very dated pretty fast.

It's new and 'kind of" different looking but I don't know if it's timeless. I think it draws too siliar a comparison to cheesy commercially appealling work. Such as Anne Geddes or the stuff at the links above. The stuff your grandmom would buy.

And by the time Lux is a grandmom the new crop of millionaires won't want anything do with her because it's going to look like stuff 'their' grandmom would buy.

But hey, I could be wrong.

Wasn't Simen Johan, also at Yossi doing the whole creep digital manipulated child thing before her?

Hey Dan & Art Brutt..
Thanks for all the thoughts everyone!

Yes.. Good points..Simen Johan was there with spooky children color images before Loretta with shows in 2001 and 2002.

I agree, along with Art Snob & Anthony's comments, ALL these works are just a few years away from being on Hallmark Calendars and someday Grandma's Commemorative China!

Whether she was the first or not, Loretta Lux will be remembered as one of the first movers/early adopters of the next generation of photography...just like Cindy Sherman with staged photography, or William Eggleston with color (or Warhol with pop art). There will be new artists mastering these digital techniques and taking it further, but in the history books it will be Loretta Lux pictured as THE pioneer in the field. Just because some of you didn't buy her early on when it was "cheap," is not an excuse to belittle her accomplishments.

Lux in the same sentence as Eggleston, Sherman & warhol. Now that's RICH!

PIONEER???!?!?! Jeff Wall is a digital pioneer, Gurksy etc...There are a host of other artists working with digital technology that are more important than her...

She's essentially Margaret Keane for a sophisticated art crowd...her work panders to adults fascination with children and childhood innocence under the guise of some sort of sophisticated art critique. Just because her kids have vacant stares doesn't mean there is any content. Children are one of the most convenient vehicle for the adult projection.

Just because she is good with photoshop does nothing to solidify her place in photo history. As I said in the earlier post, her work sits solidly within a tradition of children kitsch like Maragaret Keane, JG Brown, Anne Geddes etc..The fact her work is sold in Chelsea and that some people are willing to spend enormous amounts of money for it doesn't give her any credibility or longevity.

The only thing that is interesting about her work is the interest and market frenzy it has generated and what it says about adults abiding fascination with children...

Dude-

I think someone else is doing some projecting here. Issues??? I mean we can go through every important artist in history who has used the young as subject matter. Don't get me started on Degas young ballerina fetish, etc.,etc.,etc, Those purves back then were having a field day....

PS It's art....not everybody's going to like it. People are going to bring different experiences and opinions to the work and that's OK..... and some people are going to like it and actually want to own it.....and that's OK too.

Unlike much comtemporary photography her work is not dependant on size, serial imagery or self referential jokes. The images are able to stand alone, especially the drummer - and they are clearly photographs, continuing a very long tradition of manipulated images, extending from Julia Margaret Cameron's out of focus portraits. How much impact would an unknown 8x10 of Jeff Wall, Gursky or Sherman have if stumbled upon in a box. Lux's resemblance to JG Brown and Keane is superficial - her work is not genre (it is so totally and overtly unreal) and neither is it lacking in intellect. She is the most important photographer of the last 15 years.

Well that's a point, about the size, they speak even at small scale. And yes I really do think they are somewhat appealing.

But I'm not upset about missing the boat. It's just that I've got enough stuff I'd like to buy much more than her. I could easily come up with a list of 50 things I want to buy. And once I get that 50 I could easily make a new list, and on and on. When I can get 2/3 prints by other artists I like better for the same price as a small Lux, it's a no-brainer to me.

And two more issues, they're the kind of thing I think are pretty appealing but would just look strange hanging on my wall. Don't fit in my collection at all. But maybe it's just me?

And once again, I might be wrong, they are borderline, but with such distinct style, they do run the risk of becoming dated.

Buy, Sell? Well it's definitely not an investment for widows and orphans (although they might enjoy it most :-) but it's your money, do with it what you want.

the empress has no clothes.....wake up


The most important photographer in the past 15 years...that's priceless.

I think wall and gursky would work on a small scale, and i have seen 8x10 Shermans (not very good shermans, but 8x10 regardless.)

What is wrong with seiral imagery, photos work like that, how we shoot and how we see is often serial, and what you call injokes, seems almost reactionary...its like the nro crowd who refuses to engage the work, and just call it a cult.

the work is sentimental. its cheap. it looks like shit. its horribly dull. she has a colour sense that is shared by martha stewart. its eugenic, almostly perfectly so, and not critically so...has she had an African or Asian American child?

does she h ave children? its almost a hipster yuppie desire to breed children who dont shit, who dont breath, who dont make messes, and who get into the right schools from k to 12.

FYI.. I think The original (and by far the most valuable) Cindy Sherman, "Film Stills" are all small size 10"x14"

And They are AWESOME!

The comments I made about serial, size etc don't all apply to each of the photographers mentioned. I suppose my age (I bought my first Callahan in 1978 - unfortunately my only other one in 1998!) and isolation in Western Australia (although the AGWA does have a large Wall light box) predispose to a reactionary attitude - and I am certainly not opposed to serial imagery as I have a couple of large collotypes of French light houses from an 1870's attempt to document French state buildings. I suppose Goya,Picasso and any number of artist- photographers and otherwise- have produced series of work - but the INDIVIDUAL images from the most significant ones can stand alone. I think that in 30 years Sherman's photos will need an explanatory text - which in other series will ADD to the work - Sherman's will not exist without it. In the purchase/worth aspect of this blog - I would indeed like to own all photographers mentioned, comments are simply relative. Contempory photography is very much more of the art world than when I first began my interest - and I cannot afford the newer players who have successfully been able to move away from the "unlimited print" aspect that previously devaued some of the greatest images.

To say she is the most important photographer of the past 15 years is crazy - that means she is more important than Vik Muniz, Katy Grannan, Thomas Demand, Catherine Opie, Fazal Sheikh, Collier Schorr etc... the list goes on....

market value ≠ artistic importance

you've got to hand it to Yossi Milo - he's done of hell of a job of convincing people to buy her work.

Chris, please don't include Catherine Opie in that list. She's ripped off almost every series that she's known for. From the ice houses (Scott Peterman), to the surfers (Mark Wyse), she has nary an original thought in her head. She just has more money to make nicer prints.

Very true - and point well taken. opie's originality is dubious - my only point was there are a host of other photographers that are important - infinetely more so than l. luxx in the past 15 years.

opie can easily be substituted for another photographer in the list. it's also worth noting that m. wyse was c. opie's printer when she started working on her surfers. she then had him print her photos.....ouch.

Regarding not seeing her work in a US Museum. Lux has 3 images currently in the after Cezanne show at MOCA in LA and they look great.

I too, saw one recently at the MFA Boston.

Her show looks like the kids from The Omen. I guess a debate could go on about who influenced who, but, who cares?

Although your comments are fun and the questions they raise are fair, the simple truth is she has spawned countless imitators because her work is arresting to many people. I for one would happily pay her price (or more if she accepted commissions and I could have my own children photographed). The prices are irrelevant. That is simply transactional material that inspires envy. The strength of the work is clearly it's ability to cause some of the people who look at art and photography routinely to stop, take notice and talk about it. How few photographers can achieve that? I think the work has long legs and will be known very well for decades or longer. Now, whether or not she produces so many that they lose value is anyone guess. People never seem to tire of endless much larger edition serial prints produced by the aged patriarchs of pop, etc. long after most of their spark was gone. So... I wouldn't bet against them when they are getting such attention. They are also finding there way into U.S. museums quickly.

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