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Photo L.A. announces the honoree and beneficiary for 2019: JO ANN CALLIS

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Announcing Photo L.A. Honoree & Beneficiary


Join PHOTO LA January 31, 2019 6-9PM at Barker Hanger, Santa Monica for the Opening Night of Photo L.A. as they proudly honor artist Jo Ann Callis for her contributions to the history and aesthetics of the photographic arts.

A central figure in the Southern California photography scene since the 1970s, Jo Ann Callis is known for her provocatively staged scenarios with a poetic dimension. In her work, the inner world of the artist finds material expression through creative juxtapositions, bold colors and playful constructions.

Photo L.A. 2019 Opening Night will be held to benefit Venice Arts.

Venice Arts ignites, expands, and transforms the lives of Los Angeles’ low-income youth through photography and film education.

Be the first to enjoy the curated roster of 60 plus local and international galleries, dealers, collectives, leading not-for-profits, art schools, and global booksellers at the 27th edition of Photo L.A. presented at the historic Barker Hangar, Santa Monica. And take part in honoring Jo Ann Callis, benefitting Venice Arts, and mingling with the always eclectic Los Angeles photography community.

Tickets now available! Follow the links below to buy your tickets to the Photo L.A. 2019 Opening Night and join us in experiencing A Photography Fair Like No Other!



Jo Ann Callis: The Uncanny Everyday

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by Willemijn van der Zwaan 
GUP Magazine, Issue 59

Jo Ann Callis (b. 1940, United States) started her experimental photography practice long ago, but without a context you could easily mistake her early colour work for something that could have been produced more recently - in fact, the work stems from the 1970s. These images from everyday life, contain a certain uncanny atmosphere and erotic tension, which are now considered common characteristics in the work of many young contemporary artists. 

Callis is hailed as a driving force of the Southern California art scene of the 1970s. However, before she ended up in the Golden State, she followed somewhat more traditional route for women of that era. Although her art education started while she was at high school in Ohio in the 1950s, her academic career was interrupted by marriage and children. After relocating to Los Angeles, Callis picked u where she had left off, and joined a graduate studio programme. While her initial focus was on sculpture and painting, it was her teacher, Robert Heinecken - a highly unorthodox photographer himself - who encouraged her to experiment with photograph and to incorporate it in her other media.

Callis_Cigarette in Toe.jpg

The contemporary art world was in a state flux at the time, and the social environment the surrounded Callis was also coming undone. speak in the slightly cynical words of the inimitable essayist Joan Didion: the centre was not holding in 1970s California. However, while there w general social upheaval in the state - largely among counterculture youths 'dropping out' of society and getting heavily into drugs - things were al changing for the better.

Second-wave feminism was making strides i promoting equal rights for women, and although Callis was not on the front line of the movement. it did affect her artistic practice. The often frank sexuality and pleasure evident in her work is 8 reflection of the era, as are as the social and gender dynamics that Callis included in her staged images.

Her fabricated scenes seem playful at first glance, but there is often a slight uneasiness about them. Take, for example, the image of a man grabbing a woman, who is standing on a chair, by the ankles. 

While it is unclear what this scene is actually dealing with, Callis's use of what seems to be office furniture, as well as the corporate shoes and clothing worn by the subjects, suggests an underlying power dynamic. The harsh lighting adds to the effect, stressing the sinister nature of the situation. 


The inventiveness of Callis's constructed scenes and the avant-garde themes she explored are still of great relevance for the world of today. Things are not always so severe; a tenderness often shines through in her work. In one image, we see a young girl, sitting naked on the edge of her bed, soaking a black washcloth in a glass bowl on her lap. The soft light adds a warm glow to her quiet contemplation.

Overall, regardless of the subject, Callis never aimed to push her message on to the viewer. Her early colour photographs exude a timeless freshness and leave room for interpretation. This is a key quality of her work and, whether or not they are inspired by Jo Ann Callis, it is the kind of ambivalence that so many talented young contemporary photographer manage to incorporate in their work too.

Continue reading at GUP.

Spotlight Series: Jo Ann Callis

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“I remember parting her hair and carefully drawing the black line from the top of her head down to her waist in one gesture. I was thinking about what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of that drawn line. It might give a pleasant little chill up the spine and visually it left the door open to interpretation.”

A thin, black line runs down a woman’s pale back, beginning in a mass of blonde hair, at the point where the head curves coyly away from sight. Jo Ann Callis created the composition as part of a body of work exploring and expanding the notion of fetish. Evoking a sensory response, the woman’s back tenses with the texture of the bones visible beneath. The delicateness of the uncovered back evokes an even stronger sense of intimacy when the eye slowly moves down the thin line. When Callis drew the line down her back, she thought not only of the image, but also of the subject’s experience, thinking of what kind of sensations arise with the touch of the pen’s smooth gesture moving down the naked back. 

Jo Ann Callis,  Woman with Blond Hair, 1977

Jo Ann Callis, Woman with Blond Hair, 1977

In both the hair and the line running down the back, the sense of splitting is omnipresent. The slit, suggestive in its form, insinuates what lays just below the frame of the composition. Insinuating a strong sense of sexual intimacy, Woman with Blond Hair, 1977 evokes the fascination of fetish through what is both visually present and implied.

Jo Ann Callis on view in exhibition Dreamers Awake at White Cube Gallery

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Jo Ann Callis will be on view at White Cube Gallery in the group show "Dreamers Awake", a major exhibition exploring the enduring influence of Surrealism from the 1930s to the present day.  Curated by Susanna Greeves

Jo Ann Callis, Untitled, from Early Color Portfolio Circa 1976

Jo Ann Callis, Untitled, from Early Color Portfolio Circa 1976

"This thematic exhibition brings together over 100 works by women artists to explore sexual politics, eroticism, mysticism and identity. Rarely seen paintings by key figures associated with the original Surrealist movement, such as Eileen Agar and Leonora Carrington, are shown alongside modern and contemporary artists including Louise Bourgeois & Tracey Emin, Claude Cahun, Mona Hatoum, Linder, Laurie Simmons, Gillian Wearing, Hannah Wilke and many more."


W. M. Hunt review Classic Photographs LA - The Eye of Photography

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"Classic Photographs Los Angeles is the comfort food of photography fairs: warm and satisfying, a kinder, gentler throwback to the hotel fairs of the early 1980’s." He had a yummy time.

Graciela Iturbide,  Casa de Frida Kahlo , 2003

Graciela Iturbide, Casa de Frida Kahlo, 2003

Lionel Wendt,  Untitled , c. 1930's

Lionel Wendt, Untitled, c. 1930's

Jo Ann Callis,  Untitled,  1975

Jo Ann Callis, Untitled, 1975

Of the photography dealers, booth layouts and prints mentioned, Hunt took notice to the color works on display in our booth.  "Surprising and unsurprising" were both the works of Jo Ann Callis and Graciela Iturbide.  Iturbide was invited to photograph Frida Kahlo's bathroom 50 years after her death.  The portfolio of 6 works in full technicolor are exquisite dye transfer prints.  Jo Ann Callis's vintage silver gelatin prints accompanied Iturbide, and Wendt.  Lionel Wendt was a Ceylon born musician, writer, critic, lawyer and photographer in the 1930s until his death in 1944.  He was a founder and member of the 43 Group, a salon style society of artists in Sri Lanka, whose creative efforts lead to great international success. 

Read his full commentary on the Classic Photographs Los Angeles HERE.

Jo Ann Callis photograph named top 5 artworks at PHOTOLA - Artspace

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PHOTO LA, in its 26th year, explores the photographic practice at DTLA's The Reef exhibition space with over 30 exhibitors.  On display were vintage works from Cohen gallery, Emerging photographers featured in curated booths, digital printing studios, and works from private collections.  From the booth of featured work by photography collectors was the work of Jo Ann Callis, named top 5 artworks at the fair.

Jo Ann Callis,  Woman With Blonde Hair,  1977

Jo Ann Callis, Woman With Blonde Hair, 1977

From the collection of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck

Woman With Blonde Hair is from a series of elegant and often enigmatic images from 1976 to 1977 that preceded the last 30 years of fictional narrative in photography. Referencing film noir, Paul Outerbridge, and the eroticism of fashion photographer Guy Bourdin, it creates a highly charged domestic tableau that exists out of any context and without any clear resolution, but is instead highly suggestive—the fetishistic overtones giving the scenario both pleasure and anxiety.  As a cibachrome print, its lush coloration has a slightly metallic tone, only increasing its sense of menace and style.

Read the full list on

Alicia Eler reviews HE/SHE/THEY for Aperture

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Alicia Eler writes, "Spanning over eighty years of photographs, an exhibition explores the gender non-conforming potential of the word 'they.'

Yasumasa Morimura, Jane Fonda 5 (Barbarella), 1995  © the artist and courtesy ROSEGALLERY

Lise Sarfati, Malaïka #7, Corner 7th Street and Spring, from the series On Hollywood, 2010  © the artist and courtesy ROSEGALLERY

The singular gender-neutral pronoun “they” was named word of the year in 2016. Judging from the social and historical depth of photography and archival imagery in the exhibition He/She/They, currently on view at ROSEGALLERY, which includes work by more than fifteen artists, it’s crazy to think that it took this long to get American culture at large to recognize life outside the gender binary. Ranging from the early 1930s to the present, the works exhibit a wide array of bodies, locations, gazes, and socioeconomic perspectives, and consider the intersectional influence of race and class on notions of gender.

Since this exhibition is presented in Los Angeles, Lise Sarfati’s Malaïka #7, Corner 7th Street and Spring from the series On Hollywood (2010), is appropriately local and captures a woman trying to make it in the entertainment industry. In this startling photograph, a young woman appears forlorn, perhaps returning from an audition, unsure of what to do next. The actress’s face, and the low-angle perspective, is reminiscent of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #21 (1978), in which a young woman, who could be any (white) woman, looks intently beyond the frame, with an imposing block of skyscrapers forming the background. Marrying visual art and Hollywood icons, her dress and hairstyle reference Marilyn Monroe and the “dumb blonde” archetype.

Graciela Iturbide, Carnaval, Tlaxcala, Mexico, 1974  © the artist and courtesy ROSEGALLERY

...Other works in the show focus less on the performance of gender, and more on people who defy normative gender distinctions. Nineteenth-century photographs depict Native American “two-spirit” individuals—those who participate in gender roles not assigned to their sex—but the accompanying text explains that intersex, androgynous, and gender non-conforming people could be held in high regard outside of Eurocentric, heteronormative cultures. In photographs by Mexican artist Graciela Iturbide, Magnolia, who identified as Muxe (Zapotec for homosexual and “genderqueer”), poses for the camera wearing a dress and sombrero, a traditionally male accessory.

He/She/They leans heavily on the visual language of portraiture, which might suggest a desire for authenticity in documentation, in contrast to much of the dynamic content found online, where self-expression by social media sensations, celebrities, and everyday people appears to be constantly evolving. The photographs in this show offer a fixed moment in time, declarative and definitive, but also remain open to the many shades of identity, the gender non-conforming potential of the word “they.”

Alicia Eler is a journalist based in Los Angeles. A contributor to New York Magazine, The Guardian,VICE, LA Weekly, Hyperallergic, Art21, and Artforum, she is currently working on her first book,The Selfie Generation (Skyhorse).

He/She/They is on view at ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica, through November 12, 2016."

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"Still Life with Fish: Photography from the Collection" with work of Jo Ann Callis on view at the HAMMER Museum

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Themes of seriality, identity, and place explored in conceptual photography on the West Coast from the 1960s to the present.

Jo Ann Callis,  Salt and Pepper and Fire , 1980  

Jo Ann Callis, Salt and Pepper and Fire, 1980

Robert Heinecken's founding of the photography department at UCLA in the 1960's impacted generations of artists using photography.  The program set parameters for Grunswald Center for the Graphic Arts' collection.  Among his many students was Jo Ann Callis, a forerunner in the fabricated image movement in the 1970's.  Juxtaposing nude anonymous forms with binding such as duct tape, pools of honey, fabric and colored lights, Callis depicts a complex drama in each image.  Today, her work is on view in the exhibition Still Life with Fish: Photography from the Collection at the Hammer Museum until 15 May, 2016.

Other artists on display are Judy Fiskin, James Welling, Collier Schoor, Amy Adler, Sharon Lockhart, and Allen Ruppersberg.

Read more about the exhibition on