It's always a bit risky, so early in the fall, to attempt anything but the most general assessment of the months ahead. But judging by the number of shows involving eroticism and nudity, it's safe to say that it will be a sexy season, heating up just as the weather cools down. Helmut Newton starts things off with a touring retrospective that arrives at ICP in late September. Long a lightning rod for controversy, Newton was one of the first photographers to make fashion's implicit carnality the often quite explicit subject of his work. Working primarily in the pages of Vogue, he invented a private realm where drop-dead hauteur and impossible wealth met a range of s/m fetish gear previously seen only in the most sophisticated dungeons. The black humor of much of Newton's work was lost on outraged readers, but his wit, nerve, obsessiveness, polish, and remarkable productivity has been an inspiration to countless photographers both in and out of fashion's perfumed trenches. ICP's retrospectivewhich also includes nudes and hyperstylized celebrity portraitsis sure to rile some sensibilities, feminist and otherwise. But Newton's fantasies of Euro-trash decadence set up such intricate webs of sex and power that, however cartoonish, they're never easily dismissed. (Another show of Newton's photos, at Staley Wise Gallery, 560 Broadway, overlaps with ICP's from September 14 to October 27.)
Larry Sultan, whose most famous work, "Pictures From Home," focused on his parents and the L.A. sprawl he grew up in, has been investigating another aspect of those suburbs for the past few years by photographing California's thriving porn industry. Jeff Burton and Ken Probst have already mined this territory to pretty spectacular effect, but Sultan's work is quieter and suffused with melancholy. By concentrating on porn's borrowed domestic settings and keeping the sex biz almost incidental, Sultan brings an emotional complexity to the subject that's entirely his own. Though these pictures, most of them quite large-scale, have been cropping up in group shows for some time, the Borden exhibition is their debut as a group. Also in New York for the first time are color and black-and-white portraits by outsider filmmaker Russ Meyer, who photographed his four wives and other professionally busty babes during the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Most of Meyer's subjects were the supervixen stars of his cult movies, including Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and their larger-than-life presence is hard to contain within a frame.
Meyer's women could strike up a fascinating neighborly dialogue with the subjects of E.J. Bellocq's circa 1912 portraits of New Orleans prostitutes, on display just two blocks away in early December. Bellocq's pictures became famous in 1970 when Lee Friedlander, who'd bought all 89 of the photographer's existing glass-plate negatives, showed his prints from them at the Museum of Modern Art. The vintage prints at Julie Saul were made prior to Friedlander's and include several images never before exhibited, most of them nudes, some with their heads scratched off the negative. Because Bellocq's straightforward, unsophisticated photos are among the tenderest images of women in any mediumthe photographer seems protective, not prurienteven these faceless figures are oddly touching.
Renée Cox, whose invigorating (and intellectually one-sided) sparring match with Rudolph Giuliani over Yo Mama's Last Supper helped land her a spot in the stable of the Robert Miller Gallery, devotes much of her first show there to interpretations of famous paintings, each of which features the artist in the nude. Whether reclining on a chaise as Ingres's imperious Odalisque or seated in a park with a pair of strategically draped musclemen à la Manet's Le Déjeuner sur L'Herbe, Cox stakes everything on her own fiercely black-and-proud presence. The work may be a clever corrective to oppressively Eurocentric art history, but its satire seems tame, especially when painter Robert Colescott's been there and done that with way sharper bite. A new group of frankly autobiographical pictures might find Cox in a more reflective mood and on more fertile ground.
September 6-October 13
PaceWildenstein, 32 East 57th Street, 421-3297
DiCorcia continues his unstaged (but meticulously lit) work on the street with a new series of individual portraits in passing, each figure emerging from darkness into a revealing, oddly benevolent light.
September 6-October 13
Bonni Benrubi Gallery, 52 East 76th Street, 517-3766
Fusco photographed from the train that carried Bobby Kennedy's body from New York to Washington's Arlington Cemetery, capturing stricken mourners and curious bystanders in a series of extraordinary color tableaux.
September 6-November 10
Bruce Silverstein Gallery, 504 West 22nd Street, 627-3930
September 6-October 13
Janet Borden, Inc, 560 Broadway, 431-0166
September 6-October 6
Andrew Kreps Gallery, 516A West 20th Street, 741-8849
An installation of photo collages centering on a large Buddha sculpture previously shown in Basel.
September 7-October 6
Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, 531 West 26th Street, 967-8040
For her second show here, Mesa-Pelly constructs a new series of enigmatic narratives with people and props, escaping the domestic confines of her earlier work for competitive games in artificial landscapes.
September 7-October 13
Yancey Richardson Gallery, 535 West 22nd Street, 646-230-9610
To coincide with the revised reissue of Fink's book Social Graces, this show rounds up those now classic '70s images of American gregariousness and its discontents.
September 8-October 6
Luhring Augustine, 531 West 24th Street, 206-9100
For "An Inner Dialogue With Frida Kahlo," Morimura takes on the heroic and tragic role of the Mexican painter, both in reconstructed scenes from her life and in her self-portrait paintings.
September 15-October 20
Sean Kelly Gallery, 528 West 29th Street, 239-1181
For her new photographic pieces, shown here alongside a video projection, Simpson sets a series of small photos into large Plexiglas panels, suggesting filmstrips and other more open-ended narrative sequences.
September 20-October 27
Andrea Rosen Gallery, 525 West 24th Street, 627-6000
Continuing his relentless investigation of his own nude body, Coplans shows several new series of monumental close-ups.
September 20-November 3
Edwynn Houk Gallery, 745 Fifth Avenue, 750-7070
Davis returns to one of her earliest and most arresting landscape subjectsicebergs adrift in the waters around Greenlandfor these new large-scale gold- and selenium-toned prints.
September 22-January 7
Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, 570-3676
In the initial installment of a new photo exhibition series called "First Exposure," Harper shows black-and-white images of rural landscapes seen from a moving train and a group of cloudscapes.
September 28-December 30
International Center of Photography, 1133 Sixth Avenue, 860-1777
October 10-November 10
Robert Miller Gallery, 524 West 26th Street, 366-4774
Coming off the controversy of Yo Mama's Last Supper,Cox shows more work froma new series, including thenude artist re-creating key roles in paintings by Ingres and Manet, and other new work on motherhood.
NIKKI S. LEE
October 10-November 24
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, 535 West 22nd Street, 255-8450
The cross-cultural chameleon shows snapshot documentation of four recent projects that involve her blending in with exotic dancers, skateboarders, and others.
October 12-November 25
Wessel + O'Connor Gallery, 242 West 26th Street, 242-8811
In his solo debut here, Smalley shows work from his "Gymnasium" series of what appear to be young 1930s athletes in training.
October 16-November 24
Zabriskie Gallery, 41 East 57th Street, 752-1223
Nixon applies his rigorous and revealing approach to the subject of loving couples.
October 18-November 24
Ricco/Maresca Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 627-4819
"Natural Selection," new and unusually large tintypes made with a 20 x 24 inch camera as well as smaller nudes and nature studies.
October 26-December 8
Howard Greenberg Gallery and Gallery 292, 120 Wooster Street, 334-0010
A two-gallery retrospective of Moon's impressionist fashion photography from the '60s and '70s, much of it radiating the aura of dreams.
November 3-December 22
303 Gallery, 525 West 22nd Street, 255-1121
Portraits and landscapes made in Germany.
November 3-December 15
Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery, 580 Broadway, 625-3434
Previously unexhibited color views of lower Manhattan as seen from Meyerowitz's studio window.
November 8-January 5
Edwynn Houk Gallery, 745 Fifth Avenue, 750-7070
Contemporary daguerreotypes of urban landscapes and cloud studies by a master of this difficult antique format.
November 10-December 8
Paul Morris Gallery, 465 West 23rd Street, 727-2752
"Fourth," a new series of photos that were shot off the TV screen and picture athletes who placed fourth in competitions at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
December 6-January 12
Julie Saul Gallery, 535 West 22nd Street, 627-2410
December 7-January 12
Staley Wise Gallery, 560 Broadway, 966-6223
The gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary with a show of classic fashion photography by two of the genre's most influential masters.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.