Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Americans

Indianapolis
Robert Frank (1924-) b. Zurich
from "The Americans" (check out more about the exhibition here.
image: artnet.com

On my recent trip to San Francisco I was finally able to visit SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They had a wonderful special exhibition, Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans". I'm well familiar with Frank's work as well as with "The Americans" (it was our most commonly stolen book at one of my art libraries) yet it was awesome to see all of the photographs from the book organized in sequence in accordance with the book throughout the galleries. I also didn't know much about the creation of the book other than Robert Frank takes a camera around the country. Frank conducted his travel and art on a Guggenheim Fellowship. The exhibition contained an incredible amount of archival and ephemeral material beyond his photographs, from his letter of application for the fellowship (with the edits of his friend, photography, Walker Evans) to letters about getting arrested on his way through Arkansas for ridiculous reasons, to the proofs of what were to become one of the most well-known photography books of our time. Part of Frank's intent with his travels was to see America through the eyes of someone getting to know it, the varied world that America is, from consumerism and materialism, to loneliness and displacement.

Frank's book is known not only for the revelation of an America not everyone could see both sad and beautiful, but also for the design and construction of the book. Each photograph was tightly bound to the one before and after as well as engaged in a thematic discourse throughout. Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction. This exhibition was organized on the 50th anniversary of the books publication in America. Frank initially had difficulty finding a publisher for his book in the US due to the nature of the photographs, they were not too keen on his portrayal of America.

A Flickr pool of photographs in the style of "The Americans"

4 comments:

K said...

No time to say anything more than yay -- but a definite yay!

jct said...

difficulty finding publishers "due to the..." what? what?! inquiring minds want to know. typical 1950somethin' reason? I could try to google it I suppose, but you're Ms. art of the day :)

A.L. said...

They really didn't seem to like how it portrayed America.

A.L. said...

ah! Looks like I somehow forgot to finish my sentence, hadn't realized that. So sorry!