Face to Face
The Andrew Smith Gallery opens an exhibit of sixteen new photographs titled Face to Face by the American master Lee Friedlander on October 19, 2001, with a reception for the artist from 5 to 7 p.m. Lee Friedlander is internationally recognized as one of America's most important contemporary photographers. In the 1960's his silver print photographs, described as "open-ended alternatives to normal seeing," provided a shockingly new aesthetic of asymmetrical and fragmented images of the United States. Lacking defined borders and layered with a disjointed profusion of architectural and advertising elements, Friedlander's photographs were visually equivalent to the broken, improvisational rhythms of jazz. Working within the tradition of Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Garry Winogrand, and Robert Frank, Friedlander was one of the first modern photographers to portray the "social landscape" of America as a complex mixture of order and chaos, warmth and alienation, refinement, and commercialism.
In his earlier work Friedlander often included oblique references to himself by including his own reflection or shadow in the photographs. He once wrote of his own work, "I suspect it is for one's self-interest that one looks at one's surroundings and one's self. This search is personally borne and is indeed my reason and motive for making photographs." In the exhibit Face to Face the 67 year old photographer has been finding subject matter in the most familiar places: self-portraits, photographs of his wife and family members, especially his young grandchildren. After a lifetime of seeing the world through a camera lens, Friedlander brings visual power and psychological complexity to ordinary themes. His usual dry wit is often present, but there is also an unabashed quality of deep self-reflection and family love evident in these works. Compositionally, the photographs dance with unpredictable spacial distortions and abstraction of forms inherent in the extremely close-up shots, some with a depth of only several inches. The exhibit continues through November 19, 2001.
In New City, NY, 1994, Friedlander photographed himself at arm's length, partially screened by wintery trees. Amid the chaos of branches, his unsmiling face hangs in the center of the picture plane like a withered apple.
In Santa Fe, 1995, Friedlander wedged himself between a gnarly tree trunk and leafless branches that obscured his face. Forms throughout the photograph are evenly dispersed, creating less of a figure-ground relationship than an overall pattern. Whether the photographer is slowly emerging from the undergrowth, or disappearing from view is ambiguous.
In Paris, 1997, Friedlander photographed himself lying on a bed. A digital alarm clock, a pair of glasses and a telephone appear on the desk beside him. As if to add to his discomfort, he rested his head on the glass-top desk so that the phone touched his nose. His leaden features and heavy lidded eyes recall the lethargic moment between sleeping and waking, or the misery of insommnia.
In Paris, 1997, Friedlander used a cable release to snap a close-up photograph of his head lying on a chair. In this macabre "chopping block" arrangement, the gallows-like shadow of the tripod falls over his face. In his early work Friedlander often used his shadow as subject matter. In this photograph the shadow of the camera has become the main subject.
A charming and humorous confrontation between extreme youth and mature age is simply titled, New York City, 1999. The photographer reclines before the camera next to his infant grandchild. Although his head is almost as big as the baby, the two scrutinize each other with equal interest.
Nestled in the lap of a man in a rumpled suit, Friedlander's grandson, Giancarlo, sleeps peacefully. The composition of Giancarlo, 2000 is an elegant arrangement of angular forms created by the position of the boy's head and legs, and the hands and arms that tenderly enfold him.
Sitting so close to the camera lens that her enlarged head is slightly out of focus, Friedlander's granddaughter plays quietly on top of her grandfather who is lying on the floor. In Lally and Me, 2000, Friedlander watches Lally playing as the camera photographs the world from the height of a child.
Lee Friedlander photographs with a Hasselblad Camera and makes his own open edition silver prints in the darkroom. Over the years Friedlander has explored such diverse subjects as cityscapes, jazz musicians, nudes, and gardens. A constant shooter, he has always been less interested in intellectualizing images than in constantly creating new ones.
Beginning in 1963 with an acclaimed one-man show at George Eastman House, Friedlander has had exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There are at least ten books on Friedlander including LIKE A ONE-EYED CAT, 1989 Harry N. Abrams, Inc., LEE FRIEDLANDER PORTRAITS, 1985, New York Graphic Society, and THE AMERICAN MONUMENT, 1976, The Eakins Press Foundation.
Andrew Smith Gallery, Inc.