|Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:54 pm Post subject: Sunday at the Met: Robert Frank's The Americans
Daughter and I went to the Metropolitan Art Museum yesterday - she had some homework on sculpture to do, and wanted to see The Americans and another show of contemporary photography.
The Robert Frank show is excellent - all images in the book The Americans shown in original prints, plus a wall of his 8x10 working copies, and several marked contact sheets. (I checked out the contacts - he had a pretty good hit rate on some rolls, while others yielded only one or two... and Frank wasn't hung up on film, I saw a Tri-X, Plus-X and Ilford high speed Pan.)
The original prints are so far beyond what we see in the books, magazines, or online. There's a density, a tactile quality, and tone galore. Frank isn't always technically perfect, as he's interested in the moment, the lining up of elements, or in irony or humor. Several of the images are iconic now, and his influence on photography in the last 50 years is obvious.
But the quality gap between the prints as shown, and the reproductions we all are familiar with, is very large.
The contemporary show is calle Surface Tension. For me it served as a comment on the Frank show - how so often process and materials today are a large part of the work of art, ie. how I made it is more important/impressive than what I made. For example, and I quite liked this one, this guy had taken archive photos of minimalist sculpture from the Whitney (I think), and also collected dust from the vacuum cleaners at the Whitney (I think), and then used the dust to make 'drawings' of the original photos... and then photographed the dust drawings, and in the modern fashion blown these photos up huge, wall sized. This is an extreme of the 'japanese rice paper, platinum print' aesthetic. In Frank's time, of course, the photo papers were better, with all sorts of heavy (poisonous) elements that gave them that tangible presence. So perhaps this modern materials thing is a work-around modern homogenized and lean/clean materials?