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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Robert Frank at Gulf + Western Gallery

Image above: Robert Frank checking the design of the book cover of the 50th anniversary edition of The Americans at Steidl Publishers, Germany, 2007. © Steidl

 

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Image above © Fernando Sandoval

 

Robert Frank (b. 1924, Zurich) is one of the pre-eminent figures of twentieth-century photography. With his innovative approach to technique and subject matter and through his personal viewpoint, Frank has revolutionized documentary photography and redefined the aesthetics of the still and moving image. Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2016 is not a retrospective, but a volatile experience focusing on Frank’s output as a book- and filmmaker. The exhibition presents for the first time his complete restored films.

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 Image above: Robert Frank at Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD, Hailfax, September 2014. © Steidl

 

Conceived by Robert Frank and Gerhard Steidl, the exhibition is as bold, accessible and humble as Frank’s work itself, and has been designed to enable particularly younger generations to engage with his practice. Frank’s films and photobooks are placed in the overarching context of his photographs, which are presented in an immediate and straightforward way: printed in sequences of four to five on up to three-meter-long paper banners that are installed directly onto the wall without frames. The exhibition spans Frank’s entire artistic career, from 1947 until now.

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Image Above: Installation of Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2014 at Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD, Halifax, September 2014. ©Steidl

 

When Frank left Switzerland for New York City in 1947, he brought with him a handmade book of photographs as his professional portfolio. It was his first exploration into the ways in which the juxtaposition of photographs could convey meaning. Since then the photobook has become one of his preferred media. Without words, narrative or explanatory captions, the power of his sequences lies in the combined presence of his images. The exhibition presents 24 books, all of which were meticulously designed by Frank himself, including Portfolio (1947), Peru (1948), Black White and Things (1952), his highly celebrated The Americans (1958 and 1959), and his most recent book Was haben wir gesehen / What we have seen (to be published in January 2016).

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Image Above: Installation of Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2014 at Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD, Halifax, September 2014. ©Steidl

 

Frank’s masterful handling of sequencing images makes his turn to filmmaking in the late 1950s a logical progression: “A decision: I put my Leica in a cupboard. Enough of lying in wait, pursuing, sometimes catching the essence of the black and the white, the knowledge where God is. I make films. Now I speak to the people in my viewfinder. Not simple and not especially successful.” Frank has since produced films and videos between the boundaries of documentary and fiction. The exhibition presents for the first time Frank’s entire filmic output, produced between 1959 and 2008, including Pull My Daisy (1959), Me and My Brother (1968), This Song for Jack (1983), True Story (2004), and Fernando (2008). All film screenings will take place in a two-day marathon at Tisch School of the Arts’ Michelson Theater (in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) in the Department of Cinema Studies Friday January 29 from 6-10pm and Saturday January 30 from 10am-11pm.

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Image above: Robert Frank at Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD, Hailfax, September 2014. © Steidl

 

Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2016 at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University marks the launch of the exhibition’s US tour. Organized by Steidl Verlag, the show will visit up to 50 universities, art schools, museums, and other non-profit spaces worldwide, with the aim of doing justice to Frank’s life and work. Each venue receives its own set of exhibition prints. By agreement with Robert Frank, all paper banners are to be disposed of after display to ensure that the exhibition is strictly not for profit. The show premiered at Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada (2014), and has subsequently been presented at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, Germany (2014); Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (2015); and Fotoistanbul, Istanbul (2015). Upcoming venues in 2016 include Leipzig, Germany; Appenzell, Switzerland; and Tokyo.

The exhibition catalogue, edited by Alex Rühle, has been produced in cooperation with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a distinguished German newspaper read by 1.43 million people daily. The catalogue is presented in a newspaper format, using the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a template, and features several double-page prints of Frank’s photographs that fold out as posters. The collaboration between the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Steidl Verlag has facilitated low production costs and the retail price of $5.00 USD, designed to make the catalogue affordable for as many as possible. Its English version will be published in January 2016.

Robert Frank, Books and Films, 1947-2016 is on view at Gulf + Western Gallery, 721 Broadway, 8th fl until February 11.

 

Chris Killip at Yossi Milo Gallery

Interview with Cristina de Middel