Monday, May 14, 2012

Lee Friedlander- Man On Fire!

Mannequins? You're shittin' me, right? Mannequins- as... "subject matter!!!" Time better spent looking for ol' Jimbo Hoffa than beating that deader than dead horse.

Who? Friedlander? Right- got it. Fraenkel Gallery's dragging out and dusting off some vintage prints from their drawers and throwing them up on the walls as they slip into early summer slacker mode and exit out the back door. Really not interested...

Gotta admit, that was pretty much the scenario playing round my head- after all, what else could it be? Hhmmm... How bout a near eighty year old coming out with a new set of images that breathes fire into a "theme" long thought beneath even the most frivolous of consideration? This geriatric marvel has been a man possessed in the twenty first century, turning out such powerhouse photographic legacies as Sticks and Stones, and America By Car. Never a great fan of his in the seventies, eighties or the nineties, Friedlander has been hitting them outta the park this century with a steroid enhanced, human growth hormone induced sense of seeming ease and urgency...

Your average mannequin photo is a fairly one note affair- an odd juxtaposition, a lifelike resemblance, the real life passerby unknowingly "interacting" with their plaster conspirator. Get it? Friedlander doesn't limit his images to these one trick ponies, he realizes if he's going to instill any kind of life and originality into this subject matter, he's going to have to squeeze every note and detail available- but then, this almost octogenarian has more creativity flowing in his veins than four twenty year olds.

These dummies may be deader than dead but Friedlander's compositions are rife with non stop details, patterns, and activity that counteract and interact with each other, fighting for dominance all throughout the frame. Midsections dissolve into storefronts, palm trees protrude from necklines, feet support highrises- in many cases, it's the reflections that dominate. In fact, many of these shots aimed directly into store interiors serve more as an innovative twist on street photography, a reflection of the modern day hustle and landscape of twenty first century America. And did I mention how absolutely gorgeous these 35mm, B&W silver gelatin, 16x20 full frame prints look? Add another book to the must get list (apparently currently available only from Fraenkel).

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