Lee Friedlander at SFMOMA

Self PortraitThis show is not to be missed. On until May 18, 2008 at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

I had an appreciation for Friedlander’s work before seeing this show, and now his status is elevated in my mind to that of master. The show is impeccably edited and organized.

The sense of irony he conveys in his images over and over with the seemingly simplest of subjects, everyday America, is keenly perceptive, humorous, and sad. I was particularly struck with his self-portraits, his portrayal of working Americans and his urban landscapes.

Self PoretraitHis self-portraits reminded me of the Where’s Waldo children’s books. He impishly inserts his shadow in corners repeatedly. In an image where his form fell upon his wife, the intimacy he communicated with his shadow was astounding. He supplants his face with those of others, wears them, and becomes them and allows you also to wear them by setting the example.

The most moving set of Working American series for me was a series of people at their desks interacting with their computers. The expressions conveyed a certain futility and emptiness. The impertinence of Corporate America was fully realized.

Architectural AmericaHis series, Architectural America is a mastery in visual pun. Things you would never suspect to line up do and it takes careful study to find them all. A cactus wears a palm tree’s fronds at the same time a man wears a statue’s head. My eyes have now started searching the landscape for this not always obvious alignment. The amazing thing is that is was very obvious to him.

His vision over the years, has loosened, earlier work was tighter but he remains consistent in his communications. I was struck, moved and laughed often.

He has many books out. The ones I most recommend are:   Self Portrait, Sticks & Stones- Architectural America, and At Work.


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