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Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American photographer. He first became interested in photography in 1948, and from 1953 to 1955 he studied under Edward Kaminski at the Art Center of Los Angeles. In 1956 he settled in New York and supported himself by producing photographs of jazz musicians for record jackets, for example Count Basie (1957; see Malle, pl. 39). He also produced photographs influenced by Eugène Atget, Walker Evans and Robert Frank and, like his subsequent works, these were all in black and white. In 1958 he discovered the work of the little-known photographer E. J. Bellocq from whose gelatin dry-plate negatives of the brothels of New Orleans he took prints, which were included in the exhibition E. J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits at MOMA in New York in 1970. In 1960, 1962 and 1977 Friedlander was awarded Guggenheim Memorial Foundation grants, and his works began to appear in such periodicals as Esquire, Art in America and Sports Illustrated. He had his first one-man show in 1963 at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. From the 1960s Friedlander started taking photographs of the ‘social landscape’ of the USA, detached images of urban life which, like Pop art works, captured the feel and look of modern society, though often with depressing effect. Newark, New Jersey (1962; see Friedlander, 1978, pl. 2) is characteristic of these and includes shop-window reflections, posters and signs, which tend to compress spatial depth. In atmosphere and subject-matter these works have affinities with the work of Friedlander’s friend Garry Winogrand. Friedlander’s collaboration with Jim Dine further emphasized his links with Pop art, and in 1969 they published Works from the Same House. This included etchings by Dine and photographs by Friedlander, so arranged that examples of each faced one another, creating a suggestive juxtaposition of imagery.

Other works by Friedlander in the 1960s included the series of works that appeared in Self-portrait (1970). Contrary to the tradition of the genre Friedlander only appears in the photographs in the most oblique way, in reflections in mirrors and glass or merely as a shadow. Urban themes also proved a dominant theme in the 1970s, leading to such bleak images as Albuquerque (1972; Chicago, IL, A. Inst.), showing an undistinguished expanse of deserted city. One of his most notable projects of this decade was the work for The American Monument (1976) for which he photographed over 100 public monuments. These included a whole range of memorials to war dead, local officials and figures from American history. Through this curious diversity of images Friedlander provided a fragmentary view of the nation’s values and heroes.

In 1979 Friedlander was commissioned by the Akron Art Museum to produce a photographic documentary of the industrial areas of the Ohio river valley, the results of which appeared in Factory Valleys: Ohio and Pennsylvania (1982). It consisted of photographs of the urban industrial landscape and of the factory labourers at work. The dour landscape and alienating, monotonous work routines present a cold picture of the underside of developed, industrial society. From the late 1970s and into the 1980s Friedlander took numerous photographs of the landscape in Japan, some of which appeared in Cherry Blossom Time in Japan (1986). A similar spirit pervaded the series Flowers and Trees (1981). In contrast to his urban works these stress the beauties of nature, although in the context of his other works they acquire a nostalgic, exotic aura. Portraits (1985) ranged chronologically from 1958 to 1983, while for Nudes (1991) Friedlander photographed his subjects in unusual poses, using novel framing to revitalize a traditional subject. Many of his photographic books were published by his own firm, the Haywire Press of New City, NY.


From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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