Lee Friedlander: America By Car & The New Cars 1964

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I unexpectedly had some free time today so I used it to see the new Lee Friedlander exhibition after which I felt that I should be spending less time in front of a screen and more time doing this type of activity – engaging with work on a much more personal level.  I would definitely recommend it.

There’s is an extraordinary quality to these images that make you want to look at them again and again.  The show works through the details – the detail makes the work – sometimes subtle, sometimes more obvious they all allude to a country that appears to be ill at ease with itself. The details that lie behind the thin veneer of optimism take the form of skid marks on a road or what appears to be a replica model car perched precariously on a pole; all of them in some way appear to reflect the American social landscape.

Included in the exhibition there’s  a previously unseen series of photographs taken in 1964 of the latest Cadillacs and other new cars. The brand new cars are parked in decidedly unglamourous locations, in unassuming side roads, outside empty shops and car parks. Within each image the car is seen in the distance, for example behind a shop with mannequins, or an empty seat in a shop that appears to have been abandoned. There is an extraordinary bleakness to these early images which appear to be a subversive protest against consumer capitalism. Originally commissioned by Harpers Bazaar, these images were not published and within that context it is easy to see why.

The work here can be seen to be a form of social criticism but the detailed and multi- layered approach of the work ultimately make this an uplifting and inspiring exhibition. If you go to see it let me know what you think…

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