Robert Frank @Pace/MacGill

JTF (just the facts): A total of 23 works, variously framed and matted, and hung against grey and red walls throughout the two main gallery spaces. 8 of the images are enlarged contact sheets from The Americans, where each strip contains at least one of the final images; all of these prints are gelatin silver, 20×16 in size. There are also two single image prints from The Americans (Trolley-New Orleans and Parade-Hoboken, New Jersey), both gelatin silver and 16×23.

Another 10 of the images are from a series Frank took in 1958 from the window of a New York city bus. They are all gelatin silver, and are either 14×10 or 11×7 in size. 2 other works are groups of images from enlarged black and white Polaroid negatives printed on 20×24 gelatin silver paper; one is from 1987, the other from 1999/2000. The last work is a group of 6 color Polaroids, each 20×24. Wall labels includes texts by the artist, Stuart Alexander, and Douglas Hyland. (There is no photography allowed in the gallery, so the installation shots at right are via the Pace/MacGill website.)

Comments/Context: The massive Robert Frank show at the Met (review linked below) has been the cornerstone of the Fall photography season here in New York, and a number of ancillary exhibits have sprung up to capitalize on all the attention. This show mixes some additional material from The Americans (beyond what is at the Met) with other images and works by Frank from across his career.

One of the highlights of the Met show for me was the group of working contact sheets from The Americans, complete with grease pencil selections and rejections. More than a decade after the book was published, Frank went back and had enlarged contact sheets printed that gathered together just those strips of film that included images that made the book. As such, these are a shortened/edited version of the actual contact sheets, showing only those shots just before and/or after the final selected images. Being able to watch Frank coalesce around a composition from shot to shot is the real treat found here.
This show also has a series of 10 vintage images from 1958 entitled From the Bus, where Frank took seemingly haphazard shots out the window of a moving New York city bus. Not surprisingly, the pictures capture the random chance of sidewalks, cars, and people in the streets, all in a cinematic frozen action style. After a show of this work at the MoMA in 1962 (with Harry Callahan), Frank then went on to abandon still photography to focus on film-making for a number of years, so these images are a sort of bridge between his working methods. When Frank finally returned to photography a decade later, his work centered on sequences and groups of related images; the remaining three works in the show are examples of this artistic approach.

While there are certainly some Frank treasures in this show that will appeal to a relatively broad audience, I think this exhibit will be most enjoyed by those hard core Frank supporters who somehow didn’t get enough at the Met.
Collector’s POV: Hardly any of the works in this show are actually available for sale to collectors. Many items (either as individuals or groups of works) are marked “For Museum Consideration Only”, while a few are from private collections and are not for sale at all. The only works with actual prices tags are the contact sheets from The Americans, which are being sold as a set of 12 for $1300000. For comparison, a single enlarged contact sheet of images from The Americans sold this past October at Christie’s for $40000 (here).
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • DLK COLLECTION review of Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans @Met (here)
Through December 5th
32 East 57th Street
New York, NY 10022

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JTF (just the facts): Published by Aperture in 2024 (here). Softcover with dust jacket (17 x 22.5 cm), 124 pages, with 80 color and black-and-white reproductions. Includes a conversation between ... Read on.

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