Win­dow on Amer­ica

Los Angeles Times - - Arts & Books - Liesl Brad­ner cal­en­

The view from a mov­ing car framed by a win­dow is a snap­shot many trav­el­ers have locked in their mem­o­ries. Lee Fried­lan­der, well known for his idio­syn­cratic style of pho­tog­ra­phy, has ap­plied his old tricks to in­cor­po­rate al­ter­na­tive vi­su­als of those hours-long ad­ven­tures travers­ing back roads and high­ways.

Fried­lan­der hit the road on a years-long trek across 50 states cap­tur­ing snip­pets of Amer­i­cana as seen through a thin layer of tinted cover glass. The re­sult­ing mul­ti­di­men­sional pho­to­graphs are the sub­ject of his re­cently re­leased book “Amer­ica by Car.” In it is a re­veal­ing por­trait of Amer­ica as a beau­ti­ful, kitschy, gritty and di­verse land­scape.

Nearly 200 pho­tos were taken over the last 15 years in ur­ban, sub­ur­ban and road­side set­tings. Pho­tograph­ing from an as­sort­ment of rental cars, Fried­lan­der used the in­te­rior com­po­nents of the car, such as the steer­ing wheel, dash­board and door han­dle, to con­trast the ex­te­rior set­tings. His in­ten­tional method of in­clud­ing re­flec­tions in the ve­hi­cles’ side-view and rear mir­rors cre­ates an­other per­spec­tive for di­gest­ing the scenery. The re­sult is a dis­torted ef­fect of di­men­sion­al­ity as el­e­ments of the car ap­pear to be bump­ing up against land­marks, churches, bridges and road­side fol­lies, in­clud­ing a fa­mil­iar Paul Bun­yan statue in Penn­syl­va­nia.

“He cre­ates a com­pli­cated web of el­e­ments that in­ter­act in a cer­tain way that is at times jar­ring to the viewer,” said Todd Brad­way, the di­rec­tor of ti­tle ac­qui­si­tions at Dis­trib­uted Art Pub­lish­ers who was closely in­volved in the book’s pro­duc­tion. “It’s part of his unique­ness.”

The pro­file of the car’s frame is de­picted in vary­ing de­grees within the square crop for­mat. In the sim­plis­tic weather and na­ture shots, the in­te­rior of the car is barely vis­i­ble, as in one photo of a re­stored Thun­der­bird driv­ing through a des­o­late in­ter­sec­tion in Con­necti­cut. Other pho­tos are clut­tered, cre­at­ing sen­sory over­load of­ten en­coun­tered on the road. “The way he frames the shots puts you in a space that could be any year,” said Brad­way. “It’s dy­namic and a con­trast to what’s go­ing on to the world out­side.”

Fried­lan­der re­vis­its struc­tures and themes from other bod­ies of work. The ar­chi­tec­tural mo­tif of a white clap­board church in Alabama and a bronze mon­u­ment of Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier Sa­muel A. Holmes in Vicks­burg, Miss., are a few ex­am­ples.

Born in 1934 in Aberdeen, Wash., Fried­lan­der stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at the Art Col­lege of De­sign in Pasadena be­fore mov­ing to New York, where he pho­tographed jazz mu­si­cians. He gained no­to­ri­ety in 1985 for his nude pho­tos of a pre-Ma­te­rial Girl Madonna. He re­sides near New York. His work has been dis­played at the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art and San Fran­cisco Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art.

All 192 of the im­ages in­cluded in the book are on dis­play in the “Lee Fried­lan­der: Amer­ica by Car” ex­hi­bi­tion at the Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in New York through Nov. 28.


Lee Fried­lan­der

A pho­to­graph con­trasts bad­lands out­side pho­tog­ra­pher Lee Fried­lan­der’s car with the ve­hi­cle’s in­te­rior com­po­nents.


A Charleston, S.C., home draws Fried­lan­der’s eye.


Fried­lan­der cap­tures vast prairie from a car’s con­fines.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.