Lee Friedlander Photographs from America By Car at the Whitney
Photography hall-of-famer Lee Friedlander went on a lot of road trips over the past decade and a half, jumping behind the wheel of a series of nondescript rental cars, usually joined by a couple of long-time friends, and driving all across America to see what he could see. Of course he recorded it all, in thousands of black-and-white pictures, all taken without ever leaving his vehicle. The result is this terrific little show now the Whitney, 192 Lee Friedlander photographs in all, slivers of this strange and vast and varied country, all framed by the side-view and rear-view mirrors, the windshield, the side windows.
We enjoyed Lee Friedlander: America by Car quite a bit for several reasons. First and most obviously is just an appreciation of Friedlander's impeccable compositions. The framing device in every shot could have felt forced, but instead it gives us a new way of seeing all those road trip cliches (the giant statues of lumberjacks and ice cream cones and such; the distressed signage on sagging, tired buildings), and flips the standard car-as-icon-of-American-freedom on it's head, showing the vehicle to be isolating, and, to our eyes, even claustrophobic.
When taken as a whole, there is also a strong journalistic undercurrent to the exhibition, as if to say: this is what everyday America (at least these parts of America) is like right now, in all of its tired, cheery, cheesy, wide-open, angry, ridiculous glory. Fascinating stuff. That said, the Lee Friedlander photographs amount to a small show, so you might want to pair with the interesting Christian Marclay exhibition going on until September 26, or wait until the Edward Hopper opens here in late October to visit.
Lee Friedlander: America By Car at the Whitney Details
Lee Friedlander's photographs are on display now through November 28 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Whitney is located on Madison Avenue between 75th and 74th Streets. The Whitney is open on Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and until 9:00 p.m. on Fridays. Note that admission is "pay-what-you-wish" every Friday from 6:00 p.m. until closing. For more information and Biennial images, see the Whitney's Museum website.