Robert Frank: The Americans at the Met
Robert Frank: The Americans, the Metropolitan Museum’s riveting exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Frank’s seminal book, also titled The Americans, will only be on display for a few more weeks, until January 3. And even though all Robert Frank’s photos here in the show are from the book, which is for sale and readily available, if you haven’t been to the Met to see them all together, in these big, beautiful prints, well… it’d be a shame to miss.
History of the Met Exhibit Robert Frank: The Americans
The story behind Robert Frank: The Americans is terrific and, it must be said, quintessentially American. In the summer of 1955, Robert Frank bought a car, a used Ford Business Coupe, and starting driving. To Detroit and Dearborn and Savannah and Miami. New Orleans, Houston and LA. Butte, Montana. Salt Lake City, Utah. Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Chicago, New York City. He drove for about a year, sometimes with his wife and two children, sometimes alone, always taking pictures. Seven hundred and sixty rolls worth of pictures, as turns it out. That’s about 27,000 photographs, which he then edited down to the 83 shots found here, in this Met exhibit, The Americans.
The emotional core, and central brilliance, of Robert Frank’s photography lies in his use of American icons–the car, the open highway, the movie star, the small town diner, the cowboy–to convey the opposite of their usual evocation. Independence and freedom feels lonely. Glamour provokes anxiety and despair. The hometown alienates. It’s a powerful combination, especially when the body of work is taken as a whole, in a long, deep draw as it is in this Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition. It’s easy to see why The Americans stirred such controversy upon its publication in 1959, and even though today we are, as a country, far more skeptical of our institutions and their symbols than we were back then, Frank’s work hasn’t lost its ability to hit where it hurts. This is an excellent Met exhibition, and perhaps our favorite of all the big museum shows we saw this fall.
Robert Frank: The Americans at the Met details
Robert Frank: The Americans will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until Sunday, January 3, 2010. The Met is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The museum is located on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, and the admission price is always “suggested,” never required. For complete details, see the Met’s website, here.
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