Lee Friedlander: Signs
Traffic signs, sandwich boards, and posters: Friedlander’s portrait of words in the world.
For more than five decades, Lee Friedlander has repeatedly been drawn to the signs that inscribe the American landscape, from hand-lettered ads to storefront windows to massive billboards. Incorporating these markings with precision and sly humor, Friedlander’s photographs record a kind of found poetry of desire and commerce.
Focusing on one of the artist’s key motifs for more than five decades, this publication features Friedlander’s photographs of the signs that inscribe the American landscape, from hand-lettered ads to storefront windows to massive billboards. The book collects 144 photographs made in New York and other places across the U.S. and features self-portraits, street photographs, and work from series including The American Monument and America by Car, among others. Illegible or plainspoken, crude or whimsical, Friedlander’s signs are an unselfconscious portrait of modern life.
Lee Friedlander’s work is widely known for transforming our visual understanding of contemporary American culture. Known for passionately embracing all subject matter, Friedlander photographed nearly every facet of American life from the 1950s to the present. From factories in Pennsylvania, to the jazz scene in New Orleans, to the deserts of the Southwest, Friedlander’s complex formal visual strategies continue to influence the way we understand, analyze, and experience modern American experience.
Friedlander’s work continues to influence photographic practice internationally, in part due to the heightened sense of self-awareness that is a trademark of so many of his photographs and in part because of his ability to embrace wide-ranging subject matter, always interpreting it in an elegance that hadn’t existed prior to his work.
Signs is the catalog of the Fraenkel Gallery exhibition in San Francisco, view from July 11 through August 17, 2019.
Designed, as always, by Katy Homans with tritone separations by Thomas Palmer and exquisite printing by Meridian to match, this is a photobook for photobook lovers, collecting Friedlander’s deadpan pictures of signs across America and Canada from the 1950s through 2017. Tailoring shops, movie marquis, segregated SROs and coffee shops, strip clubs, gas stations, fast food joints, churches, parking lots, billboards, stop signs and patriotic message boards all get their due, alongside a few photographs accidentally starring Friedlander and friends from long ago.
About the Author
Lee Friedlander (born 1934) began photographing in 1948. His work was included in the influential 1967 exhibition New Documents at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by John Szarkowski. His many monographs include Self-Portrait; Cherry Blossom Time in Japan; Letters from the People; At Work; and Sticks and Stones, among others.
One of the most important living photographers, Friedlander’s prints are held by major collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others.
Made in New York, San Francisco, and dozens of cities and small towns in between, Friedlander’s photographs record milk prices, cola ads, neon lights, road signs, graffiti, and movie marquees. Depicting these texts with precision and sly humor, Friedlander’s approach to America transcribes a sort of found poetry of commerce and desire. A large majority of works in the exhibition will be shown for the first time.
Also on view will be a group of 16 early Friedlander prints, made on the road in the 1970s, on travels across the United States.
Hardcover: 120 pages
Publisher: Fraenkel Gallery (May 21, 2019)
Size: 12 x 0.5 x 14 inches
Weight: 3.4 pounds
Lee Friedlander (born 1934) began photographing in 1948. Among his many monographs are Sticks and Stones, Self-Portrait, Letters from the People, Cherry Blossom Time in Japan and At Work, among others. His work was included in the influential 1967 exhibition New Documents at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by John Szarkowski. Among the most important living photographers, Friedlander is in the collections of museums around the world.