Robert Frank (Zürich, Switzerland, 1924) is considered one of the most preeminent photographers in the 20th century. Similarly, his contribution to avant-garde American cinema has also been crucial in recent decades as an expression of counterculture and underground aesthetics.
In Spain, his work could be seen previously in the Sala Parpalló in Valencia in 1985, an exhibition curated by Vicente Todolí. On this occasion, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía joins a broader collection of his work that spans from 1948 to 2000; in the eighty-eight photos selected, the huge freedom the Swiss artist works with, encompassing Polaroids and collages, and the mix of textual and visual elements can be appreciated. The selection here portrays the artist's highly personal style, a far cry from the style of photographer Walker Evans, whose influence was also prominent in the photo book The Americans, the book that helped forge his global reputation. This exhibition endeavours to leave this incredible work in the background, only exhibiting the first Paris edition from 1958 and the New York edition from the following year, which includes a foreword by Jack Kerouac, to give priority to his subsequent work.
One of the idiosyncrasies of Robert Frank's work is his constant preference for the book format as the ideal way to present his images. The sequence established in viewing one page after the other is in some way similar to the cinematic tempo of his film work and enables the relationship between images to be shown in a way that is more akin to Frank's intentions. By virtue of projected slides, the exhibition reveals the contents of the books displayed in cabinets, which starts from the first produced by Frank in 1946 entitled 40 Photos and goes right up to Black White and Things from 1994, also taking in Peru, The Lines of My Hand, the record sleeve for the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. and Sixth Sense. The catalogue accompanying the exhibition - HOLD STILL_keep going - which takes its name from one of the photographs exhibited, has also been produced as an artist's book
To complete the collection on display, there is also the hour-long film C´est vrai (One hour), from 1990, and six of his short films: Conversations in Vermont (1969), Life Dances On (1980), Home Improvements (1985), Moving Pictures (1994), Flamingo (1996) and I remember (Stieglitz) (1998).
The work of Robert Frank is tied to the “Beat Generation” through names like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, the rock world via, for instance, Patti Smith, and new American cinema through Jonas Mekas and Peter Bogdanovich. The complex and autobiographical work of this Swiss artist has had a palpable influence on the artistic output of multiple artists from subsequent generations and is the common point of convergence between all those photographers and filmmakers interested in image art.
Museum Folkwang, Essen (December 10 - February 18, 2001); Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon (September 15 - November 15, 2001)
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