Thursday, June 26, 2008
Do you like this story?
Jack Kerouac's manuscript for On the Road and Robert Frank's The Americans are on view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art now through September 21, 2008.
The bible of the Beat Generation has been unrolled before us - 84 feet today, the remaining 36 feet in August. If you have the time, zeal and a strong back, you can read the entire text from the seminal scroll, admiring the beauty of its repeated realignment every few feet, it's masculine ink, its captivating edits. Such a modern artifact is an acute reminder of how different, how analog and tangible, living and writing were just 50 years ago.
Kudos to Jim Irsay for acquiring On the Road, diligently restoring it and sharing it with America in a way that only a big-hearted, Superbowl-Champion midwesterner can. But if I had and extra two and a half million, I would have bought about twenty-five Robert Franks.
While On the Road was a defining reflection of it's generation, it finds a great heritage in The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, the prose of Allen Ginsberg, and the literary energy of the Beat Generation. By contrast, the photographs of The Americans by Robert Frank are a true departure in it's medium - so different, so challenging to the world of photography in the 1950's. In it's time, The Americans was rejected, criticized and discounted as poor work with poor focus and poor lighting. But this fleeting glance at life in America shows us solitary moments, seemingly arbitrary compositions, and difficult faces - aspects of life that had not before been captured with such grit in such a strong body of work. These pictures opened the door for a new relationship between a photograph and a viewer, and deeply influenced the work of greats such as Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander.
As a photographer myself, I cannot say enough about how this body of work has influenced and is still today influencing the work of great contemporary photographers. Anyone who appreciates photography should stand before these images.