Thursday, June 26, 2008

Robert Frank: The Americans at IMA

Robert Frank, Indianapolis

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.

Craig McCormick

3 Responses to “Robert Frank: The Americans at IMA”

Diong said...
June 27, 2008 at 11:22 AM

When I first read about this show, I could not believe all the pictures from "The Americans" were coming to Indy. I saw this show yesterday and loved it. It was so refreshing to view the photographs especially in the all digital photography world today.


Richard McCoy said...
June 27, 2008 at 9:59 PM

I can still remember reading On the Road for the first time in high school. What a thrill to see this scroll and all of the handwritten notes ...

There has been some good media coverage of this event:

Indy Star:
Road trip complete: Words, photo paired
http://www.indy.com/posts/9183

NUVO:
Kerouac's scroll travels to Indy:
http://www.nuvo.net/articles/kerouac_s_scroll_travels_to_indy/


wi53ll said...
June 30, 2008 at 4:44 PM

There is a great exhibit in the IMA Library in conjunction with the Keroauc Scroll. The exhibit entitled "Beautiful Utility" features and installation of 1950's era Underwood Typewriters and paintings by Indy artist William Burton Lawson whos is also an advid typewirter collector and has a unique series of typewriter paintings. The exhibit runs through September.


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