Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lee Friedlander: America by Car

Lee Friedlander’s America by Car is currently showing at the Whitney Museum of American Art, from September 4 - October 21, 2010. Friedlander (b. 1934) is an American photographer who has exhibited widely and has published numerous monographs of work.

The photographs on view were taken throughout the last decade, captured through side windows and windshields of rental cars that the artist used for travels around the country. The simply framed, square format, silver gelatin prints are displayed in the museum’s fifth floor mezzanine. This gallery is an intimate space, made more so by the two rows of images lining the entirety of wall space. The presentation is enveloping, not overwhelming.

This exhibition gives the viewer an untraditional portrait of America, as each image is framed from within the car so that one not only sees the scene, but is very aware of the vehicle’s components. This choice in composition forces the eye and mind toward active viewing. It separates the visitor from a direct view of any given scene while bringing to mind the prevalence of American car culture. The photographs are organized not by date or location, but rather by typology, such as landscapes, people, signs, churches, or monuments. As a whole the show is less about where each scene is located and more about the typical make up the American landscape. It also seems to be a humorous nod to such greats as Robert Frank and Stephen Shore, well known and highly praised for their documentation of their own cross country trips across America.


  1. It is helpful that you describe the exhibition space, but I’d like an explanation of the implications. For example, does it echo the comfort of sitting in a vehicle as an array of sites pass by? Your description of the artist’s framing is clear, but I think the review would be stronger if you discuss some of the subjects in detail.

    When mentioning "car culture", you might also note how the images represent our increasing separation from the places we pass through. Friedlander's photographs emphasize how more and more, we stay inside our vehicles when "touring" America.

    Grammatical details: Omit "very" (1st sentence, 3rd paragraph); word missing (2nd to last sentence).

  2. I agree with Sara that you should talk about the exhibition space. It definitely aids in how the work is viewed. Also I am curious as a reader what your definition of simply framed means. I find myself wondering what you mean by simply framed. Over all I do believe your review captures the show rather eloquently.