|Volume 2 Issue 45||December 20 to January 3, 2012|
Published by Safe-T-Gallery Inc.
Don Burmeister: Owner/Editor
Barbara Confino: Associate Editor
The holiday season keeps arriving earlier and earlier. This year the Janet Borden gallery gives new meaning to “Christmas spirit” with its exhibition “Merry Christmas from Lee Friedlander.” As you might expect, many of the photographs here are less than merry and no doubt that is Friedlander’s point both when he took them and when he selected them from his archives for this show. There are no smiling Santa Clauses, no Norman Rockwell style tableaus, or malls packed with excited shoppers – just landscapes of Christmas as celebrated in cities and towns ranging from New York to Los Angeles to small towns in Texas, the deep South, and the Midwest.
Most of the 48 photographs in the show are new or have never been shown before. Even so, vintage Friedlander motifs are on display here his trademark photographs of shadows (including some of himself) and window reflections are well represented and a few are quite memorable. Others, less so. There are also several photos shot from and through car windows. One sign he shot through his car window reads, “Me_ry _ _ ristmas,” someone or something having managed to take Christ out. So we can consider this a seasonal Friedlander retrospective of sorts.
A photograph he took of a “Happy Holidays” banner stretched across a Texas highway with its message also projected on the pavement below is a picture of unintended consequences—one meaningful enough to make Friedlander, and probably only Friedlander, stop to shoot it.
There is a lot of bleakness on display the few decorations or holiday signs do not dispel the gloom of empty streets in dead-looking towns. Does Friedlander’s including an empty dumpster (that’s what it looks like) in front of a fully decorated Brooklyn house have a subtle meaning?
Yet seeing Brooklyn houses and their front lawns covered with tacky Christmas decorations is one thing; viewing them in Friedlander’s traditional black and white another. It adds a different perspective, though maybe not the one the decorators had in mind.
With 48 images in a relatively small space, there is a great deal see. And it will literally be a stretch since one wall of the gallery has 16 x 20 inch frames stacked four high. Still, it’s worthwhile making the effort.