New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Frederick Sommer
Circumnavigation: Drawings, Paintings, Photographs, Collage and Musical Scores
Reviewer #1

Frederick Sommer, who was active from the early 1940’s through the 90’s, but is most widely known for his photographic work in the 1940’s, receives a respectful and thought provoking retrospective here. Some of his best known images are represented as well as recently uncovered variants.

Working at a time when “straight photography” was ascendent, he continued to make expressionistic use of the camera with his still life images of dolls, butcher-shop discards (not seen in this exhibit), found objects, and perhaps most memorably desiccated animal carcasses found in the dessert. The show is revelatory in the latter case in showing how the patterns of these animals was used in his paintings and drawings. In the 1960’s he produced several series of female nudes, notable for being printed out-of-focus to better emphasize line and tonal qualities, and frankly, the erotic sensuality of the image.

Sommer is frequently linked with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind and although he was not nearly as prolific as either, he holds his own as an intelligent and assertive photographer. Although to this viewer much of Sommer’s work in other media seemed to be a little lessened by the passage of time, the photography remains direct and alive.

Frederick Sommer
Circumnavigation: Drawings, Paintings, Photographs, Collage and Musical Scores


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