New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 43 December 20 to 26, 2012

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Complex Reflections

Lee Friedlander: Mannequin
New York City by Lee Friedlander. Source:
Lee Friedlander, "New York City" 2011

Unlike Friedlander’s companion exhibition “Nudes” currently at the Pace Gallery seven floors below, the 28 images in “Mannequin” are all new, shot between 2003 and 2011 and nearly all in New York City. It’s just that at first glance many don’t look that fresh since the artist used the same shooting technique as in his 1960s street photography – capturing reflections from store display windows. Even so, there is still a lot to look at and like. And, of course, there will be the inevitable comparisons between his real people nudes downstairs with the mostly faceless plastic sex symbols dressed to kill here. Both invite your close attention.

For this body of work, Friedlander artfully superimposed the reflections of building facades or skylines onto the mannequins or vice versa. Many of the images have the usual Friedlander hallmarks; his reflected self-portrait in the window, clutter and chaos. He often shoots from a low angle and that makes the models seem larger than life, emphasizing their role as fashionistas and our preoccupation with being au courant.

As might be expected, Friedlander adds layers of complexity to many of these photographs. In “New York City, 2011,” a support strut from a construction site bisects the mannequin and becomes a diversion. In “New York City, 2009,” lettering on the window interrupts the view while shadows of the letters are projected onto the mannequin. Is the mannequin trying to speak to us?

New York City by Lee Friedlander. Source:
Lee Friedlander, "New York City" 2011

Clutter is everywhere in these pictures. The reflections of cars on the windows and the mannequin compel the viewer to look closely. For example, in the first image to greet gallery visitors as they step off the elevator, the reflection is so well matched to the mannequin’s dress, it looks like it’s actually imprinted on it. (It’s not.) And chaos rules in the image of a mannequin who seems crowned by tree branches–– or could that actually be a halo?

Friedlander knows New York’s shop windows and streets so well––his vision opens our eyes to what’s really in front of us.

Lee Friedlander: Mannequin

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