Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to return to Art Basel with works by Robert Adams, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Kota Ezawa, Lee Friedlander, Martine Gutierrez, Peter Hujar, Richard Learoyd, Whitfield Lovell, Christian Marclay, Wardell Milan, Richard Misrach, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Carrie Mae Weems and others.
The cut pieces of Christian Marclay’s comic book collage burst out from the center of the paper page, like a series of waves emanating from an explosion. Each of the “sound rays” carry their onomatopoeia as a set of colorful letters, giving shape and form to such expressions as “mmmmmmmmm” and “vrrooomm.”
Carrie Mae Weems cites the famed Italian director Federico Fellini as a major source of inspiration for the complex symbolism of rather ordinary environments, like a pair of pictured clouds that seem to blur the line between dream and reality. For Weems, the diptych similarly blurs the categories of race, class, gender, and identity that have motivated her multimedia practice.
From 1966 to 1970, Bernd & Hilla Becher photographed these nine wooden cooling towers according to a rigorous standard of uniform, neutral appearance. In 1976, the artists mounted the photographs as a grid, transforming what they called “anonymous sculpture” into a typology of comparative forms, like biological specimens prepared for scientific inspection.
Richard Misrach’s 1991 photograph of a gas station at night is one of a number of older works the artist recently printed for the first time—a selection of these prints will be featured in New New Pictures/New Old Pictures, on view at Fraenkel Gallery from June 29 to August 12, 2023. The stillness of the darkened scene is broken only by the movement of insects in the light captured by the long exposure.
Inspired by the saturation of contemporary culture with images and information, Kota Ezawa distills memories of significant historical moments to their basic forms. Simple, two dimensional shapes document a group of onlookers as some of the first known cases of COVID-19 enter the San Francisco Bay in March 2020 on the Grand Princess cruise ship. Illuminated atop a glowing lightbox—what Ezawa calls a “moving painting”—the transparency reignites those first feelings of shock and suspense with the coming of a global pandemic.
Lee Friedlander’s reflection is framed by a series of overlapping rectangles in an image from his book of self portraits. In the recent Fraenkel Gallery publication Lee Friedlander Framed by Joel Coen, Coen describes “Lee’s unusual approach to framing—his splitting, splintering, repeating, fracturing, and reassembling elements into new and impossible compositions.”
Picturing a nude man turned partially away and exposing his vulnerable back, Richard Learoyd makes a subtle nod to Ingres’s famous neoclassical painting of 1808, The Bather of Valpinçon. Marked by a calm and timeless sensuality, Learoyd’s photograph focuses on the man’s octopus tattoo, a threatening presence which seems to overtake the quiet sitter.
Peter Hujar and his subjects explored new realities they each created—whether through portraiture or performance. Ethyl Eichelberger was one of Hujar’s favorite collaborators; he was an Obie award-winning American drag performer, playwright, and actor. Eichelberger became an influential figure in experimental theater and writing, and wrote nearly forty plays portraying women such as Jocasta, Medea, Clytemnestra, Lucrezia Borgia and Nefertiti. Here Hujar captures Eichelberger’s performance as the famed queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.
Inspired by nineteenth-century carte-de-visite photographs, Whitfield Lovell juxtaposes exquisitely drawn portraits of a Black man and woman with a found section of barbed wire and artificial roses. The pairings are at once hopeful and ominous, sustaining the tension between the meticulous drawing, the passionate flowers, and the rough metal wire, while the omnipresent red evokes life and blood as well as courage, will, passion, and love.
Whether concrete highways, quiet cuts through dark forests, paved commercial strips or dusty tracks through the Oregon countryside, Robert Adams’s roads serve as thoughtful metaphors for solitude, connection, or freedom.
In a 1996 collaboration with the painter Robert Colescott, Carrie Mae Weems pictures herself nude, recessed within the corner of the artist’s studio. Through self-portraiture and text-image pairings, Weems performs the conflicted relationship of the postmodern artist, questioning the art historical canon that has marginalized women in the glorification of the male genius.
Though the concept behind Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series of Seascapes is rather simple, the results of his methodical process are profound. A constant, centered horizon joins the most fundamental of photographic elements: light and time. Yet with the mysterious blur of this long-exposure, the artist urges questions of memory and presence long associated with the medium.
Embodying iconic women from history and myth, Martine Gutierrez’s ANTI-ICON: APOKALYPSIS series explores the construction of celebrity feminine identity. As Cleopatra, Gutierrez swings her hips into an unfurling gold fabric—one of the many D.I.Y. materials just barely adorning her. Queen of the Kingdom of Egypt from 51 to 30 BC, Cleopatra qua Gutierrez commands her viewers to reconsider the idols we continue to worship.