The Plot Thickens

Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to announce The Plot Thickens, an exhibition and 250-page catalogue marking the gallery’s 35th anniversary. Comprised of 100 photographs acquired and assembled over the last five years, The Plot Thickens revels in the richness of the medium through works by its greatest masters interwoven with prints by the anonymous and unknown. The majority of images are being exhibited and published for the first time.

Viewed as a whole, The Plot Thickens is an idiosyncratic, unorthodox survey of photography traversing three centuries. The earliest work in the exhibition is Charles Clifford’s moody study of the Alhambra, circa 1858; the most recent is Lee Friedlander’s bullet-riddled “NO SHOOTING” sign, made in June 2014. Photographic objects by Sol LeWitt, Jess, Christian Marclay, and Bernd & Hilla Becher find affinities with Charles Sheeler, Helen Levitt, Thomas Eakins, and William Eggleston. A found snapshot of an all-female wedding, dated 1930, appears near Nan Goldin’s 1978 self-portrait as a dominatrix and an 1860 daguerreotype of two girls holding an image of their deceased mother.

In the catalog introduction, Jeffrey Fraenkel asserts, “Singling out artists is still what makes a gallery.” Eadweard Muybridge and Diane Arbus—two very different artists whose work contains seemingly inexhaustible achievements—are among the photographers who make repeat appearances throughout The Plot Thickens. Other artists included are: Mel Bochner, Katy Grannan, Alfred Stieglitz, Kota Ezawa, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, the Louisville optician who left behind an unforgettable body of work at his death in 1972, at the age of 46.

Fraenkel Gallery opened in San Francisco in September 1979 with an exhibition of recently discovered albumen prints by the nineteenth-century photographer Carleton Watkins. Since then, the gallery has presented more than 300 exhibitions exploring photography and its connections to the other arts, and published 55 books on subjects ranging from Edward Hopper’s influence on photography to the sculptor David Smith’s multi-decade involvement with photographs, as well as the complete library of Diane Arbus and nine monographs by Lee Friedlander.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled, 1964
Photographer Unknown, [All-female wedding party], October 7, 1930
August Sander, Eye of an Eighteen-Year-Old Young Man, 1925-26
Photographer Unknown, Untitled (Greece), ca. 1900
Photographer Unknown, [Bank robber aiming at security camera], March 8, 1975