The desert from a distance is as tranquil as any other landscape, except for the light. As I get close, the place becomes wild. Everything in sight is up-tempo and jumping with a thousand branches, a million thorns…altogether becoming a maze of order new and crazier in every turn, bathed in light that defies description…It’s a place, the desert, out of control in the norm of places. —Lee Friedlander, The Desert Seen
Lee Friedlander strives to bring meaning and beauty to chaos without disturbing that chaos. The Sonora Desert, the subject of this series of photographs made over the past five years, is the perfect site for such a venture. Now in his sixties, Friedlander has trampled through a difficult, unrelenting landscape and brought back difficult, unrelenting pictures. He has not spared us the hard, bristling edges, the impenetrable masses of bramble or the fact that here, the trees and cacti, the desolate sand and the brazen light, are the rulers. What also emerges in these pictures is the energy, the sheer will of the place. Friedlander is an artist who finds pure joy in the mess – in the intricate latticework of light and shade filtering through the branches, in the discovery of the surprising shapes of the natural world as they appear through the camera lens.
Lee Friedlander has been a working photographer for over thirty years, taking as his subject the urban, social, and natural landscape. He is the recipient of countless awards and fellowships including a MacArthur Grant (1990) and the MacDowell Colony Award (1986). His work has been widely exhibited and published, including Letters from the People, Like a One-Eyed Cat and The Jazz People. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog of the same title, published by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, New York.