That crazy feeling - Page 2

The humor, sadness, and everything-ness of Robert Frank's The Americans -- 50 years later

An array of flags mask people's faces, or point sorrowfully toward the ground.

One facet or extension of "Looking At" explores Frank's influences, and in turn, his influences on, American photography. To be sure, Diane Arbus's trannies and butches and Lee Friedlander's broadcast TVs owe a debt to Frank's visions of censored-or-taken-for-granted everyday 20th century life. The through line from the Depression-era photography of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to Frank's look at a family crammed into a car in Butte, Mont., is obvious. Absent, though, are some definite predecessors and peers. Weegee's hard-boiled naked city is nowhere to be seen — except in Frank (and frank) images such as one of people in Miami Beach. William Klein's pictorial rephrasing of urban adspeak is absent save for a look at a department store in Nebraska, an arrow on the wall of a building in Los Angeles, or a newsstand in New York City or a sidewalk in New Orleans.

With one photo in The Americans, Robert Frank maDE gas pumps look like a series of tombstones, all gathered by a sign that declares SAVE. There are legions of artists today making images less contemporary or relevant. Take a look at The Americans, and you'll find cowboys, starlets, funeral parties, boys in arcades, queens on stoops, leather rebels, bored or contemplative waitresses, street preachers, a parade of pedestrians, wheelers and dealers — and workers. Take another look at The Americans today, 50-plus years after it made its first impression, and you'll probably find yourself.


Through Aug. 23, free–$15

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St, SF

(415) 357-4000


Through June 27

Phyllis Wattis Theater

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000

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