Princeton University Art Museum Debuts Photographic Treasures in Two Side-by-Side Exhibitions

Lee Friedlander: Cars and The New Cars and  Pattern/Picture
on view through February 5, 2012

PRINCETON, NJ – This season, long-buried photographic treasures come to light in two side-by-side exhibitions at the Princeton University Art Museum. One reveals a decisive moment early in the artistic evolution of Lee Friedlander, an American master; the other opens the archives of the Clarence H. White School of Photography and examines the fruitful tension between graphic pattern and illusionistic space in camera imagery. Both exhibitions are on view through Sunday, February 5, 2012.

Friedlander’s restlessly inventive eye is nowhere in stronger evidence than in his photographs of cars in the American scene. Highlighted in Lee Friedlander: Cars and The New Cars are 14 prints from the artist’s recently rediscovered project “The New Cars 1964.” Asked by Harper’s Bazaar in late 1963 (as Andy Warhol had been the year before) to produce a pictorial feature on the next year’s models from Detroit, Friedlander (born 1934) characteristically placed his subjects in lively but unglamorous real-life settings: gas stations, parking lots, parked by the curb in suburban America. His prescient masterworks of photographic Pop Art, celebrating the energy of the everyday, all but hide the new-model automobiles that were his ostensible subjects. The magazine paid the artist but returned the unique set of work prints to him unpublished. Acquired this year by the collectors Randi and Bob Fisher, the prints are being exhibited for the first time ever at the Art Museum.

Pattern/Picture brings modern and contemporary photographs from the Museum’s collections into dialogue with 15 works by students of the Clarence H. White School of Photography, which trained commercial photographers in Manhattan from 1914 to 1942 and whose archives are an important feature of the Princeton collections. The eye-popping installation features photographs that hover between the flatness and rigor of a graphic pattern and the engaging realism of illusionistic camera imagery. 

White School students variously framed rhythmic patterns they found in real-world situations, arranged objects in the studio to create patterns in the camera’s eye, or crafted picture-puzzles out of multiple prints of a single image. Other featured photographers in Pattern/Picture include Lilo Raymond, Ray K. Metzker, Torbjørn Rødland, Jean-Pierre Sudre, Harry Callahan, Danny Lyon and Harold Edgerton.