In Philly galleries now: Lee Friedlander’s photos, a Clay Studio group show, and more
Mid-century photos of American monuments, works in clay with Middle Eastern influences, and a refreshing summer show.
Lee Friedlander was paying attention to public monuments long before our present moment came to recognize them as symbols of racism and gender-bias, and the new public interest adds currency to Friedlander's photographs of statues memorializing the dead, taken between the early 1960s and 1975.
A substantial group of those images is now on display in the exhibition "Lee Friedlander: The American Monument Photographs" at Haverford College's Atrium Gallery.
Statues and monuments first came to Friedlander's attention incidentally, when they started making regular appearances in his photographs of other subjects. A closer look seemed necessary. Soon, he found himself seeking them out, and finding them all over the United States.
Eventually, he selected 213 of his thousand-plus photographs for publication in the 1976 book The American Monument, with an essay by Leslie Katz. That sought-after volume was redesigned and republished in 2017 with an additional essay by Friedlander scholar Peter Galassi. Both editions were designed so that they could be disassembled, allowing for the stand-alone display of their reproductions of Friedlander's photographs.
Haverford College owns copies of both editions. The exhibition's curator, Haverford College professor William Earle Williams, assembled the show of 60 Friedlander images largely from the first edition, adding some original Friedlander prints and photographs of monuments by Walker Evans, Eugene Atget, and Curtis & Cameron Inc.
Friedlander's knack for capturing statues hidden in plain sight can be amusing. Take, for example, his photograph of The Spirit of the American Doughboy in St. Albans, Vt., engulfed in snow. A bust of New York's Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia at the LaGuardia Airport terminal in Queens is set against a background of incoming and outgoing planes in a funny juxtaposition.
More often, though, his images evoke a solemn mood, as in his photograph of three monuments honoring the Confederacy at Mississippi's Vicksburg National Military Park. A statue of the Confederate general Lloyd Tighman was surely meant to portray his valor. But shot from the perspective of a scruffy service road, it's instead a vision of existential despair.
That photograph makes for an interesting comparison with a typically straightforward Walker Evans 1936 close-up of that same statue, atypically chilling, also here.
Through Sept. 30 at Atrium Gallery, Marshall Fine Arts Center, Haverford College, 370 Lancaster Ave., Haverford. Summer hours noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 610-896-1000 or haverford.edu/fine-arts/exhibitions.
Cultural connections in clay
Among the standouts are Emami's floral and geometric dishes, inspired by a garden design for a mosque in Iran that has been under construction for centuries and is still not complete. Also noteworthy are Shiftan's platters, decorated with historic Islamic calligraphy, and Said's large sculptures, inspired by ancient Egyptian works.
Through Sept. 2 at the Clay Studio, 137-39 N. 2nd St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, noon to 6 p. m. Sundays, 215-925-3453 or theclaystudio.org.
Yes, it's hot and muggy. And the summer season's limited night and weekend hours might not be convenient. But James Oliver Gallery has a show worth the effort.
"Moving Targets" includes semi-representational paintings by Stephen D'Onofrio, minimal geometric paintings by Kurt Herrmann, and wall-mounted wood constructions by Scott Troxel. It all comes together beautifully in the two-floor gallery.
Herrmann's paintings steal the show. They're clearly inspired by such artists as Trevor Winkfield and Karl Wirsum, but entirely abstract.
Through Aug. 11, James Oliver Gallery, 723 Chestnut St., 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 1 to 8 p.m. Saturdays, 215-923-1242 or jamesolivergallery.com.