Saturday, May 30, 2009
SFMOMA and Robert Frank
The Americans is just that: images of Americans, most Americans, what it really is to be an American. Great images of the diversions Americans seek as relief from the reality of what it takes to survive in a land so vast, so demanding. Relief from the pressure of living up to an ideology that is of such a thinly woven social fabric as to be so delicate and indeed near impossible to maintain. Images of working people, the struggle behind a facade of glamor and wealth.
It is the working class that represents the majority of Americans. Robert Frank's The Americans shatters the myth of the middle class. It did this in 1959 to the dismay of most critics and many among the country's population who believed themselves to be firmly rooted in the increasingly powerful illusion of the middle class.
Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction to Frank's book. In it Kerouac included an excerpt from his own book Visions of Cody. That passage is a summary description of his earlier and best known book, On the Road. Kerouac's On the Road and Frank's The Americans are perfect companions, creating the truest "vision" of America ever published. The two works embody the dreams and struggles of most Americans. Both are great stories of travel measured in "toothpick time." And that is the story of America.
Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans" at SFMOMA through August 23, 2009
Photo: ©Robert Frank, courtesy of www.sfmoma.com