Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas


Lee Friedlander at Work
  • Lee Friedlander at Work
  • 10-Sep-2005 - 11-Dec-2005
  • Kress Gallery, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio. Programming for this exhibition is supported in part by the Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The Breidenthal-Snyder Foundation generously supports the Spencer Museum of Art venue. When I turned sixty-five I retired from everything but work. So quips Lee Friedlander, who, for the past five decades, has been inexhaustibly chronicling the American social and cultural landscape. Friedlander, one of the foremost photographers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is known for his keen depictions of the worlds of jazz, of television, of urban landscapes and deserts, and of family. And throughout his prolific career, Friedlander has acknowledged the largely anonymous worker, making inventive pictures of the familiar, humdrum, yet overriding role of work in America. Lee Friedlander--At Work not only witnesses the radical change in the American workplace from blue collar to desktop, but also invites us to appreciate Friedlander's profound contribution to photography through one constant thread, the ubiquitous universe of work. At Work explores the saga of the American worker through six photographic series that were commissioned by museum curators, magazine editors, foundations, and businesses: Factory Valleys (1979--80) features images of heavy and light industry located in northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania; MIT (1985--86) records the dramatic shift in the technological landscape along Route 128, Boston's outer loop; Cray (1986) is the visual story of this Wisconsin-based maker of super computers; Gund (1995) depicts Cleveland's steel industry; Dreyfus (1992) is a composite portrait of that corporation's New York City trading floor; and Telemarketing (1995) scrutinizes workers based in Omaha, Nebraska, who help make this recent and explosive sales phenomenon possible.

Prior to its presentation at the Spencer, this exhibition was to be presented in three major European venues in Cologne, Amsterdam, and Paris. All works are gelatin silver prints, on loan from the artist courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

This exhibition was organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, in partnership with The Photography Collection, SK Cultural Foundation, Cologne, Germany. The Spencer Museum of Art venue is funded in part by Dave and Gunda Hiebert, the Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Lee Friedlander At Work highlights gelatin-silver prints from six commissioned projects:
● Factory Valleys: Manual labor in cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania (1979-1980)
● Gund: Blue-collar steel workers in Cleveland, Ohio (1995)
● Cray: Workers at the first super computer in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (1986)
● MIT: Computer workers on Route 128 in Boston (1985-1986)
● Dreyfus: Trading floor and offices in New York City (1992)
● Telemarketing in Omaha, Nebraska (1995).

Through the visual net of Friedlander’s lens, we witness changes in workers, in work and in the evolution of the American workplace. Friedlander’s photographs capture the subtleties of the relationships between worker and machine through images of factory workers who, while full of individual character, often seem as much a part of the machinery as the tools they use, and through images of office workers whose faraway eyes gaze perpetually at unseen computer screens.

Lee Friedlander At Work spans 16 years and captures the changes in our society and economy from one that thrives on the manufacture of things, to one that manufactures ideas.
Lee Friedlander has had a distinguished career and is recognized as one of the most important photographers of everyday life in America. Among his many awards are a MacArthur Foundation Award, grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and three Guggenheim Fellowships. He has previously published dozens of books, among them the seminal Self Portrait and The American Monument. In addition, a retrospective exhibition of his work opens at the Museum of Modern Art in 2005.