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Steidl and UCLA College present "Robert Frank: Books and Films 1947-2016" at Bergamot Station
Robert Frank viewing his catalog. September 2014. © Gerhard Steidl.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Robert Frank (b. 1924, Zurich) is one of the pre-eminent figures of twentieth-century photography. With his innovative approach to technique and subject matter and through his personal viewpoint, Frank has revolutionized documentary photography and redefined the aesthetics of the still and moving image. Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2016 is not a retrospective, but a volatile experience focusing on Frank’s output as a book- and filmmaker. The exhibition presents for the first time his complete restored films.

Conceived by Robert Frank and Gerhard Steidl, the exhibition is as bold, accessible and humble as Frank’s work itself, and has been designed to enable particularly younger generations to engage with his practice. Frank’s films and photobooks are placed in the overarching context of his photographs, which are presented in an immediate and straightforward way: printed in sequences of four to five on up to three-meter-long paper banners that are installed directly onto the wall without frames. The exhibition spans Frank’s entire artistic career, from 1947 until now.

When Frank left Switzerland for New York City in 1947, he brought with him a handmade book of photographs as his professional portfolio. It was his first exploration into the ways in which the juxtaposition of photographs could convey meaning. Since then the photobook has become one of his preferred media. Without words, narrative or explanatory captions, the power of his sequences lies in the combined presence of his images. The exhibition presents 24 books, including Portfolio (1947), Peru (1948), Black White and Things (1952), his highly celebrated The Americans (1958 and 1959), and his most recent book Was haben wir gesehen / What we have seen (2016).

Frank’s masterful handling of sequencing images makes his turn to filmmaking in the late 1950s a logical progression: “A decision: I put my Leica in a cupboard. Enough of lying in wait, pursuing, sometimes catching the essence of the black and the white, the knowledge where God is. I make films. Now I speak to the people in my viewfinder. Not simple and not especially successful.” Frank has since produced films and videos between the boundaries of documentary and fiction. The exhibition presents for the first time after years of restoration Frank's filmic output, he has produced since 1959, including Pull My Daisy (1959), Me and My Brother (1968), and The Tunnel (2005).

Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2016 at Bergamot Station continues the exhibition’s world wide tour. Organized by Steidl Verlag, the show will visit up to fifty universities, art schools, museums and other non-profit spaces worldwide, with the aim of doing justice to Frank’s life and work. Each venue receives its own set of exhibition prints. By agreement with Robert Frank, all paper banners are to be disposed of after display to ensure that the exhibition is strictly not for profit. The show premiered at Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada (2014), and has subsequently been presented at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, Germany (2014); Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (2015); Fotoistanbul, Istanbul, Turkey (2015); Tisch School of the Arts / New York University, New York, USA (2016). It is currently on view at HALLE 14 - Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, Germany. Upcoming cities are Appenzell, Switzerland and Tokyo, Japan before continuing to travel some 40 further locations in 2017.

The unconventional exhibition catalogue, edited by Alex Rühle, has been produced in cooperation with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a distinguished German newspaper read by 1.43 million people daily. The catalogue is presented in a newspaper format, using the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a template, and features several double-page prints of Frank’s photographs that fold out as posters. The collaboration between the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Steidl Verlag has facilitated low production costs and the retail price of $5.00 USD, designed to make the catalogue affordable for as many as possible.

Robert Frank: Books and Films 1947–2016 at Bergamot Station is realized by Steidl in conjunction with UCLA College.

Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2016 is on view at Bergamot Station from March 31 - April 14, 2016 in Building G1, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404.Gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11am-5pm​. Closed Sundays and Mondays. The exhibition is open to the public and admission is free.

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