The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles was a mixed bag for me. I love art, but I especially love beautiful art or, at the very least, art I can understand. I think art should communicate—and I just didn’t get some of it. Maybe that makes me shallow (but I don’t really think so).
But I loved the photography gallery. Especially The Americans by Robert Frank. As you head inside, turn right and marvel.
The Americans consists of 83 photographs that Robert Frank shot during a 1955 road trip across America in a used car. Selected from over 20,000 negatives, the complete set of photographs are on display in the order selected for the book. It’s a stunning example of how a collection becomes more than the sum of its parts. Each photograph individually, shot with a hand-held Leica and wide-angle lens, can feel ordinary. The situations are everyday, the objects and landscapes are common and easy to find. Look at them closer and they are dream-like, magical. And as you move through them, the collection begins to form a larger picture. You get a strong sense of America as a whole at that time, tension and excitement and change on the horizon.
The MOCA is currently showing The Americans as part of the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection:
Highlights of this extraordinary collection of photographic series include eighty of Diane Arbus’s renowned images published in a 1972 monograph by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Also featured are a group of prints from Brassaï’s series The Secret Paris of the 30’s, taken during his nocturnal wanderings through Paris. The Collection includes a complete set of Robert Frank’s classic series The Americans, created in 1955-1956 when he crossed America in a used car. There are eleven bodies of work by Lee Friedlander, who captured the social landscape in an extended portrait of America. Also featured are three series by Garry Winogrand, who was one of the most important photographers to make use of 35mm available-light photojournalism.
Do go and see it. Admission to the MOCA is $10 general/$5 students + parking. Hand-held photography is allowed. No flash or tripods. The photography collection is at MOCA Grand Avenue.