Visual Art

Documentary, Abstractions, and Weird High School Rituals at the Frye

A trio of new exhibitions arrive this weekend at the Frye Art Museum, featuring photo and video work that reacts to life under communist rule, post-revolution Mexico, and high school life in America.

By Isabel Boutiette September 20, 2017

On Friday, September 22 the Frye Art Museum welcomes three photomedia collections from a trio of very different artists: self-taught photo documentarian Manuel Álvarez Bravo, underground abstract photographer Hana Hamplová, and influential pop culture critic and artist Mike Kelley. Here's a sneak peak into each of the artist's work featured in these unmissable exhibits.

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Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Ángel del temblor (Angel of the Quake), 1957, printed ca. 1981. Gelatin silver print on paper. © Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

Manuel Álvarez Bravo: 'Mexico's Poet of Light'
In the 1920s, after the Mexican Revolution ended, Manuel Álvarez Bravo picked up a camera without any formal training and began to document his homeland. Bravo's work exudes a calm aura while capturing the flux of a country suspended between tradition and a industrial transformation, a balance achieved through a dedicated manipulation of light, attention to contrast and bold lines. Supported by some of the most influential 20th century artists and intellectuals—including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and poet Octavio Paz—Bravo's work is an emblematic documentation of Mexico over the span of eight decades.


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Hana Hamplová. Untitled, 1980. Gelatin silver print on paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Marion Hrebek Keys, 1990/1.223.

Hana Hamplová: 'Meditations on Paper'
Influential Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal's book Too Loud A Solitude—published in 1976 by an underground press in the communist Czech Republic —directly dealt with the power of books and knowledge. The publishers commissioned photographer Hana Hamplová to create the cover of the powerful book. Hamplová began visiting recycling centers in Prague for inspiration, and the product of these visits is truly striking: without showing words or content, Hamplová's series manages to portray the living knowledge that paper holds. Hamplová captures breathtaking landscapes and curvatures through zoomed in photos of seemingly ordinary shreds, reams, and stacks of paper. 


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Mike Kelley. Still from Day Is Done, 2005–2006. Single channel video, color, sound. Art ©Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. All rights reserved/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Mike Kelley: 'Day Is Done'
Multimedia artist Mike Kelley's feature-length musical Day Is Done showcases all the abnormalities in the folk performances and rituals considered a normal part of an American high school experience. In preparation for the mid-2000s film, Kelley filtered through hundreds of high school yearbooks, collecting photos of extracurricular activities, which he then categorized into groups like dance, satanic, and equestrian events. Through an excavation of folk performative structures, Kelley completely flips the high school and folk performance experiences and creates a new lens to observe American culture. 

Sept 22–Dec 31
Frye Art Museum, Free

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