Tag Archives: John Cohen

DIA shines a light on Robert Frank’s “Exile on Main Street” right here in Detroit

DIA installation view - Detroit Movie House, 1955, © Robert Frank

My best guess is that Robert Frank took the photograph at right while wandering around somewhere in downtown Detroit along Michigan Avenue. The DIA was lucky enough to get the original, large-scale photographic masterpiece (about 2 x 3 feet) on loan from the artist for the current exhibition Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955. It is likely he took the photograph, Detroit Movie House, in front of The Loop Theater when he passed through town in July, 1955. Better to see this in person, as this installation view doesn’t do it justice.

The PR overload surrounding the recent re-release of The Rolling Stones’ 1972 Exile on Main Street reminded me as well that Robert was responsible for photographs appearing on original album. On a recent tour of the exhibition, my friend and favorite Detroit rocker Danny Kroha mentioned that Detroit Movie House had actually appeared on the inside cover.

Detail from the inside album cover for Exile on Main Street, 1972, © Rolling Stones Records; Collection of W.M. Watson.

I caught Keith Richards in a rare appearance on late night tv plugging the new Exile super deluxe box edition. But I recently dug up the original from my brother’s vinyl collection, and revisiting it was like discovering a strange old relic. In an age of obsessive multi-tasking, the act of solely listening to records and looking at album covers and liner notes is a distant, lost art for most of us. It’s a shame too because through Exile on Main Street, I saw the photographs of Robert Frank for the first time. And it wouldn’t be until years later that I would find out about his films, including Frank’s documentary about The Stones, as well as his book The Americans.

1961 cover for the New Lost City Ramblers with photo by Robert Frank; courtesy http://www.folkways.si.edu

More music trivia on the Robert Frank front came courtesy of Mr. Kroha, who remembered that Frank took the cover photograph for The New Lost City Ramblers album back in 1961. The band continued to use his photographs for a number of other albums and later compilations. I wasn’t surprised since by the 1950s, Robert had established close ties to musicians as well as writers, painters and other photographers who lived in New York City and elsewhere. In fact, Ramblers’ band member John Cohen shot stills for a number of Frank’s films over the years – there’s one on view in the exhibition from the set of Pull My Daisy, a film Robert made with writer Jack Kerouac in 1959.

Readies guitarist Danny Kroha setting the record straight about Ford's versus Oldsmobiles

Readies guitarist Danny Kroha setting the record straight about Fords versus Oldsmobiles; photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kroha

Robert Frank loaned a few other  photographs to the exhibition including a picture of a broken down car, presumably his 1950 Ford Coupe which failed in downtown Detroit. But the photo actually shows a 1947 Oldsmobile – the grill was a dead give away and confirmation came from a quick web search on iPhone in the gallery. I later double checked with Robert and heard back that the automobile was, indeed, not the artist’s, who mentioned, “my car wasn’t that nice.”

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955, is open and free with museum admission through Saturday, July 3, 2010.

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Save the dates for spring photography programs at the DIA and around town

Drive-in movie—Detroit, 1955, © Robert Frank, from The Americans

SAVE THE DATES! – The DIA will present upcoming programs in conjunction with Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955.

Friday, June 4, 2010, 7:30 p.m. in DIA’s Lecture Hall, author Philip Gefter will present a lecture – Robert Frank and the Beat Generation.

Philip Gefter believes that Robert Frank split the century in half in terms of his legendary and groundbreaking photographic work of the 1950s. His influence was felt by all who followed him. Join him as he discusses the work of Frank and his relationship to Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac among others. Gefter will also be on hand after the lecture to sign copies of Photography After Frank, a book of essays recently published by Aperture.

Gefter was on staff at The New York Times for over fifteen years, both as the Page One Picture Editor and Senior Picture Editor for Culture, and wrote regularly about photography for the paper. He produced the forthcoming documentary, Bill Cunningham New York about the New York Times fashion photographer. Currently he writes about photography for The Daily Beast, and he is at work on a biography of Sam Wagstaff for W.W. Norton.

This program is free with museum admission and sponsored by the Forum for Prints, Drawings and Photographs. For more info about the auxiliary, follow us on facebook at  www.facebook.com/DIAFPDP or check in on our activities at the DIA’s new website.

Saturday, June 12, 2010, 4:00 p.m., DIA’s Detroit Film Theater will present An American Journey by French director Phillipe Séclier. I highly recommend this film having seen it last fall at the Film Forum in New York – a documentary with often breathtaking cinematography, it is illuminating, humorous and takes a different look at Robert Frank and the making of his book The Americans. Made in 2009, An American Journey travels back to the cities, towns and rural communities that Frank immortalized in The Americans. He even traveled to Detroit’s most famous public park Belle Isle to find the place where Frank took photographs.

Speaking with many individuals who knew and know Frank, the director included commentary by artist Edward Ruscha, publisher Barney Rosset, photographers John Cohen and Raymond Depardon, and curators/critics Vicki Goldberg, Sarah Greenough and Peter Galassi who discuss the inspiration and complex artistic methodology that fueled the Swiss-born Robert Frank in his American journey. The film is free with museum admission. For more information about this film and the DFT film schedule – it’s all at www.dia.org/detroitfilmtheatre.

Of note as well is photographer Andrew Moore’s lecture this Friday, April 30 at 7 p.m at Oakland Community College. Moore just released a new book of his work entitled Detroit Disassembled and will appear at the OCC for a lecture and book signing sponsored by Book Beat.