Traffic signs, sandwich boards and posters: Friedlander’s portrait of words in the world
For more than five decades, Lee Friedlander has repeatedly been drawn to the signs that inscribe the American landscape, from hand-lettered ads to storefront windows to massive billboards. Incorporating these markings with precision and sly humor, Friedlander’s photographs record a kind of found poetry of desire and commerce.
Focusing on one of the artist’s key motifs, Lee Friedlander: Signs presents a cacophony of wheat-paste posters, Coca-Cola ads, prices for milk, road signs, stop signs, neon lights, movie marquees and graffiti. The book collects 144 photographs made in New York and other places across the US, and features self-portraits, street photographs and work from series including The American Monument and America by Car, among others. Illegible or plainspoken, crude or whimsical, Friedlander’s signs are an unselfconscious portrait of modern life.
Lee Friedlander (born 1934) began photographing in 1948. Among his many monographs are Sticks and Stones, Self-Portrait, Letters from the People, Cherry Blossom Time in Japan and At Work, among others. His work was included in the influential 1967 exhibition New Documents at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by John Szarkowski. Among the most important living photographers, Friedlander is in the collections of museums around the world.