Frederick Sommer - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    light Gallery, LIGHT, p. 79; Sommer, Words/Images, pl. 48; Yale University Press, The Art of Frederick Sommer: Photography, Drawing, Collage, p. 41 and cover

  • Catalogue Essay

    Frederick Sommer’s photographic interest laid in detritus, focusing his lens on discarded objects such as children’s toys, Edwardian engravings, torn wallpaper, encrusted paint can lids, and desiccated wildlife carcasses. It was their existence as refuse, that is, as having been deemed worthless after exhausting their functionality or livelihood that attracted Sommer to their strong nostalgic narrative. Like topographic wrinkles on the elderly, the relics became conveyers of a story that preceded Sommer’s interaction with the objects, and possibly, Sommer’s own existence. “I’ve been a junk man all my life,” Sommer once mused, “looking through junkyards.” By arranging and photographing the found objects, Sommer froze their continual decay, before they had completed vanished from existence, and lent them a sense of immortality.

    In Livia, 1948, Sommer photographed a young girl against a propped backdrop. The girl’s youth stands in stark contrast against the disintegrating background, allowing Sommer to meditate on human mortality and the gradual loss in innocence. As an arranged composition, the image could be read as a still-life on both literal and figurative levels, presenting a portrait of a little girl’s blossoming naïveté as much as a memento mori. By doing so, Sommer successfully collapses the distance between life and death, hope and fate, beginning and end, to create an alternate space in which the two ends do not compete for dominance, but smoothened into a harmonious and poetic coexistence.



Gelatin silver print, printed later.
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (19.1 x 23.5 cm).
Signed, titled and dated in pencil on the mount.

$35,000 - 45,000 

Sold for $52,500


4 October 2011
New York