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Lost and Found: Susan Brockman and Allen Frame, Soft Network, New York, 2023

Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Photo: Alexa Hoyer
Allen Frame, "Amalfi," 2023, Ink on paper and digital prints, Dimensions variab…
Photo: Alexa Hoyer

Dates: October 23-November 18, 2023
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11AM-5PM and by appointment
636 Broadway, NYC, Room 320

Lost and Found Public Programs

Lost Art

October 30, 6:00PM - 8:00PM

Legacy workers and artists who work with and care for artist archives and estates present on various iterations of lost art, including art that has been destroyed, art that is missing, art that is lost in the archive, and the meaning of loss in art itself.

Presenters include:
Matt Connors on Miyoko Ito (1918-1983)
Allen Frame on Ronald Girard (c.1911-1998)
Carmelle Safdie on Vera Ronnen (1930-2015)
Rafael Sánchez on Kathleen White (1960-2014)

Introduction by Marie Warsh, Deputy Director of Soft Network and Co-Director of the Estate of Rosemary Mayer

Allen Frame in Conversation with Noam Parness, Associate Curator and Exhibitions Manager at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art

November 17, 6:30PM - 8:30PM

RSVP required for all programs

“Lost and Found” brings together material from the archive of photographer/filmmaker Susan Brockman (1937-2001) with a new installation by photographer/writer Allen Frame (b. 1951). The exhibition marks the beginning of the Estate of Susan Brockman as the second Archive-in-Residence at Soft Network. This year-long exploration of Brockman’s photography supplemented by dialogues and collaborations with contemporary artists will provide a space for the public to consider some of the complexities of a photo-based artist’s legacy.

Large drafting tables from Brockman’s studio are used in the gallery to display materials from her archive that were integral to her practice. Objects that Brockman made and collected as well as prints of photographs that she took at various flea markets during the 1980s and 1990s are interspersed with prints that she altered through cutting, painting or collage. Frame’s work Amalfi (2023), on the back wall of the gallery, combines ink drawings of the Amalfi Coast taken from an unknown artist’s 1968 sketchbook found at a flea market in Rome and prints of color photographs that Frame took in the same locations as depicted in the sketches. Both Brockman and Frame use photography as a medium for exploring the melancholic and mysterious relationship between loss and discovery. In taking anonymous, found objects as their impetus for constructing new images and meanings, Brockman and Frame’s projects expand thinking around the potential value and function of loss via “lost” art.

Frame’s installation is just one example of recent work that is informed by collecting, reframing, and reinterpreting things from the past. His book Innamorato (2023, Meteroro) consists of three projects that juxtapose found photographs of unknown people with Frame’s own portraits of friends. In the introduction to the book, Samuel Gross comments on this combination of forgotten and new imagery: “Frame takes the pathos of lost images, recovers their immediacy through stories he weaves around them and situates them in a timeless space where their relevance can be addressed.”

Amalfi, created during a residency at the American Academy in Rome, represents a departure for Frame, focusing on scenery rather than portraiture and using drawings as the source material. Although the drawings seemed to be made by a practiced artist, they had no signature and inquiry into the artist’s identity was unsuccessful. Frame’s investigation then took him on a different type of journey, led by imagination and desire. He used the drawings as a map for a road trip with his partner, traveling to the spots depicted and photographing the same scenes. Frame’s compositions are expansive, including beaches, cliffs and harbors along the Amalfi Coast. In the central image, his partner is posed on a boat evoking the male figure that occasionally appears in the found drawings. Frame’s positioning of himself and his partner in place of the lost sketchbook artist and their subject creates a suspenseful doubling across time and medium, in the bright Italian sun no less. Frame has explained that his approach to capturing the scenery in these places was informed by his love of films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955), Rene Clement’s Purple Noon (1960), and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963). Like these classic movies, Frame’s sophisticated travelogue evokes the intrigue of a personal pursuit through a highly seductive landscape.

Brockman’s images represent a similar process of finding and making meaning from that which may otherwise be lost or forgotten. The flea market functioned for Brockman as a creative archive, one that she could reorganize and restage in-camera and again in the studio. Domestic objects removed from their purposeful, original locations piled together under the sun of the outdoor market appear unmoored. Once privately held photographs, glassware, jewelry, clothing, artwork, furniture, and other items are presented for public viewing and reuse. Brockman’s close framing in many of her flea market photographs evoke the experience of visiting the outdoor setup, lingering, zeroing in on an object, touching it, and asking the price. In the exhibition, as a parallel to Brockman’s process, these photographs are presented with objects from her own collection, including porcelain figurines, blown glass, and a postcard announcement for a 1989 David Wojnarowicz exhibition at PPOW Gallery. The framed, painted photograph installed at the entrance to the gallery is one example of the result of Brockman’s collection and restaging. The image depicts some of the same objects included in the gallery display photographed on one of the same drafting tables also on view. A single black and white portrait of Brockman taken by her friend, celebrated photographer, Peter Hujar, is also included in the gallery, providing another layer of her presence.

There are few extant examples of Brockman’s completed photo constructions – many were damaged while in storage during Hurricane Sandy – so her small work prints now comprise the majority of her archive. While Brockman was deeply involved in her work and connected to the art world, she did not pursue critical reception for her photography. Rather, according to friends, colleagues, and family, she was intensely focused and private about her practice. Thus, engaging with these prints has been one of the main ways to shed light on her process and ideas.

These hundreds of photographs of flea markets are just one grouping out of several subjects Brockman focused on in her work. Other topics for which there are hundreds more photographs each include trees and flowers; art and architecture; and domestic interiors. While the scale of the collection informs the understanding of Brockman’s legacy, many prints within each group are duplicates that become “lost” in the archive. Within the exhibition such extra photographs related to the flea market series will therefore be presented for visitors to browse, touch, and even purchase, as a way to give these prints new life and reflect on Brockman’s own practice of reuse. The proceeds of the sales will support the ongoing cataloging of Brockman’s work and the Spring exhibition’s focus on photo-constructions.

In an era of ubiquitous photography, both projects inspire us to pause and remember the nature of photography and its particular relationship to objects, time, and art. In her classic essay “Melancholy Objects,” Susan Sontag asserts the status of photographs as artifacts, but also clarifies that “in a world littered with photographic relics” photographs also have “the status of found objects” and are “unpremeditated slices of the world. Thus, they trade simultaneously on the prestige of art and the magic of the real. They are clouds of fantasy and pellets of information.”

Lost and Found: Susan Brockman and Allen Frame is organized by Soft Network with Sofia Ohmer, Curatorial Assistant.

Soft Network would like to thank Mirra Bank and Richard Brockman, Allen Frame, Gina Devincenzi, Darling Green and Sara VanDerBeek.

Artist Bios

Susan Brockman (1937–2001) was a filmmaker and photographer active in NYC and Easthampton, NY from the 1960s–1990s. She received her MFA in painting from Cornell University, NY in 1958, studied photography with Diane Arbus in 1973 and cinematography at New York University in 1974. Brockman was an active member of the collective Women/Artist/Filmmakers and she lectured at the School of Visual Arts, NY; New York Public Library; Montclair State College, NJ; and the University of Cincinnati, OH. She received numerous grants in her lifetime including awards from the Jerome Foundation; the National Endowment for The Arts; and the New York State Council on the Arts. Brockman was editor of Arts Magazine from 1966-68 and worked with a wide range of influential figures in the film and art worlds throughout her career including Willem DeKooning, Robert Frank, Ralph Gibson, Dan Graham, Sally Gross, Peter Hujar, Mark Obenhaus, Kazuko Oshima, Linda Rosenkrantz, Danny Seymour and Anita Thacher among others.

Allen Frame is a photographer and writer, based in New York and represented by Gitterman Gallery. He has released three books of photography: Innamorato, Meteoro Editions, 2023; Fever, Matte Editions, 2021; and Detour, Kehrer, 2001, and his book Whereupon will be launched later this fall by Palermo Publications. He is a winner of the 2017/2018 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and CECArtslink’s Back Apartment Residency in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2019. His work will appear in the exhibition Mexichrome, opening at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in November, and was included in Clandestine at the Cobra Museum in Amsterdam in 2021. Luxe, Calme, Volupte, an exhibition he co-curated with Antonio Sergio Bessa, was presented at Candice Madey Gallery in 2023. He has been the curator of numerous exhibitions, including, Love and Jump Back, the Photography of Charles Henri Ford, at Mitchell Algus Gallery, NYC; Shohei Miyachi and Context, Matte HQ, Brooklyn; and Darrel Ellis at Art in General in NYC. He is an Adjunct Professor of Photography at Pratt Institute (MFA) and also teaches at the School of Visual Arts (BFA), the International Center of Photography in New York, and for Strudelmedialive. He grew up in Mississippi and graduated from Harvard.