After the success of the book Fever ofAllen Frame (color photographs of her friends in New York in 1981), the Gitterman Gallery features rarely seen black and white vintage prints from the same period of his career.
Frame came to New York in 1977 and began photographing his friends in his apartment and theirs – intimately observed, not posed scenes that were influenced by his love of film and theater. After his first solo exhibition in 1980, he found himself playing the role of Jack Nicholson in the play The Roman Polanski Story by Gary Indiana, with his friend John Heys as Roman and Cookie Mueller as Sharon Tate. He was suddenly introduced to a world of downtown legends that included Bill Rice, Taylor Meade and Jack Smith. In the exhibition, whereupon, a haunting photo of Heys and Mueller shows them stepping out onto the terrace of Heys’ penthouse in the East Village. There is also a photo of William Burroughs at his home in the Bunker on the Bowery. Nan Goldin is seen sitting on Frame’s bed with artist Siobhan Liddell and a friend, their limbs mysteriously intertwined. Many of the same friends who appear in Fever appear in these black and white photographs: a self-portrait with his friend the painter Charlie Boone; Butch Walker with Charlie and her boyfriend Bill; a morning shot of a young man lying on a mattress on the floor as a young woman crosses the room. As Mark Alice Durant writes:
His images are not defining moments, they are not exactly portraits, nor are they studies of figures either. They exist interstitially. Quiet intimacy and a hushed setting share the front stage, while friends, acquaintances and strangers pause and move forward through mostly nocturnal tableaux. Allen’s photographs are unique in their elegant sobriety, they observe without judgement, are melancholy but not sentimental, attract without a fuss.
Frame moved from performing to directing and writing, adapting David Wojnarowicz’s monologues with his friend Kirsten Bates for a theatrical production in Bill Rice’s garden on East 3rd Street. He wrote about experimental theater in London for two years while directing a play he co-wrote with Bertie Marshall. Returning to New York in 1987, he returned to photography and began teaching in 1992. His first monograph, Detour, Black and White Images of the 1990s, was published in 2001.
Like photographers of his own generation, such as Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin or Philip-Lorca Di Corcia, his vision is very cinematic, but in his case the framing and staging were also influenced by the theater. As Nan Goldin wrote of Frame for an exhibition at Galerie Polaris in Paris in 1990:
He does the improbable by using the medium of the still image to support a non-linear narrative, an unexplained but implicit narrative. He does not define his relationships with his friends – his subjects – as a series of moments captured from frozen time but as a flow of shared experiences, interactions and emotions. Through his images we experience the open nature of each moment, all that has come before and will come after, the tension of revealing things not yet realized.
Born in Mississippi in 1951, Allen Frame grew up in the Delta town of Greenville, known for its literary culture and Pulitzer Prize-winning progressive newspaper. Shelby Foote and Walker Percy had gone to his high school, and Southern writers like William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Carson McCullers were a huge inspiration.
He won the Rome Prize for Photography in 2017/18 and spent a year in Italy. After residencies in Saint Petersburg and Ekaterinburg, Russia, via CEC Artslink in 2019, he returned to Italy in 2021 as a guest at Civitella Ranieiri in Umbria. Much of his recent work has been done in Italy. He is a huge fan of Italian filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s, especially Michelangelo Antonioni, due to his emphasis on mood, atmosphere and character rather than plot, exploring psychological states of mind. During his travels abroad, he collects old photographs, drawings and paintings which he uses alongside his own work to create sprawling wall hangings which were featured at the Pratt Institute in 2018 and in his exhibition, Suddenlyat the Gitterman Gallery in 2019. He did three chap-books/zines with photographer/book designer Michaela Palermo in Sicily: Suddenly, Sorry for Your Loss and Boy on a Dolphin. His next book, innamoratowill be published by Meteoro Editions later this year.
Frame’s contact with young artists through teaching, curating and writing has kept him at the center of the New York photographic world for 40 years. He was instrumental in reviving the New York Camera Club and transforming it into the avant-garde Baxter Street. Over the past year, he has written three essays about artist Darrel Ellis, who is featured prominently in Fever. Frame’s photos of Ellis were featured in the Spanish magazine’s summer edition Apartmentand the photos of Frame and Ellis were presented together at the Crone Galerie in Vienna in 2022. In 2023, Frame and Sergio Bessa will co-curate an exhibition of Ellis and other artists with whom he was associated, coinciding with the exhibition Darrel Ellis: Regenerationwhich will come to the Bronx Museum of the Arts in May after opening at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Frame has curated numerous exhibitions, including Shohei Miyachi and Context at Matte HQ in 2021; Love and Jump Back, the Photography of Charles Henri Ford, at the Mitchell Algus Gallery in New York in 2020; and Darrel Ellis at Art in General in 1996. He created the epic AIDS slide show activism piece Electric Blanket with Nan Goldin and Frank Franca and shared it across the United States and globally through Visual AIDS, from 1990 to 2002 He is an assistant professor of photography at the Pratt Institute (MFA) and also teaches at the School of Visual Arts (BFA), the International Center of Photography in New York, and online for Strudelmedia.
Allen Frame: Whereupon
Until November 5, 2022
3 East 66th street, 1b New York, NY 10065
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Gitterman Gallery: Allen Frame: Whereupon – The Eye of Photography Magazine