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A World of Bonds: Frederick Sommer’s Photography and Friendships

June 16 – August 4, 2013
West Building, Ground Floor, West Inner Tier, Gallery 34

Frederick Sommer, Valise d'Adam, 1949, gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Frederick Sommer (1905–1999) explored an unusually broad array of subjects ranging from disorienting landscapes and macabre aspects of the natural world to surreal arrangements of found objects and virtual abstractions. Following his conviction that “the world is not a world of cleavages at all, / the world is a world of bonds,” the exhibition traces the formal and thematic continuities within Sommer’s heterogeneous oeuvre and puts it in dialogue with the work of artist-friends who helped shape his vision. Drawn largely from the Gallery’s collection, which includes significant works gifted by the artist himself in 1995, this one-room exhibition presents twenty-seven photographs, prints, collages, and drawings. It not only showcases the beauty and diversity of Sommer’s striking images but also places them in the context of his formative friendships with Edward Weston, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, and Aaron Siskind. “All rare things should be lent away / and I have borrowed very freely,” Sommer wrote of his art. Taking that sentiment to heart, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the ways in which Sommer shared ideas with his contemporaries as he created a body of work uniquely his own.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition is made possible in part through the generous support of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.

Attendance: 25,976

Sommer, Frederick
American, 1905 - 1999