The Art of Frederick Sommer.
Photography, Drawing, Collage.
Photographs by Frederick Sommer. Essay by Keith F. Davis. Interview by Michael Torosian. Chronology by April Watson.
Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005. 240 pp., 104 color + 116 duotone and tritone illustrations, 11¼x12¾".
This weighty new compendium is a real knockout. Beautifully designed, and with a masterly essay by Keith F. Davis, this book is the summation that Sommer’s work has deserved but never received, until now. While many people are familiar with the small fraction of Sommer’s images that have been widely reproduced, it is impossible to appreciate his contribution to the arts from two or four or a half-dozen photographs. The Art of Fredrick Sommer should help alleviate our ignorance. Sommer was a true polymath, a Renaissance intellectual who relished poetry, philosophy, music, art and architecture, natural history, religion, physics, biology, travel and gourmet cooking. His art was an idea-fueled continuum that took many forms, from photography that incorporated collage, to drawing that echoed music, to constructed sculptures, to “straight” landscape photographs that led him, in turn, to collect and photograph found objects. Davis, in his essay, points out that the artist “photographed things in order to give life to ideas.” Or, as Sommer put it, “Anything that’s alive comes about because a lot of things go into it.” His restless imagination folded multiple disparate influences together, and this lovely, thought-provoking book traces Sommer’s ideas in every direction. The book concludes with excerpts from interviews Sommer gave toward the end of his life, and a meticulous chronology, which gives the excellent reproductions added contextual breadth. - Phil Harris
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