From the seedy streets of Los Angeles to empty living rooms and apartments across the United States, the photographs of Dennis Feldman (b. 1946) explore the ways popular entertainment seeps into American consciousness. Pictures from his most acclaimed series, Hollywood Boulevard, 1969–1972, invite subjects from social parade of Los Angeles’s famed sidewalk to animate their self-styled identities. His American Images series, published in 1977, pursues other disclosures, revealing tensions that have come to define the underside of the American dream. In some pictures, people relish the escape and freedom symbolized by cars and movieland, while others seem to search for more elusive horizons. Like Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Frederick Sommer—pioneering photographers whom he considers mentors—Feldman carefully crafts compositions that do not judge their subjects. Instead, they pry apart the world of appearances to reflect on fantasy and desire as they intertwine with paths of everyday life.
This exhibition presents a selection from Feldman’s celebrated series, offering a candid view of the American cultural landscape following the social revolutions of the 1960s. Also included are recent expressionistic works that survey the effects of photographing nocturnal lights. Featuring the first works by the artist to enter BAMPFA’s permanent collection, Dennis Feldman: Photographs recognizes his achievements as an affecting social documentarian and explorer of what he calls “a world contained in a frame.”