Author: Matthew Friedman

Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame

If there is anything human to remember of the 20th century when its last survivors have finally died, it will likely be remembered through the frame of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s viewfinder. Armed with a 35mm Leica camera and an unerring eye, Cartier-Bresson sought to capture the “decisive moment” of history and humanity, from a Gestapo informer exposed at the Dessau DP camp in 1945 to a couple leaning into a kiss at a Paris sidewalk café. Cartier-Bresson’s photography framed the 20th century with expansive depth of field, capturing the historic and the intimate in the sharpest possible focus. His great...

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An Incomplete History of Protest at the Whitney Museum of American Art

The power of the artist, according to Herbert Marcuse, is to “to name the otherwise unnameable.” An Incomplete History of Protest, currently on exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, is a powerful reminder of that for our dark times. Drawing on its own collections, the Whitney has assembled an extensive survey of American political art from the 1940s to the present that addresses the question of how generations of American artists have confronted issues of injustice and oppression and named the unnameable. The answer seems to be “with rage, hope, grief, commitment and, above...

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Days of Future Past in Blade Runner 2049

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is an epochal film. Its arrival in 1982 marked a rupture in cinematic and literary science fiction narratives, and spoke simultaneously to the transnational consumer culture of the Age of Reagan and to the burgeoning punk-inflected spirit of anti-globalism. William Gibson sat in a dark movie theater that summer, about a third of the way through the manuscript of his first novel Neuromancer, watching Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard navigate through the lo-glow in the rainsoaked streets of 2019 Los Angeles, his senses assaulted by holographic come-ons, in search of something that might have been humanity. It was...

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The Vietnam War: Ken Burns’ ‘healing touch’

The only thing you need to know about the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary series on The Vietnam War (PBS) is that it ends with the Beatles singing “Let it Be” a few minutes after Stuart Harriman muses “was it worth it?” Burns and Novick have said that they wanted the series to promote healing in America, and they did, indeed, serve up a comforting balm for the great black wound of 20th century American history. Like so many of Burns’ other documentaries, The Vietnam War treats the personal, intimate tragedies, triumphs, heartaches, and achievements of Americans with...

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