It was serendipity. Melanie Colosimo, beginning her new directorship of the Anna Leonowens Gallery, got an email about a possible Robert Frank exhibit to kick off the fall semester at the NSCAD gallery, and suddenly, happily, it all fell into place. Colosimo, being a fan of Frank's influential photography work, in particular the book The Americans, jumped at the chance to show Robert Frank: Books, Films, 1947-2014, running September 5-12.
"The way this happened was kind of unconventional, but we're used to that kind of stuff here. I already had the fall programming in place, then I got an email and said 'I can make sure we do it.' I met with Frank's publisher Gerhard Steidl, and we planned it when we met. [Steidl] went to Mabou and met with Robert then flew back to Germany the next day," Colosimo says. "I knew we could do it, it was actually not a hard show to put together."
For one week, the gallery will be papered with newsprint roll ends printed with acrylic ink images of Frank's. At the end of the week, the paper will be destroyed. "There will be some photos from The Americans and a few other books, and there will be some surprises," says Colosimo. "It's a very unconventional hanging—newsprint with just pushpins. We had talked about using duct tape or masking tape." There will be a selection of books on view and for sale, and the back gallery will be screening Frank's films.
The week has been unoffically nicknamed "Frankfest," as the show was a perfect time to plan extended programming around Frank and Steidl's work. In addition to the show, there's a screening of How to Make a Book with Gerhard Steidl Thursday, September 4, 7:30pm in NSCAD's Bell Auditorium, and a screening of the only 16mm copy of Robert Frank's This Film is About..., filmed at NSCAD in 1972-73, Wednesday, September 10, 8pm in Room 208 of NSCAD's Academy Building, 1649 Brunswick Street. Frank, his wife, fellow artist and NSCAD honorary degree recipient June Leaf and Steidl will be present at the opening.
Steidl was clear about why he wanted the work to be shown at the Anna Leonowens in particular. "He said he wanted to make sure that Robert's work and legend continues on through all generations of photographers, young photographers especially," says Colosimo. "Robert was here during what was called NSCAD's conceptual era in '70s, so he wanted it to be at NSCAD or somewhere in New York, where he lives when he's not in Mabou. It's ephemeral, and no one profits, all proceeds of the books for sale go to NSCAD.
"A lot of people associate the Anna Leonowens with student shows, but we're way more than that," says Colosimo. "By putting out more professional exhibits alongside students shows, they highlight each other."
Robert Frank: Books, Films, 1947-2014
Opening Friday, September 5 at 5:30pm, running to September 12
Anna Leonowens Gallery, 1891 Granville Street
How to Make a Book with Gerhard Steidl
Thursday, September 4 at 7:30pm
NSCAD’s Bell Auditorium
This Film is About...
Wednesday, September 10 at 8pm
Room 208 of NSCAD’s Academy Building, 1649 Brunswick Street