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Museum gotta see ‘um
May 03, 2013, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal Senior Correspondent

Lee Friedlander, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. Cray at Chippewa Falls, Wisc., 1986. Gelatin silver print. On display in Lee Friedlander: The Cray Photographs, at the Cantor Art Center, Stanford University, through June 16.

LEE FRIEDLANDER: THE CRAY PHOTOGRAPHS. Images by one of the nation’s most influential photographers bear witness to the origins of the supercomputer industry in “Lee Friedlander: The Cray Photographs,” at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University. The series, rarely seen in its entirety, includes 79 works by an artist lauded for his straightforward documentation of ordinary things. In 1986 Cray Research, Inc., then the world’s top supercomputer producer, invited American photographer Lee Friedlander to visit its worksite in Chippewa Falls, Wisc., and take photographs for a book marking Cray’s 15th anniversary. The Cantor exhibition features the vintage gelatin silver prints in the resulting set and includes a range of subjects shot in Friedlander’s characteristic style: sober images of shop fronts and empty streets, views of the landscape and underbrush surrounding Chippewa Falls, and close-up shots of workers installing the complex wiring inside a massive supercomputer. The images have great historical significance. In 1996 Cray’s company merged with Silicon Graphics, Inc. of Mountain View; Silicon Graphics helped spark the rise of Silicon Valley and its radical transformation of global tech culture. Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell, Ph.D., the Burton and Deedee McMurtry Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Cantor Arts Center, said: “The Cray series is fascinating for its simultaneous breadth and its focus. It captures the character of the town and people of Chippewa Falls in photographs that represent the types of images Friedlander is known for — pictures shot from a car window, the architectural studies, tree-filled landscapes and the close-up pictures of people at work. Yet, it is entirely focused on one place at one moment so there is a sharp, narrative coherence to it.”

Lee Friedlander was born in Aberdeen, Wash., in 1934 and studied at the Art Center of Los Angeles in the early 1950s. In 1956 he moved to New York, where he worked freelance and took jobs photographing jazz musicians. During the 1960s, primarily using Leica 35mm cameras and black and white film, Friedlander started photographing the American urban environment, developing a visual language that included images of people at work, landscapes framed by car windows, shop fronts with odd juxtapositions of signs and merchandise and deliberately awkward self-portraits.

The Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. Admission is free. The Cantor is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends. For more information call 723-4177 or visit Lee Friedlander: The Cray Photographs runs through June 16.


BIRDS AND ART ON STANFORD UNIVERSITY CAMPUS. Science and Art Nature Walk, the first of a projected series of walking tours on campus, melds observations of nature with information about the university’s extensive outdoor sculpture collection. For information about this podcast visit


CLASSICAL MONSTERS AND HEROES IN SAN JOSE. The San Jose Museum of Art highlights contemporary works that feature scenes from classical Greek mythology. Swans, Swine and Sirens comprises 20 works on paper from SJMA’s permanent collection. Highlights include Circe into Swine (1979) by Romare Bearden; drawings from the series “Leda and the Swan” by Reuben Nakian; and prints from Roberto Matta’s portfolio “Hom’mere Il – l’Eautre,” the surrealist artist’s illustrations for Homer’s Odyssey. The watercolor Winged Victory of Samothrace (1976) by Red Grooms, a recent gift to the Museum from Barbara and Dixon Farley, is on view to the public for the first time in this exhibition. Also included is the video game “Let’s Play! Ancient Greek Punishment!” by Pippin Barr, in which players futilely attempt to avoid the fates of Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus and the Danaids. 110 South Market St., San Jose. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. the third Thursday of each month. For more information call (408) 271-6840 or visit Swans, Swine and Sirens is on view through Dec. 1.


CHINA’S TERRACOTTA WARRIORS IN SAN FRANCISCO THROUGH MAY 27. 7,000 soldiers in an underground city, guarding an emperor through eternity. The First Chinese Emperor, Qin Shihuang (259-210 B.C.), envisioned a subterranean domain that would parallel his worldly existence after corporal death. First unearthed in 1974, the underground burial complex is a discovery on par with Egypt’s elaborate tombs. The Asian Art Museum’s China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy includes seven of these soldiers, along with life-sized horses, large scale chariots and hundreds of other recovered items. 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended evening hours every Thursday until 9 p.m. (415) 581-3500 or visit

Susan Cohn can be reached at or

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