Frederick Sommer (1905–1999) is most famous for his photographs from the 1940s that combine Surrealism’s uncanniness with taut formalism: abstracted horizonless, pictures of the American desert; studies of animal carcasses; portraits of his neighbors (including Max Ernst) in Prescott, Arizona; and arrangements of chicken entrails or found objects. But he also worked in other mediums, including drawing, painting and “cameraless” photography.
Sommer’s small-scale drawings, made with colored glue on black paper, date mostly from the 1950s and roam from calligraphic to cartoonish to biomorphic. Many echo his earlier photographs. A collection of meandering lines and watery blobs recall his still lifes of poultry parts. A grouping of brown, gray and gold amoeba-like shapes, sprouting limblike protrusions, resemble pictures of dead coyotes desiccated by the sun.
Rounding out the show are examples of Sommer’s later set-up photographs. Employing cut paper and accordion-folded reproductions of Durer engravings, they anticipate the work of such contemporary artists as Eileen Quinlan. Neither they nor the glue drawings have the force and finish of Sommer’s greatest photographs. But they’re wonderfully of apiece with them and with the artist’s singular, consistent and encompassing vision.—Anne Doran