A Photographer on Photographers

Honestly abe

Penelope was the wife of the long-delayed Odysseus, the Greek king of Homer's epic poem The Odyssey.

It is in honor of literature's most patient heroine that photographer Abe Frajndlich has titled Penelope's Hungry Eyes, his new book of portraits depicting the past century's most influential fine-art photographers.

For Clevelanders, the title of Frajndlich's book — and the showcase of selected works from it now being featured at Tregoning and Company — underline the theme of homecoming.Born in 1946 in Frankfurt, Germany, Frajndlich immigrated to the U.S. at age 10 and would come to work in Cleveland before relocating to New York. It's been 13 years since Frajndlich last exhibited here, but with this show, he has made up for lost time.

In sampling from the book, Tregoning's show displays highlights from Frajndlich's nearly 40-year project of coaxing the greats of photography to have their own pictures taken. Publications in Italy, France, and Germany have called it the most important photography collection of the decade, and in January it was given a page in The New York Times.

Penelope's Hungry Eyes will likely serve for decades as an introductory reference to the medium's history and its key purveyors in the 20th century. Happily, then, this useful book is infused with a sense of winking playfulness. In one excerpt displayed by Tregoning, Chuck Close's face fills the frame in 12 "up close" portraits from 2001. The irony of the images works on two levels: that of the pure pun on the artist's name, and as an allusion to the giant painted and photographed portraits that define Close's career.

Other photographers — from the historic to the hip — are paired with symbols referencing their own work. Known for her botanical images, Imogen Cunningham is found in her garden with pruning sheers. Celeb-hound Arnold Newman wears a paper bag glued with his own famous pictures. Most aptly of all, Andy Warhol is shot against a mural of Andy Warhol (pictured).

A book signing and talk by the artist and Frajndlich essayist Henry Adams will be held Saturday, March 24, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. The show runs through April 30 at 1300 West 78th St.; call 216-281-8626 or go to tregoningandco.com.

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