He’s been called a modern-day de Tocqueville, and these photos are the reason why: “The Americans” is the culmination of Robert Frank’s two years spent cataloging our culture from sea to shining sea. The series, shown in its entirety at the National Gallery, looks at 1950s America with an eye both critical and forgiving, attracting the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the latter of whom contributed the introductory essay for the photo book. Swiss-born Frank had the benefit of an outsider’s perspective, and in his travels across America, he captured much to be ashamed of: segregation in the South, vapidity of celebrity culture, poverty in rural areas and cities, and greed in our consumerist culture. We Americans may be blind to some of the subtleties of his criticisms (which the gallery helpfully explains) but Frank sought beauty, too. The photos are presented in the order of the book, which has a happy (but not cloyingly so) ending. THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW FROM 10 A.M.-5 P.M. MONDAY-SATURDAY; 11 A.M.-6 P.M. ON SUNDAYS, TO APRIL 26 AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, 4TH ST. & CONSTITUTION AVE. NW. FREE. (202)737-4215.

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