Posts Tagged ‘Czechoslovakia

18
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘The Intimate World of Josef Sudek’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 25th September 2016

 

A poetry of the everyday

Josef Sudek, a one-armed man lugging around a large format camera, is one of my top ten photographers of all time.

His photographs, sometimes surreal, always sensitive, have a profound sensibility that affect the soul. Melancholy and mysterious by turns, they investigate the inner life of objects which stand as metaphors for the inner life of the artist. A form of healing after his horrific injuries and the loss of his arm during the First World War, the photographs purportedly look outwards upon the world but are actually interior meditations on life, death and the nature of being. Light emerges from the darkness; understanding from tribulation; and Sudek, in Jungian terms, integrates his ego into his soul through the process of (photographic) individuation – whereby the personal and collective unconscious (his hurt and damage) are brought into consciousness (eg. by means of dreams, active imagination, or free association) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche and, in Sudek’s life, was integral to his healing from the vicissitudes of war.

Using Pictorialism as the starting point for his exploration of the world, Sudek never abandons the creation of “atmosphere” in his photographs, even as the images become modernist, surrealist and offer a new way of seeing the world. Having myself photographed extensively at night, and from the interior of my flat, I can understand Sudek’s fascination with both locations: the quiet of night, the stillness, the clarity of vision and thought; the interior as exterior, the projection of interior thoughts onto an external surface reflected back into the camera lens. “Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.” Except the cloak of darkness is not impenetrable, as light cannot exist without darkness.

Pace, his photographs are breath / taking. They are exhalations of the spirit.

Sudek’s ability to transcend the literal, his ability to transform the objectal quality of photography ranks him as one of the top photographers of all time. He synthesises  a poetry of objects, a poetry of the everyday, and projects the folds of his mind onto the visual field (through “tears” of condensation on the window, through labyrinths of paper and glass, such as in Labyrinth on my table, 1967, below). As a form of self-actualisation – the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming – Sudek’s photographs interrogate that chthonic darkness that lurks in the heart of everyone of us, our dark night of the soul. In that process of discovery (who am I, what kind of human being am I, how can I heal myself), he finds redemption.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

If you would like to read more about the life and work of Josef Sudek, please read the excellent article by Ashley Booth Klein, “Josef Sudek and The Life of Objects,” Obelisk Vol. 2 Issue 1, Winter 2015 [Online] Cited 18/09/2016

.
Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“… [Sudek] referred to photography as meteorology to describe the significance of the atmosphere, and how a photographer must predict the right conditions for photographing and enlarging prints. His work became sharper with richer tones, and his compositions became more illusive. The foregrounds and backgrounds of his photographs, particularly in his “Window” series began to oscillate. These achievements were perhaps made more attainable by his focus on inanimate objects over which he had more control than living things. Most of his cityscapes became deserted, as he directed his camera at statues or replaced what would have been a living subject with such emulative sculptures.

In effect, Sudek’s substitution of the inanimate for the animate brought the objects he photographed to life in his mind. He called the enormous decaying trees in the woods of Bohemia “sleeping giants” and would take portraits of masks and statuary heads, transforming them into frozen, worn grotesqueries. His personification of objects is even more vivid in his studio photography, particularly after 1939, the oncoming of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Prague. As the city was oppressed by German troops, the artist retreated into his studio and insulated himself sentimentally with still lifes. To an interviewer, he explained, “I love the life of objects. When the children go to bed, the objects come to life. I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects.” He devoted endless hours to arranging and photographing the everyday – apples, eggs, bread, and shells – and special objects given to him by friends, such as feathers, spectacles, and watches, which he called “remembrances” of that person. A photograph from his series “Remembrances of Architect Rothmayer, Mr. Magician,” for example, portrays objects respectfully placed in a row on a desk, as if artifacts from an archeological site, from which the history of a life or character of a man could be divined.

“Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” Sudek said, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.” This statement is perhaps telling of Sudek’s relationship to death and life, as a result of the loss of his arm and the manner in which he suffered the loss. In the 1963 film, “Zit Svuj Zivot” (Living Your Life), a documentary portrait of Sudek by Evald Strom, we see a sensitive man describing his efforts to photograph the reality of the objects around him, not as if he were bringing the objects to life, but as if it was his purpose to represent the lives of objects as they truly are. Of the image of a vase of wildflowers, he says “This is a photograph of wildflowers, my attempt to photograph wildflowers,” and of an old lamp, “This is a celebrated lamp; it holds a lot of memories.””

Ashley Booth Klein, “Josef Sudek and The Life of Objects,” Obelisk Vol. 2 Issue 1, Winter 2015 [Online] Cited 18/09/2016

 

 

“I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects, to relate something mysterious: the seventh side of a dice,” mused Josef Sudek. “Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” he explained, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.”

 

 

 

 

“On display are works that are the result of Sudek’s photographic experiments carried out within the privacy of his own studio, images of the garden seen from his window, and photographs of adventures further afield. The artist enjoyed meandering through the streets of Prague and its surrounding suburbs, and made frequent excursions to the nearby countryside. Sudek’s enduring fascination with light, and its absence, is at the root of some of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century. Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.

As a photographer, Sudek was particularly concerned with the quality of the photographic print, an essential component in terms of the expressive potential of an image. His mastery of the pigment printing process enabled him to produce highly atmospheric and evocative images, thereby reaping all of the reflective and descriptive power of the gelatin silver print. The exhibition presents work from Sudek’s early career, but also features photographs from a pivotal period of experimentation and innovation, beginning in the 1940s. Focusing on the technical and formal aspects of the medium of photography, Sudek created pigment prints, halftone prints, puridlos (photographs between two windows) and veteše (photographs inserted into old frames), techniques which allowed him to transform the objectal quality of photography.

The loss of his right arm during the First World War and the difficulties he now encountered in transporting his view camera did not dampen his passion for photography. Sudek’s studio window became an object of abiding fascination – rather like the surface of a canvas – reflecting moments of exquisite tenderness and hope when a flowering branch brushed against its pane, or of poignant melancholy when he observed the world beyond his window transformed by the playful infinity of mist. His room with a view allowed him to capture, on film, his love of Prague. His photographs demonstrate both a precision and a depth of feeling, fitting odes to the rich history and architectural complexity of the Czech capital.

Like many artists of his generation marked by their experience of war, Sudek expresses a particularly acute awareness of the dark and tormented aspects of human existence – feelings that would inspire some of his most melancholy and most moving pictures. A photograph taken at night, through the glass pane of his window, shows a city plunged into darkness during the Occupation of the Second World War, and communicates a sentiment of unspeakable despair – a dramatic illustration of Sudek’s technical ability to transcend the literal.

The first part of the exhibition features images that herald the photographer’s later work, showing his early landscapes, portraits of fellow patients at Invalidovna, the Prague hospice for war invalids like Sudek, his hesitant foray into modernism, and his interior shots of St. Vitus Cathedral. Through images that recount the narrative of his life, the viewer gains access to Sudek’s inner world, and an insight into his immediate environment, the views and objects he loved, his studio and garden. His endless walks in Prague found expression in the views of the city and its surroundings, as well as in photographs of its more sordid “suburbs”, a subject explored by other Prague artists. The eastern and northern areas of Bohemia, the Beskid Mountains and the Mionší forest were other destinations close to the photographer’s heart. The exhibition “The Intimate World of Josef Sudek” provides a fascinating panorama of the work of this unique artist.”

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Beginnings

Sudek’s first photographic prints – small and largely assembled in albums – were mainly views of the countryside taken along the Elbe River when he travelled from Prague to Kolín to visit his mother between 1916 and 1922.

Using processes such as gelatin silver and bromoil he showed a talent for printing his pictures in a style that favoured soft edges and broad swathes of tone. Here Sudek was not so much studying the effects of light as he was observing the conventions of Pictorialism, a photography movement that straddled the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, and was based on a strong Romantic ethos. Pictorialist photographers enhanced atmospheric effects with such processes as carbon and gum bichromate. Sudek began using the carbon process regularly and in a personally expressive manner in the late 1940s.

His Invalidovna and St. Vitus Cathedral series in Prague, begun in the first half of the 1920s, show him exploring interior spaces where light emphasizes both the profane and the sacred. The play of bands of sunlight and darkness is a central feature of the composition and, indeed, of the life of the photograph.

 

Josef Sudek. 'St. Vitus cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic' c. 1926

 

Josef Sudek
St. Vitus cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
c. 1926
Silver gelatin print

 

Josef Sudek. 'Dimanche après-midi à l’île Kolín' c. 1922–1926

 

Josef Sudek
Dimanche après-midi à l’île Kolín [Sunday afternoon at Kolín island]
c. 1922–1926
Gelatin silver print
28.4 × 28.7 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Achat, 2000
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Rue de Prague' 1924

 

Josef Sudek
Rue de Prague
1924
Gelatin silver print
8.3 × 8.2 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Portrait de mon ami Funke' 1924

 

Josef Sudek
Portrait de mon ami Funke [Portrait of my friend Funke]
1924
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 22.6 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Achat, 1985
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

“”Josef Sudek: The World at My Window” is the first exhibition in France since 1988 to cover Sudek’s entire career and spotlight the different phases of his work. Coming in the wake of several exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume devoted to Eastern European photographers of the early twentieth century, among them André Kertész and Francois Kollar, this one comprises some 130 vintage prints by the Czech artist. Bringing to bear a vision at once subjective and timeless, Sudek captures the ongoing changes in Prague’s natural world and landscapes.

His early profession as a bookbinder came to an abrupt halt when he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army in Bohemia and sent to the Italian front. After the First World War he came back to Prague wounded; the loss of his right arm meant abandoning bookbinding, and he turned to photography. After revisiting the battlefield in Italy once more he returned, in despair, to Prague: “I found the place,” he recounted, “but my arm wasn’t there. Since then I’ve never gone anywhere. I didn’t find what I was looking for.”

A study grant enabled him to train at the state-run school of graphic arts in Prague, where he mixed with practitioners of Pictorialism, a photographic movement aiming at achieving colour and texture effects similar to those of painting. He started concentrating on architectural details, always waiting until the light was absolutely perfect. Little by little he gave up the Pictorialist ambiences of his views of St Vitus’s cathedral, opting for a pure, straightforward approach which the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz summed up as “maximum detail for maximum simplification”.

During the Second World War Sudek began photographing the window giving onto his garden, the result being the celebrated Window of My Studio series. He then shifted his focus to the accumulated jumble of objects in the studio, producing a further series titled Labyrinths. Light was an inexhaustible theme in his work, orchestrating the seasons, making the invisible visible and transporting us into another world. As if to escape the leaden context of the War and then of Communism, Sudek took refuge in music, especially that of his compatriot Leoš Janáček. A true music lover, he gradually built up a substantial collection of recordings which he played to his friends during improvised concerts in his studio.

The second half of his career saw Sudek abandon photography’s traditional subjects as he explored the outskirts of Prague with his black view camera on his shoulder. Known as “the poet of Prague”, he became an emblematic figure in the Czech capital. Discreet and solitary, he gradually withdrew from the city’s art scene, leaving his studio only to prowl the streets at night with his imagination as his guide.

Sudek’s photographs rarely include people; his focus was more on empty urban and rural spaces. Fascinated by the streets of Prague, the city’s deserted parks and public gardens, and the wooded Bohemian landscapes his mastery of light rendered sublime, he preferred the un-enlarged contact print as a means of preserving all the detail and authenticity of the places he roamed through.  His work moved towards experiments with light. In photographs shot through with simplicity and sensitivity, Sudek foregrounds a kind of poetry of the everyday, using the interplay of light and shade to achieve a kind of fluctuation between interior and exterior.”

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1948

 

Josef Sudek
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1948
Gelatin silver print
17 × 11.2 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek, 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1954

 

Josef Sudek
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1954
Gelatin silver print
22.9 × 16.8 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1950

 

Josef Sudek
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1950
Gelatin silver print
28.1 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

The world from my window

Sudek was not content with making single, unrelated images. He generally worked in projects or series, creating extended visual explorations of the phenomena and scenes he viewed – often from the closed window of his studio, which separated his private studio-home from the exterior world. In the serie From My Window it was the endlessly varying states of transformation of droplets of water that he watched streaming down his windowpane. His images invite us to contemplate, with great fascination, the physical cycles of water and the phenomenon of rivulets coursing down a surface – like human tears. Reminding us even of [Paul] Verlaine’s “There is weeping in my heart like the rain upon the city…” Sometimes the melancholy mood of these images is leavened by a rose in a vase on the windowsill or tendrils of leaves announcing the arrival of spring.

 

There is weeping in my heart
like the rain falling on the town.
What is this languor
that pervades my heart?

Oh the patter of the rain
on the ground and the roofs!
For a heart growing weary
oh the song of the rain!

There is weeping without cause
in this disheartened heart.
What! No betrayal?
There’s no reason for this grief.

Truly the worst pain
is not knowing why,
without love or hatred,
my heart feels so much pain.

Paul Verlaine. “Il pleure dans mon coeur”

 

Josef Sudek. 'Quatre saisons: l’été' c. 1940-1954

 

Josef Sudek
Quatre saisons: l’été [Four seasons: summer]
c. 1940-1954
From the series “La Fenêtre de mon atelier” [The window of my studio]
Gelatin silver print
22.6 × 17.1 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Dernière Rose' 1956

 

Josef Sudek
La Dernière Rose [The Last Rose]
1956
Gelatin silver print
28.2 x 23.2 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession Josef Sudek

 

 

Night walks

Sudek’s preoccupation with darkness dates to the Nazi Occupation of Prague from March 1939 until the end of the war. Experiencing his city plunged into nights of enforced darkness Sudek explored the absence of light in his pictures. We know that this was more than a technical exercise, for he wrote “Memories” and “Restless Night” on the verso of one nocturnal photograph dated 1943.

The curfews imposed on citizens at the time made it unlikely that Sudek ventured out into the city after dark during wartime. Neither agile nor inconspicuous with his large-format camera slung over his increasingly hunched back, Sudek would have risked his life had he done so. The small courtyard of his studio on Ujezd street was hidden from the road, however, and one or two lights in neighbouring apartments served as beacons. Well after sundown he would photograph the syncopated play of blurs of light against the wall of impenetrable blackness.

 

The spirit of place

Sudek visited and photographed places that held either personal or spiritual significance for him: the landscape along the Elbe River, Invalidovna, St. Vitus Cathedral, his studio, Prague’s complex streets and open squares, the majestic Prague Castle, the city’s surrounds, and Frenštát pod Radhoštĕm where he spent summers with friends. Hukvaldy, home of Leoš Janaček, the composer whose music he loved, was a particularly favoured haunt. This was true also of the ancient Mionší Forest where he navigated his way through dense brush and forests by way of shortcuts that he created and playfully named. The Beskid Mountains also served as spiritual retreat. Although he was an urbanite in many respects, Sudek’s love of nature and sense of despair for its desecration is strongly expressed in Sad Landscapes, his series of images made in the Most region where industrialization ravaged the countryside in the 1950s.

 

The life of objects

Sudek collected everything. Today he would be known as a hoarder. But his obsession served him well, for out of the chaos of his small studio and living spaces he carefully selected a variety of these objects to photograph. From delicate feathers to crumpled paper and tinfoil, multi-faceted drinking glasses, flowers, fruit, seashells, envelopes, flasks, frames, prisms, candelabras, string and shoe moulds, the subjects ranged from the mundane to the exotic. Once chosen, the set-up was lovingly composed – often in subtly changed configurations with other objects – and carefully lit before being memorialized in either pigment or gelatin silver prints.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Le Jardin Royal' c. 1940–1946

 

Josef Sudek
Le Jardin Royal [The Royal Garden]
c. 1940-1946
Procédé pigmentaire au papier charbon [Carbon pigment on paper]
16.1 × 11.7 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]' 1950

 

Josef Sudek
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
1950
Gelatin silver print
22.8 × 29 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit' c. 1950-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
c. 1950-1959
Gelatin silver print
12 × 16.7 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit' c. 1950-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
c. 1950-1959
Gelatin silver print
12.2 × 17.3 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Le Jardin de Rothmayer' 1954-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Le Jardin de Rothmayer [The Rothmayer Garden]
1954-1959
Gelatin silver print
16.9 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

“Entitled “The Intimate World of Josef Sudek”, this exhibition is the first of this scale to revisit the life and work of Josef Sudek (Kolín, 1896 – Prague, 1976) within its sociogeographical and historical context: Prague during the first half of the twentieth century, at a time when the Czech capital was a veritable hub of artistic activity. The exhibition features a selection of 130 works spanning the totality of Sudek’s career, from 1920 to 1976, and allows the public to examine the extent to which his photography was a reflection of his personal relationship to the surrounding world. On display are works that are the result of Sudek’s photographic experiments carried out within the privacy of his own studio, images of the garden seen from his window, and photographs of adventures further afield. The artist enjoyed meandering through the streets of Prague and its surrounding suburbs, and made frequent excursions to the nearby countryside. Sudek’s enduring fascination with light, and its absence, is at the root of some of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century. Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.

As a photographer, Sudek was particularly concerned with the quality of the photographic print, an essential component in terms of the expressive potential of an image. His mastery of the pigment printing process enabled him to produce highly atmospheric and evocative images, thereby reaping all of the reflective and descriptive power of the gelatin silver print.

The exhibition presents work from Sudek’s early career, but also features photographs from a pivotal period of experimentation and innovation, beginning in the 1940s. Focusing on the technical and formal aspects of the medium of photography, Sudek created pigment prints, halftone prints, puridlos (photographs between two windows) and veteše (photographs inserted into old frames), techniques which allowed him to transform the objectal quality of photography. The loss of his right arm during the First World War and the difficulties he now encountered in transporting his view camera did not dampen his passion for photography.

Sudek’s studio window became an object of abiding fascination – rather like the surface of a canvas – reflecting moments of exquisite tenderness and hope when a flowering branch brushed against its pane, or of poignant melancholy when he observed the world beyond his window transformed by the playful infinity of mist. His room with a view allowed him to capture, on film, his love of Prague. His photographs demonstrate both a precision and a depth of feeling, fitting odes to the rich history and architectural complexity of the Czech capital.

Like many artists of his generation marked by their experience of war, Sudek expresses a particularly acute awareness of the dark and tormented aspects of human existence—feelings that would inspire some of his most melancholy and most moving pictures. A photograph taken at night, through the glass pane of his window, shows a city plunged into darkness during the Occupation of the Second World War, and communicates a sentiment of unspeakable despair – a dramatic illustration of Sudek’s technical ability to transcend the literal.

Through images that recount the narrative of his life, the viewer gains access to Sudek’s inner world, and an insight into his immediate environment, the views and objects he loved, his studio and garden. His endless walks in Prague found expression in the views of the city and its surroundings, as well as in photographs of its more sordid “suburbs”, a subject explored by other Prague artists. The eastern and northern areas of Bohemia, the Beskid Mountains and the Mionší forest were other destinations close to the photographer’s heart.”

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

New ways of seeing

Although more influenced by prevailing photographic conventions in the beginning, Sudek came to show an openness to experimenting with new ways of composing and printing his images. In the late 1920s, Sudek photographed objects designed by modernist Ladislav Sutnar, thus creating angled views of furniture with reflective surfaces and ceramics of pure form.

Sudek’s most successful foray into modernism is his experimentation with grotesque (surreal) subjects such as mannequins, decaying sculptures and the accoutrements of the architect Otto Rothmayer’s garden. There is little doubt that in the fragmented figurative sculptures Sudek was recalling some of the human devastation that he witnessed on the battlefields of the First World War.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Statue' c. 1948-1964

 

Josef Sudek
Statue
c. 1948-1964
Gelatin silver print
9 × 14 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Dans le jardin' 1954-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Dans le jardin [In the garden]
1954-1959
Gelatin silver print
17 × 23.3 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinthe sur ma table' 1967

 

Josef Sudek
Labyrinthe sur ma table [Labyrinth on my table]
1967
Épreuve gélatino-argentique
39 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinthe de verre' c. 1968-1972

 

Josef Sudek
Labyrinthe de verre [Glass Maze]
vers 1968-1972
Gelatin silver print
39 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Sans titre (Nature morte sur le rebord de la fenêtre)' 1951

 

Josef Sudek
Sans titre (Nature morte sur le rebord de la fenêtre) [Untitled (Still life on the windowsill)]
1951
Montage par le photographe c. 1960.
Two silver gelatin prints, glass plate, lead
48.2 × 39.2 cm.
Musée des arts décoratifs, Prague.
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

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24
Nov
15

Exhibition: ‘Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 10th September – 28th November 2015

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum in association with Fundación MAPFRE.

Curator: Matthew Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator Department of Photography of the Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

Without reminding myself every so often, you actually forget just what a master of photography Josef Koudelka is.

Looking at the installation photographs below, without knowing the names of the individual images, is instructive. Notice how graphically strong his organisation of the picture plane is. Usually one or two, three at the most, strong vertical or horizontal elements – dark on dark, light on dark; man and hovercraft; figures on pavement; women, tree and building; assemblages of objects and light.

I believe all of his work links back to his sense of the theatre of memory, whether it be the landscapes and sceneries of the outdoors taken in Prague, and on trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy or the psychological interior of the mind of his theatre characters as he portrays them through photography. From the mystery and exoticism of the Gypsies series, to the recording of history, time and conflict of the Invasion photographs (witness the Hand and wristwatch). From the metaphysical symbols of isolation (lost animals, lonely figures, scattered objects and displaced Gypsies) in Exiles, which is the core of the Koudelka vital experience, to the destruction of ancient archaeological sites and depictions of places that have been mined, swept away or marked by the scars of industrialisation, devastated by wars and altered by time in his panoramic format photographs.

These theatres of the divine, theatres of the mind are ‘Theatres of Memory’ in which the 16th century Italian philosopher Guilio Camillo asks the question: How is the motion of the memory connected with the motion of history? How is the personal political?

Koudleka’s probing of this question is present in every one of his images. Through his inquiry “he maintains a total unity through the photographer’s vision.” The artist forms mental and physical images of the things he wants to remember, that he wants us to remember, using theatrical spaces… and his subjective thoughts bind us, closely, to collective memories.

“History… is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Fundación MAPFRE for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE presents the most complete retrospective exhibit up to this day dedicated to the Czech photographer of French nationality Josef Koudelka (n. 1938), member for the past forty years of Magnum Photos agency.

Engineer by profession, Koudelka became committed to the photographic medium in the middle of the sixties and became one of the most influential authors of his generation. Halfway between the artistic and documentary, Josef Koudelka is now a living legend. He has received prestigious awards in recognition of his work, among others, the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), the Grand prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the International Award in Photography of the Hasselblad Foundation (1992).

This exhibition goes through his entire trajectory that covers more than five decades of work. The extense selection with more than 150 works reflects his first experimental projects produced at the end of the fifties and during the sixties, as well as his historic series Gypsies, Invasion and Exiles and reaching the great panoramic landscapes produced in the last years. In addition the exhibition includes important documental material, the majority unpublished -layouts, pamphlets, magazines of the period among others-, that allows us to delve into the work as well as the creative process of this author.

The title of the exhibition is Uncertain Nationality, which describes the sense of not belonging to a place, a sense of disorientation so present in his work since his exile from Czechoslovakia after the invasion of Prague, and his permanent interest in territories in conflict.”

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

 

Entrance view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Entrance view of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation views of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Introduction

In the mid-1950s, when a new youth culture characterised by an open mindset was beginning to emerge in Czechoslovakia following the death of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and after two decades of brutal repression, Josef Koudelka (born in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and nationalised French) left his village in Moravia and moved to the capital, Prague. An aeronautical engineer by training, Koudelka became very actively involved in photography in the mid-1960s, contributing to the creative renaissance that took place in his native country.

Koudelka not only immortalised these years with his camera but also embodied them. He spent lengthy periods in gypsy encampments in Slovakia, he compulsively photographed actors during play rehearsals, and he mingled with demonstrators and soldiers in August 1968 in order to capture the invasion of Prague by the Soviet troops. When Koudelka went into exile shortly afterwardshe acquired the official status of “nationality doubtful”, becoming a stateless person as he was unable to produce documentation proving that he was born in Czechoslovakia. He refused to be intimidated by this situation, however, and continued to travel and take photographs, allowing gypsy communities and traditional and religious festivals to decide his destinations.

Koudelka settled in Paris in the 1980s and after the fall of Communism returned to Prague in 1990 where he now has a second home. Nonetheless, he continues to be a traveller, committed over the past twenty-five years to the creation of panoramic photographs that depict landscapes around the world which have been altered and often devastated by the hand of man.

This exhibition encompasses Josef Koudelka’s entire career, spanning more than five decades of work. The comprehensive selection of images on display includes his first experimental projects of the 1950s and 1960s and his historic series Gypsies, Invasion and Exiles, concluding with the great panoramic landscapes of recent years. In addition, visitors will see important documentary material, most of it previously unpublished and including layouts, leaflets and magazines of the period which contribute to a deeper understanding of this artist’s work and creative process.

 

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Early years + theatre

Early years and Experiments

Josef Koudelka was immersed in the ambiance of liberalization that occurred in Czechoslovakia after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 who had subjected the country to a brutal repression for two decades. Koudelka began to photograph professionally in 1958 and create a series of landscapes and sceneries of the outdoors taken in Prague, and on trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy. Right away, the camera accompanied him on all of his trips, which would herald his impulse to work as an independent photographer and nomad for more than forty years.

Koudelka dates his first serious photographic activity to 1958. Between that date and 1962 he produced a body of work which encompassed landscapes and outdoor views taken in Prague and during trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy. Travel and its associated discoveries were a permanent stimulus to his creativity as a photographer. During these early years Koudelka assiduously studied the possibilities of giving form to the photographic image before and after the actual shot was taken. Initially, he inclined to manipulation subsequent to exposure, such as cropping and the use of experimental techniques in the dark room.

The Theatre

In the 1960s Koudelka worked free-lance for the most important Czech theatrical companies, Divadloza Branou (Theatre behind the Door) and Divadlona Zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade). As such, he evolved a new way of photographing that involved the repetition and prior visualisation of the image. Working rapidly and close to the actors on the stage while they were rehearsing, Koudelka constantly moved around them until he had the desired image in his mind. The harsh, exaggerated theatrical lighting proved difficult to photograph, obliging him to force the development of his films with low exposures. Ultimately, a detail that interested him in an image might only occupy a small part of the negative and thus required significant blowing-up and laborious manipulation during the developing process in order to obtain a legible copy. Koudelka’s images of theatrical performances were used for promotional purposes and often appeared on the front cover and in the pages of the magazine Divadlo (Theatre).

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE Josef Koudelka website

 

Josef Koudelka. 'An Hour of Love by Josef Topol, Divadlo za branou [Theater behind the Door], Prague' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
An Hour of Lov
e by Josef Topol, Divadlo za branou [Theater behind the Door], Prague
1968
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Theatre on the Balustrade, King Ubu (by playwright Alfred Jarry), Prague' 1964

 

Josef Koudelka
Theatre on the Balustrade, King Ubu (by playwright Alfred Jarry), Prague
1964
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Alfred Jarry's Uburoi, Divadlo na zábradlí, Prague' 1964

 

Josef Koudelka
Alfred Jarry’s Uburoi, Divadlo na zábradlí, Prague
1964
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia' 1960

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia
1960
Gelatin silver, early print
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Gypsies

In 1961 Koudelka started to take photographs in villages and gypsy encampments. He initially continued with his habitual employment as an engineer but this photographic endeavour soon became a project that would define his artistic career and give rise to the series Gypsies. He returned again and again to around eighty different places in Slovakia and the Czech regions of Moravia and Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), principally between 1963 and 1970, taking thousands of photographs from which he selected various hundreds and finally a few dozen that he most preferred, entitling them with the name of the place where they were taken. The varied compositions – interiors, individual and group portraits, and landscapes – allow the subjects space to be themselves while maintaining a total unity through the photographer’s vision. These works also constitute views onto a world which seemed very exotic at that time, even for other Czechs and Slovaks, but which was nonetheless quite self-sufficient and as universally accessible as ancient myths.

The first exhibition of this series, held in the lobby of the Divadloza Branou (Theatre behind the Door) in Prague in March 1967, only included twenty-seven photographs. The twenty-two prints that have survived from that event are included in the present exhibition, mounted on their original panels and displayed as a group, as they were almost fifty years ago.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Bohemia' 1966

 

Josef Koudelka
Bohemia
1966
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Moravia (Strážnice)' 1966

 

Josef Koudelka
Moravia (Strážnice)
1966
Gelatin silver, print 1967
Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia' 1963

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia
1963
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Romania' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Romania
1968
Gelatin silver, print 1980s
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Robin and Sandy Stuart
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia' 1963

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia
1963
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, Amanda TaubVeazie Endowment and Photography Gala Fund
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Invasion section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Invasion section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Invasion

In August 1968, shortly after returning to Czechoslovakia after a trip to Rumania where he had gone to photograph gypsy encampments, Koudelka woke up early one morning to discover that the Warsaw Pact forces led by the Soviet Union had invaded Prague. He immediately loaded his Exakta Varex camera with East German film and went out onto the street, tirelessly photograph the devastating occupation between 21 and 27 August. Koudelka climbed on tanks, encountered soldiers armed with machine guns (as did the demonstrators alongside him), and photographed the innumerable slogans and posters which appeared every day on the city’s walls and were then removed by the invading forces every evening. Koudelka penetrated into the heart of the resistance. A new era was dawning and his photographs became a powerful reminder of how that change first began.

His images became a document of the conflict and symbol of the spirit of the resistance movement. The rolls of film that he used to photograph the Prague struggle ended up in Western Europe illegally and the Koudelka images appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. Koudelka spent that winter editing his photographs, selecting just a handful from among thousands of images. Finally, the negatives were smuggled out to the United States and with the help of the Magnum Photos agency were distributed to magazines and newspapers around the world on the occasion of the first anniversary of the invasion in 1969. Prior to 1984, when they were publicly exhibited for the first time in London with Koudelka’s name attached to them, these images were published anonymously and only attributed to “P.P”, standing for “Prague Photographer”, in order to avoid possible reprisals against Koudelka and his family.

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Czech citizen on sidewalk, wearing jacket with target)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Czech citizen on sidewalk, wearing jacket with target)
1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Czech citizen on tank)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Czech citizen on tank)
1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of a private collector
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Hand and wristwatch' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Hand and wristwatch
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver, print 1990
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'At the Czechoslovak Radio building, Vinohradská Avenue' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
At the Czechoslovak Radio building, Vinohradská Avenue
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Two Czech citizens with flag)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Two Czech citizens with flag)
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Near the Radio Headquarters. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Exiles

In 1970 Koudelka left Czechoslovakia for Great Britain, where he lived until he moved to France in 1980, obtaining French citizenship in 1987. During his years of exile he worked tirelessly, travelling during the spring and summer in order to photograph traditional festivals and gypsy events in various countries in Western Europe, principally the UK, Ireland, Italy and Spain, then retiring to his darkroom in the winter. During this period of his life Koudelka made numerous friends on his travels and through his association with Magnum Photos. He remained totally independent, however, refusing to rent an apartment or accept commissions in order to retain control of his artistic output and to be in complete charge of his agenda. His enigmatic photographs of these years evoke his own feelings of isolation through images of animals running free, lone figures, abandoned objects and displaced gypsies, although his work presents these feelings of solitude and distance in very broad terms.

Josef Koudelka left Czechoslovakia in 1970 and petitioned to exile to the United Kingdom. While he was in exile, he continued to work throughout Europe on those routes marked by Gypsy religious festivals and folklore that are held annually. The alienation that he felt for not belonging to a nation is reflected in his Exiles work that shows symbols of isolation (lost animals, lonely figures, scattered objects and displaced Gypsies) which is the core of the Koudelka vital experience. Unclear nationality refers to the legal status that appears in the author’s travel documents each time he returned to the United Kingdom, his home base during the first decade of exile, since he did not have a Czechoslovakian passport and could not prove his birthplace.

The subjects in the series Exiles are not limited to a specific group or period, and while they are based on Koudelka’s own everyday experiences during his stateless period, they are more metaphysical than physical. Here autobiography and reportage maintain a relationship of productive tension.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France' 1976

 

Josef Koudelka
Still Life (Newspaper), France
1976
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Parc de Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France' 1987

 

Josef Koudelka
Parc de Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France
1987
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia
1968
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Ireland' 1972

 

Josef Koudelka
Ireland
1972
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Panoramas

Since 1986 Koudelka has been taking photographs with panoramic cameras. His first project, commissioned by the Mission Photographique Transmanche, depicted the landscape of northern France affected by the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Since then he has used the broad panoramic format to depict places that have been mined, swept away or marked by the scars of industrialisation, devastated by wars and altered by time. The artist’s most recent panoramic photographs show important remains of past civilisations discovered on archaeological sites in twenty countries, particularly those bordering the Mediterranean.

Since 1986, Koudelka was using a panoramic camera. He uses this expanded format to show territories devastated by conflicts or altered with the passage of time. These images are the core of his impressive foldout publications such as Black Triangle or Chaos that shows scenery on the edge of ruins.

In 2007 Koudelka was invited along with eleven other photographers to take part in a project to explore the complex situation in Israel and Palestine. Despite his initial doubts, he accepted on the condition that he should be allowed to work as he wished and that he could focus on the wall in the West Bank and the area surrounding it on both sides. Having “grown up in Czechoslovakia, behind a wall”, Koudelka immediately pinpointed this barrier, with its physical, environmental and metaphorical connotations, as the subject that most interested him. This extensive system of concrete walls and barbed-wire fences allowed him to take full advantage of the broad panoramic format that he had been using since the 1980s, while the subject also gave him the opportunity to focus on the region’s landscape.

More recently, Josef Koudelka used this format to document the border of the West Bank and the territories that surround it such as the Negev desert or the Golan Heights. This work, Wall, urges the spectator to see the desolation of vast scenery dominated by walls, barbed-wire fences, access roads and borders. In the exhibition, there is a selection of copies from this work together with the book published in 2014. The panoramics are impressive objects that are between 1.2 and 1.8 m long. In these panoramics we perceive a scenery created by the man that tells his story, as well as the transformations that he has suffered due to human pillage, meaning: through his photographs we see man as creator and destroyer of the world.

Between 1991 and 2015, Josef Koudelka visited twenty countries bordering the Mediterranean, stopping at over two hundred Greek and Roman archaeological sites to create his series Archaeology. This was an unprecedented exploration which has not yet been completed – Koudelka keeps visiting archaeological sites in Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and other Mediterranean countries – searching not for the documents of the sites, but for the most perfect images of their existence.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France (Nord Pas-de-Calais)' From the series 'Chaos', 1989

 

Josef Koudelka
France (Nord Pas-de-Calais)
From the series Chaos, 1989
Inkjet, print 2013
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Lebanon (Beirut)' From the series 'Chaos', 1991

 

Josef Koudelka
Lebanon (Beirut)
From the series Chaos, 1991
Gelatin silver, print 1999
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Jordan (Amman)' from the series 'Archaeology', 2012

 

Josef Koudelka
Jordan (Amman)
from the series Archaeology, 2012
Inkjet print, 2013
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Israel-Palestine (Al 'Eizariya [Bethany])' From the series 'Wall', 2010

 

Josef Koudelka
Israel-Palestine (Al ‘Eizariya [Bethany])
From the series Wall, 2010
Inkjet, print 2014
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid, Spain
T: +34 915 81 61 00

Opening hours:
Sunday 11.00 am – 7.00 pm
Monday 2.00 – 8.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm

Fundación MAPFRE website

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06
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 14th September 2014

 

One of the greats – mainly for his series GypsiesInvasion and Exiles.

Powerful images – strong, honest, respectful, beautifully composed but above all gritty, gritty, gritty. There is a dark radiance here, an ether/reality, as though the air was heavy with melancholy, emotion, loss, violence, isolation and, sometimes, love. No wonder he describes his work as a “theater of the real.” Humanism, and photography, at its most essential.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Art Institute of Chicago for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I try to be a photographer. I cannot talk. I am not interested in talking. If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images. I am not interested in talking about things, explaining about the whys and the hows. I do not mind showing my images, but not so much my contact sheets. I mainly work from small test prints. I often look at them, sometimes for a long time. I pin them to the wall, I compare them to make up my mind, be sure of my choices. I let others tell me what they mean. [To Robert Delpire] My photographs, you know them. You have published them, you have exhibited them, then you can tell whether they mean something or not.”

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Josef Koudelka

 

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Czech-born French artist Josef Koudelka belongs in the firmament of classic photographers working today. Honored with the French Prix Nadar (1978), the Hasselblad Prize (1992), and the International Center of Photography Infinity Award (2004), Koudelka is also a leading member of the world-renowned photo agency Magnum. This exhibition, his first retrospective in the United States since 1988, is also the first museum show ever to emphasize his original vintage prints, period books, magazines, and significant unpublished materials.

Koudelka became famous in anonymity through the worldwide publication of his daring photographs of the Soviet-led invasion of Prague in August 1968. Just 30 years old at the time, Koudelka had already worked for a decade, principally on Gypsies, for which he visited Roma populations for weeks at a time in his home country and later abroad over the course of years. This ambitious series beautifully combines a sense of modern history with timeless humanism.

Choosing exile to avoid reprisals for his Invasion photographs, Koudelka traveled throughout Europe during the 1970s and 1980s, camping at village festivals from spring through fall and then printing in wintertime. His photographs of those decades became the series Exiles. Since the late 1980s Koudelka has made panoramic landscape photographs in areas massively shaped by industry, territorial conflict, or – in the case of the Mediterranean rim – the persistence of Classical civilization.

Tracing this long and impressive career, this exhibition draws on Koudelka’s extensive holdings of his own work and on recent major acquisitions by the Art Institute, including the complete surviving contents of the debut presentation of Gypsies in 1967 (22 photographs), as well as ten Invasion images printed by the photographer just weeks after the event. Also on display are early experimental and theater photographs and some of the photographer’s beautifully produced books – which stretch dozens of feet when unfolded. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, which after its debut at the Art Institute travels to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website

 

 

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. 'Jarabina, Czechoslovakia' 1963. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

Josef Koudelka. 'Spain' 1971. Various images from the series 'Gypsies'

 

Josef Koudelka
Various images from the series Gypsies
Book printed 1975; new Aperture edition 2011

 

Aperture’s new edition of Koudelka: Gypsies (2011) rekindles the energy and astonishment of this foundational body of work by master photographer Josef Koudelka. Lavishly printed in a unique quadratone mix by artisanal printer Gerhard Steidl, it offers an expanded look at Cikáni (Czech for “gypsies” ) -109 photographs of Roma society taken between 1962 and 1971 in then-Czechoslovakia (Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia), Romania, Hungary, France and Spain. The design and edit for this volume revisits the artist’s original intention for the work, and is based on a maquette originally prepared in 1968 by Koudelka and graphic designer Milan Kopriva. Koudelka intended to publish the work in Prague, but was forced to flee Czechoslovakia, landing eventually in Paris. In 1975, Robert Delpire, Aperture and Koudelka collaborated to publish Gitans, la fin du voyage (Gypsies, in the English-language edition), a selection of 60 photographs taken in various Roma settlements around East Slovakia.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia (Kadañ)' 1963, printed 1967

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia (Kadañ)
1963, printed 1967
from the series Gypsies
The Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Artworkers Retirement Society
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Romania' 1968, printed 1980s

 

Josef Koudelka
Romania
1968, printed 1980s
from the series Gypsies
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Robin and Sandy Stuart
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia (Rakúsy)' 1966, printed 1967

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia (Rakúsy)
1966, printed 1967
from the series Gypsies
The Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Sandy and Robin Stuart and Photography Gala Fund
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

 

 

“The unforgettable photographs of acclaimed Czech-born, French photographer Josef Koudelka (b.1938), including eyewitness images of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, have not been shown at a major U.S. museum since 1988. These documentary works as well as extensive selections from the photographer’s work going back to 1958 – including his renowned series Gypsies, Exiles, and a variety of recent panoramic photographs – will feature in the major retrospective exhibition Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful, from June 7 through September 14, 2014. It is the first museum show ever to emphasize Koudelka’s original vintage prints, period publications and unpublished study materials.

Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful, which takes place in the Abbott (182-4) and Bucksbaum (188) galleries on the ground floor of the Modern Wing, draws primarily on Koudelka’s extensive holdings of his own work. For decades, the photographer has exhibited new and recent prints of images that have grown iconic through frequent exhibitions and reproductions, while holding back the earliest, vintage prints – until now. For example, over the years there have been more than one dozen solo exhibitions of Gypsies and numerous reprints of the book of the same name, which has appeared in two editions and six languages. Among the rarities that will be included in Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful is the only surviving maquette for the first book version of Gypsies, which Koudelka had to leave unfinished at his exile from Prague in 1970.

Koudelka’s habit of revisiting past projects while simultaneously advancing into new territory will be squarely on view in Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful. Twenty-two original photographs from the very first show of Gypsies, held in Prague in 1967, will be displayed for the first time since that date. In an adjacent room, a different selection from the series, printed at a different size and in another way, will also be shown. Similarly, extremely rare vintage prints of Invasion, made and circulated anonymously to the press directly following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, will be shown alongside much larger prints commissioned soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when Koudelka returned from exile and had his first post-Soviet exhibition in Prague.

Also on display will be selections from his early experimental photographs and years of work with Prague theater companies, made during the flowering of the Czech stage and cinema in the 1960s.

Koudelka was born in a small Moravian town in 1938 and moved to Prague, then the capital of Czechoslovakia, in the 1950s. He studied aeronautical engineering while practicing photography obsessively from 1958; in 1966, he turned full-time to a photographic career. Already in 1961, Koudelka had begun his most ambitious life project, Gypsies, for which he visited Roma populations for weeks at a time, principally in Slovakia. The rigorously humanist pictures became his calling card at home and internationally in the later 1960s after being published in the Swiss magazine Camera and shown to curators and photography representatives around Western Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, Koudelka’s Invasion photographs became famous after they appeared worldwide to commemorate the first anniversary of the events of August 1968. Worried about reprisals even though the images had been published anonymously, Koudelka chose to leave his country in May 1970.

In exile Koudelka adopted a semi-nomadic existence. He followed village festivals, pilgrimages, and Roma gatherings throughout the United Kingdom (his country of asylum in the 1970s), Spain, Italy, and France (his principal residence from 1981, and country of citizenship from 1986), photographing throughout the year and printing largely in wintertime. The world-famous photography agency Magnum, which had stewarded publication of the Invasion photographs, became Koudelka’s home base and as he says his “family.” Koudelka’s photographs of these years were gathered together in 1988 as Exiles, which will also be part of the exhibition.

Since the late 1980s Koudelka has made panoramic landscape photographs in areas massively shaped by industry, territorial conflict, or – in the case of the Mediterranean rim – the persistence of Classical civilization. The final gallery of Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful will showcase six of these mural-size black-and-white images, as well as three of the impressive accordion-fold books that Koudelka has made of them since 1989, some of which stretch to more than 100 feet long.

Despite his peripatetic life, Koudelka’s moving and stunning photographs have made him one of the most sought-after figures in print and at exhibition. Honored with the French Prix Nadar (1978), the Hasselblad Prize (1992), and the International Center of Photography Infinity Award (2004), Koudelka remains today a leading member of Magnum.

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, overseen closely by the artist and designed by the Czech firm Najbrt Studio. Edited by Matthew S. Witkovsky, the Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator of Photography at the Art Institute, the book provides extensive new information on Koudelka’s formative years in Prague during the thaw of the 1960s, as well as the first complete history of Gypsies, its twists and turns from 1961 through 2011. Amanda Maddox, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, which has co-organized the exhibition, provides fresh knowledge on Koudelka’s underrepresented decade in England and the UK. Stuart Alexander and Gilles Tiberghien, two longtime friends of the photographer, have contributed illuminating essays on Koudelka’s years in France and his fascination for panoramic landscape, respectively.”

Press release from the Art Institute of Chicago

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France' 1987

 

Josef Koudelka
France
1987

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Lisbon, Portugal' 1975

 

Josef Koudelka
Lisbon, Portugal
1975

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Ireland' 1972, printed 1987/88

 

Josef Koudelka
Ireland
1972, printed 1987/88
from the series Exiles
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Spain' 1975

 

Josef Koudelka
Spain
1975

 

Josef Koudelka. 'St. Procopius Abbey graveyard, Lisle' Nd

 

Josef Koudelka
St. Procopius Abbey graveyard, Lisle
Nd

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Poland' 1958

 

Josef Koudelka
Poland
1958
The Art Institute of Chicago, Photography Gala Fund and restricted gift of John A. Bross
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

“Drama was an important part of Koudelka’s early career: In a literal sense, because he worked for a theater magazine in the ’60s, creating fantastically emotive images, but also because theatricality was, and still is, deeply embedded in the photographer’s world view. The week in 1968 when young Czechoslovakians stood up against invading Soviet forces occurred when he was working as a stage photographer, and so it became not only a tragedy but also a drama to be recorded. Likewise, his “Gypsies” series, created in the same period, is described by Koudelka as a “theater of the real.”

Through dynamic composition and juxtaposition, Koudelka’s work challenges us to differentiate between spectacle and reality, and while there is no positive indication that one is valued over the other, this is not at all the same as the disbelief in reality that is characteristic of postmodernism. As he puts it, “You form the world in your viewfinder, but at the same time the world forms you.”

In a sense, Koudelka does not want us to become too comfortable with his works as definitive statements. Instead, he crops bodies in images abruptly; we often see people cut off at the knees or ankles, visually and figuratively separating them from the Earth. In other works, disembodied arms and legs jut into the space of the photograph, making scenes surreal and reminding us that whatever coherency the composition has, we can never see the whole picture of what’s really going on. Even with the more poetic and purposefully aesthetic panorama prints of his later “Chaos” series – monumental testaments to the violence we enact both on the natural world and upon each other – through the pitted insistence of film grain and the lack of bright tones or highlights, we are not permitted redemption through “art” or the creation of “beautiful” objects.

In this respect Koudelka’s work, in its celebration of the imperfect, has more in common with the aesthetics of the haiku poet Basho, or the tea master Sen no Rikyu, than with the luscious highly detailed color images that largely dominate the world of contemporary art photography.”

John L. Tran. Josef Koudelka: the theatrics of life

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled (Student on tank, eyes crossed out)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Untitled (Student on tank, eyes crossed out)
1968
from the series Invasion
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled' Various images from the series 'Invasion'

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled' Various images from the series 'Invasion'

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled' Various images from the series 'Invasion'

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled' Various images from the series 'Invasion'

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled' Various images from the series 'Invasion'

Josef Koudelka. 'Untitled' Various images from the series 'Invasion'

 

Josef Koudelka
Untitled
Various images from the series Invasion
1968

 

 

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10
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles’ at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 15th September 2013

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OMG, OMG, OMG a bumper posting of car porn!

Some of these are just ravishing (my favourite is the Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet “Xenia” Coupe, 1938) and the elegant, eloquent photography (including some wonderfully framed detail shots), highlights the sensuousness of these objects of desire. Also, notice the almost negligible rear view windows in most of the cars…

What happened to this kind of style detail in today’s cars?

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Many thankx to The Frist Center for the Visual Arts for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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'Bugatti Type 46 Semi-profile Coupe' 1930

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Bugatti Type 46 Semi-profile Coupe
1930
Collection of Merle and Peter Mullin
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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Ettore Bugatti lived on a baronial estate in Alsace-Lorraine in eastern France. His father Carlo created elegant, Art Deco style furniture. His younger brother Rembrandt was an accomplished sculptor of animals. Although he was trained as an apprentice engineer, Ettore possessed the dreamy soul of an artist. From 1911 to 1939, he built hand-crafted automobiles of sporting competence, which, thanks to the styling talents of Ettore’s young son Jean, were also hauntingly beautiful.

Working with factory designer Joseph Walter, Jean Bugatti initially designed an Art Deco Superprofile coupe with rakish, valance-free fenders, a steeply canted windscreen, a roof with a perfect radius, and dramatic sweep panels. This has been called by Paul Kestler, author of Bugatti: Evolution of Style, “one of the landmarks in coachbuilding history, made at the moment when classic lines were yielding to something more aerodynamic.” Only a few Superprofile coupes were built. One original survives in the Louwman Collection, Netherlands.

Inspired by the earlier Superprofile design, Walter and Bugatti’s Semi-profile coupes like the one in this exhibition had a more practical and equally attractive notchback rear treatment and twin exposed spare wheels. The chassis of this Bugatti Type 46 was made in 1929 and bodied in 1934 in Czechoslovakia by coachbuilder Oldřich Ulik. Originally a two-door sedan, it was re-bodied by Barry Price, with period-perfect coachwork in the exact style of Jean Bugatti’s Semi-profile coupe. The interior is elephant hide leather. In Bugatti circles, a magnificent re-creation like this one is welcomed, when it is done so beautifully.

valance-free fenders: this type of motor vehicle wheel covering did not make use of the then popular valance, a piece of metal added to the side of the fender that prevented splashing along the body

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'Jordan Model Z Speedway Ace Roadster' 1930

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Jordan Model Z Speedway Ace Roadster
1930
Collection of Edmund J. Stecker Family Trust
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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'Cord L-29 Cabriolet' 1929

'Cord L-29 Cabriolet' 1929

'Cord L-29 Cabriolet' 1929

'Cord L-29 Cabriolet' 1929

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Cord L-29 Cabriolet
1929
Collection of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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Errett Lobban Cord rose to national prominence after rescuing the Auburn Automobile Company of Auburn, Indiana, in 1928. Seeing an opportunity for a uniquely engineered luxury automotive brand, Cord encouraged Fred and August Duesenberg to build what he envisioned as America’s finest motorcar.

Noted racecar constructor Harry A. Miller and his associates were retained by Cord to engineer a radical front-drive chassis. The innovative and luxurious L-29 Cord, unfortunately introduced just as the New York Stock Market crashed, combined its engine, transaxle, and clutch into one co-located assembly, eliminating a conventional driveshaft. This permitted a 10-inch lower chassis and necessitated a lengthy hood that appeared even longer because the designer, Al Leamy, surrounded the radiator with an integrated sheet-metal assembly, finished to match the car’s color.

The lowslung Cord’s bodylines were exquisite. Features include an Art Deco styled transaxle cover, an elegant streamlined grille that evoked the styling of Harry Miller’s racing cars, sweeping clamshell fenders, sleek body side reveals which accentuated the car’s length, and a low roofline. These are embellished by myriad Art Deco styled details ranging from accented fender trim, tapered headlamp shapes, etched door-handle detailing and tiny, but exquisite instrument panel dials.

The L-29 Cord’s art moderne styling and engineering prowess attracted buyers of taste and style who were not afraid to try something different. Owners included the era’s most prominent and controversial architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who bought a new L-29 Convertible Phaeton in 1929 and drove it for many years. This stunning cabriolet, was purchased in the 1950s by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Wright’s legal caretaker until his death in 1959. Wright had many of his cars painted in a bright hue called Taliesin orange. The finish of this Cord is a close approximation.

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'Henderson KJ Streamline' 1930

'Henderson KJ Streamline' 1930

'Henderson KJ Streamline' 1930

'Henderson KJ Streamline' 1930

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Henderson KJ Streamline
1930
Collection of Frank Westfall
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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With its 1,200-cc, 40-brake horsepower, in-line four-cylinder engine, the 1930 Henderson Model KJ Streamline could exceed 100 mph. In an era when streamlining was used sparingly in motorcycle design, American Orley Ray Courtney’s enclosed bodywork was virtually unknown on production two-wheelers (except for a few racing machines), making the KJ an unusual and beautiful example of Art Deco design.

Courtney believed that the motorcycle industry failed to provide weather protection and luxury for its riders. His radically streamlined KJ body shell was unlike anything ever done on two wheels. The sleek vehicle had a curved, vertical-bar grille, reminiscent of the Chrysler Airflow, and the rear resembled an Auburn boat-tail speedster. The panels were hand-formed of steel with a power hammer.

Stunningly beautiful but impractical and hard to ride, the Streamline’s complex curved body was heavy and was difficult to make. In 1941, Courtney filed for a patent for a second motorcycle design with fully enclosed fenders. Perhaps he was influenced by the fact that the Indian Motocycle Company had introduced its partially skirted fenders in 1940, and that motorcyclists were becoming more accepting of this trend.*

* In 1923, Indian Motorcycle Company became Indian Motocycle Company and retained that name until the company closed in 1953.

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'Model 40 Special Speedster'™ 1934

'Model 40 Special Speedster'™ 1934

'Model 40 Special Speedster'™ 1934

'Model 40 Special Speedster'™ 1934

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Model 40 Special Speedster
1934
Owned and restored by Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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Edsel B. Ford, President of Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, asked his styling chief, Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie, to build a “continental” roadster that could have limited production potential. Gregorie sketched alternatives and then built a 1/25th scale model that he tested in a small wind tunnel. Because of its 1934 Ford (also known as Model 40) origins, the roadster became known as the Model 40 Special Speedster.

Assisted by Ford Aircraft personnel, Gregorie’s team fabricated a taper-tailed aluminum body, mounted over a custom welded tubular structural framework. This car resembles the 1935 Miller-Ford Indianapolis 500 two-man racecars, but it was designed and built prior to their construction. This car’s long, low proportions were unlike anything Ford Motor Company had ever built. The Speedster weighs about 2,100 pounds. Its engine is now a 100-brake horsepower Mercury flathead V-8.

This Model 40 was one of Edsel Ford’s personal vehicles. After his death in 1943, the Speedster passed through several owners. Bill Warner, founder of Florida’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, read an article that mentioned that the Model 40 Special Speedster was owned by a fellow Floridian. Warner tracked the Speedster down, bought it, and later sold it to Texas mega-collector John O’Quinn. After O’Quinn died in 2009, Edsel Ford II arranged for the speedster’s purchase. In August 2010, this car was restored by RM Restorations, Blenheim, Ontario, Canada.

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Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles is an exhibition of Art Deco automobiles from some of the most renowned car collections in the United States. Inspired by the Frist Center’s historic Art Deco building, this exhibition features spectacular automobiles and motorcycles from the 1930s and ’40s that exemplify the classic elegance, luxurious materials, and iconography of motion that characterizes vehicles influenced by the Art Deco style.

Fascination with automobiles transcends age, gender, and environment.  While today automotive manufacturers often strive for economy and efficiency, there was a time when elegance reigned.  Influenced by the Art Deco movement that began in Paris in the early 1920s and propelled to prominence with the success of the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925, automakers embraced the sleek new streamlined forms and aircraft-inspired materials, creating memorable automobiles that still thrill all who see them. The exhibition features 18 automobiles and two motorcycles from some of the most important collectors and collections in the United States.

While today automotive manufacturers often strive for economy and efficiency, there was a time when elegance reigned.  Like the Frist Center’s historic building, the automobiles included in Sensuous Steeldisplay the classic grace and modern luxury of Art Deco design. An eclectic, machine-inspired decorative style that thrived between the two World Wars, Art Deco combined craft motifs with industrial materials and lavish embellishments. The movement began in Paris in the early 1920s and was propelled to prominence in with the success of the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925. Automakers embraced the sleek iconography of motion and aircraft-inspired materials connotative of Art Deco, creating memorable automobiles that still thrill all who see them.

“Sensuous Steel is the first major museum auto exhibition devoted entirely to Art Deco automobiles, and there could be no more fitting a venue than the Frist Center’s landmark historic Art Deco building, which was completed in 1934,” notes Frist Center Executive Director Dr. Susan H. Edwards. “Art Deco styling influenced everything from architecture to sleek passenger trains and luxury liners, furniture, appliances, jewelry, objets d’art, signage, fashionable clothing and, of course, automobiles. The works in this exhibition convey the breadth, diversity, and stunning artistry of cars designed in the Art Deco style.”

“Rapidly changing and ever-evolving, the automobile became the perfect metal canvas upon which industrial designers expressed the vital spirit of the interwar period,” explains Guest Curator Ken Gross. “To give the illusion of dramatic movement and forward thrust, cars of the 1930s and ’40s merged gentle curves with angular edges. These automobiles were made from the finest materials and sported beautifully crafted ornamentation, geometric grillwork, and the elegant miniature statuary of hood ornaments. The classic cars of the Art Deco age remain today as among the most visually exciting, iconic and refined designs of the twentieth century.”

Press release from The Frist Center for the Visual Arts website

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'Voisin Type C27 Aérosport Coupe' 1934

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Voisin Type C27 Aérosport Coupe
1934
Collection of Merle and Peter Mullin
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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Pioneer French aeronautical expert Gabriel Voisin was an eccentric visionary whose aircraft greatly benefited his country during World War I. He later became an automobile manufacturer, achieving, in the words of designer Robert Cumberford, “sometimes… amazing results.”

Voisin’s chief designer, André “Noël-Noël” Telmont, who was trained as an architect, based the style of this Type C27 Aérosport after the earlier Voisin Aérodyne’s radical new look. Telmont was inspired by aviation and architecture, whereas other French coachbuilders such as Joseph Figoni turned to the female form and imitated its soft curves. Gabriel Voisin unveiled the Aérosport at the 1935 Madrid Auto Salon. With the Aérosport, Telmont presented wonderfully balanced Art Deco coachwork that featured new, modern, and aerodynamic themes. The Aérosport’s profile outlined the cross-section of an imaginary wing. The semi-circular roof line traced the contours of a cockpit, and the larger surfaces simulated a fuselage.

A lack of funds meant the factory was unable to fully develop this model. Telmont sold the car to Moïse Kisling, a leading European artist. After a front-end crash, the coupe was kept in a disassembled state at the Saliot garage near Paris for years. With the information provided by period photos of the Type C27, this renovated body was built in France to match the original in every detail. The car has its original chassis, a correct Voisin engine and transmission parts, and accessories from one of the two original Type C27s.

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'Packard Twelve Model 1106 Sport Coupe by LeBaron' 1934

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Packard Twelve Model 1106 Sport Coupe by LeBaron
1934
Collection of Robert and Sandra Bahre
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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1934-Pierce-Arrow-Silver-Arrow_Academy-of-Art-University_WEB

1934-Pierce-Arrow-Silver-Arrow-Sedan_Academy-of-Art-University_3-quarter-front-WEB

1934-Pierce-Arrow-Silver-Arrow-Sedan_Academy-of-Art-University_front-detail-WEB

'Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan' 1933

1934-Pierce-Arrow-Silver-Arrow-Sedan_Academy-of-Art-University_hood-ornament-WEB

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Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan
1933
Collection of Academy of Art University Automobile Museum, San Francisco
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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With its dignified advertising, elegant styling, and respectable dealers, Buffalo, New York-based Pierce-Arrow rivaled Packard for prestige. The staunchly conservative Pierce-Arrow clung to six-cylinders long after Packard and Cadillac introduced V-8s. Facing tough competition, sales slumped and Pierce merged with Studebaker in 1926.

In 1932, Phillip O. Wright designed a streamlined fastback coupe on the Pierce-Arrow V-12 chassis. He moved to Studebaker headquarters in South Bend, Indiana, where his rakish design evolved into a sporty sedan with a low roofline, envelope front and skirted rear fenders, and faired-in headlamp nacelles. With its 175-brake horsepower V-12, a Silver Arrow could top 115 mph. In a sea of boxy sedans, the sleek Pierce-Arrow show car was the height of modernity. Five hand-built Silver Arrows toured 1933 auto shows, where they caused a sensation. At the Chicago Century of Progress, the Silver Arrow upstaged Cadillac’s Aero-Dynamic coupe, Duesenberg’s “Twenty Grand,” and Packard’s “Car of the Dome,” with its audacious, aircraft-like shape.

Priced at a then-expensive $10,000, the Silver Arrow was one of thirty-eight different 1933 Pierce-Arrow models. Sales slipped to just 2,152 units in total. After succumbing in mid-1938, Pierce-Arrow is best remembered for its magnificent Silver Arrow. This is one of three survivors.

faired-in headlamp nacelles: a fairing, primarily found on aircraft, is a streamlined structure used to create a more aerodynamic outline; a nacelle refers to any streamlined housing or enclosure; in this instance, the forward facing headlamps are enclosed within a housing and placed with a fairing that does not extend beyond the curvilinear profile of the overall design

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'Chrysler Imperial Model C-2 Airflow Coupe' 1935

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Chrysler Imperial Model C-2 Airflow Coupe
1935
Collection of John and Lynn Heimerl, Suffolk, VA
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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'Cord 810 "Armchair" Beverly Sedan' 1936

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Cord 810 “Armchair” Beverly Sedan
1936
Collection of Richard and Debbie Fass
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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'Delahaye 135M Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe' 1936

'Delahaye 135M Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe' 1936

'Delahaye 135M Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe' 1936

'Delahaye 135M Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe' 1936

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Delahaye 135M Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe
1936
Collection of Jim Patterson/The Patterson Collection
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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This stunning Delahaye was one of French coachbuilders Joseph Figoni and Ovidio Falaschi’s first aerodynamic coupe designs. With its dramatic enclosed fenders and hand-crafted aluminum body, it was built on one of the fifty short chassis designed by the Delahaye Company for sporty two-seater models. It was equipped with a four-speed competition-style manual transmission, appropriate to a sporty coupe intended for rally competition. The dashboard included a Jaeger rally clock, and the trunk had only enough room to carry a spare tire. The engine was a highly reliable 4-liter Delahaye six with three downdraft Solex carburetors.

The coupe’s striking design emphasized flowing lines with teardrop-shaped chrome accents on the hood and the front and rear fenders. The door handles and headlights were flush with the body. The dashboard was made of rich, golden wood, a Figoni & Falaschi signature. A sliding metal sunroof and a windshield that opened outward at the bottom afforded ventilation.

A French racing driver named Albert Perrot commissioned this coupe. The Comtesse de la Saint Amour de Chanaz displayed it at a concours d’elegance in Cannes. It was successfully hidden from the Germans during World War II. After the war, it reportedly belonged to actress Dolores del Rio, a well-known owner of exotic cars who lived in Mexico City and Los Angeles.

After several more owners, Don Williams, of the Blackhawk Collection, purchased the coupe in the late 1990s. Some time earlier, the Delahaye’s original engine had broken down; it was replaced with a postwar model, and the old engine was retained. In 2004, the Delahaye became the property of Mr. James Patterson, who re-installed the original engine and had the car beautifully restored.

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'Stout Scarab' 1936

'Stout Scarab' 1936

'Stout Scarab' 1936

'Stout Scarab' 1936

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Stout Scarab
1936
Collection of Larry Smith
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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American aeronautical designer William Bushnell Stout modeled this sturdy Ford Tri-Motor after his own 3-AT aircraft. The futuristic Scarab (named for the Egyptian symbol based on a beetle) has a smooth and startling shape, with a tubular frame covered with aluminum panels surrounding a rear-mounted Ford flathead V-8. The Scarab’s passenger compartment is positioned within the car’s wheelbase. Access to the interior is through a central door on the right side, and there is a narrow front door on the left for the driver. This unusual configuration anticipated the first minivan.

The “turtle-shell” styling celebrated the Art Deco influence, beginning with decorative “moustaches” below the split windshield. It continues to be evident in the headlamps covered with thin grilles, and culminates in fan-shaped vertical fluting, framing the elegant cooling grilles. The Scarab’s design was even more radically different than other cars of the era like the ill-fated Chrysler Airflow. At $5,000, it was very expensive, and the Depression-wracked buying public did not recognize its many advantages.

Stout’s investors, like William K. Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate, and Willard Dow of Dow Chemical, purchased Scarabs, as did tire company owner Harvey Firestone and Robert Stranahan of Champion Spark Plug. At least six cars were built; some sources say nine. Scarab number five was shipped to France for the editor of Le Temps, a Paris newspaper. In the early 1950s, this Scarab was offered for sale on a Parisian used car lot and returned to America.

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'Delahaye 135MS Roadster' 1937

'Delahaye 135MS Roadster' 1937

'Delahaye 135MS Roadster' 1937

'Delahaye 135MS Roadster' 1937

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Delahaye 135MS Roadster
1937
Courtesy of The Revs Institute for Automotive Research @ the Collier Collection
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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Parisian coachbuilders Joseph Figoni and Ovidio Falaschi produced this very special Delahaye 135MS Roadster for the 1937 Paris Auto Salon. Instead of conventional pontoon fenders that protruded from the car’s body, Figoni incorporated them into the body, heightening the impression of a singular, flowing form. Using Art Deco ornamentation, he punctuated the car’s hood with scalloped chrome trim that accentuated the curves of the fenders. Its all-aluminum body is built on a short 2.70-meter competition chassis. The dark red leather interior and matching carpets were provided by Hermès, a French company begun in the eighteenth century and known for its fine carriage building.

This low, sleek car appears to be moving when it is standing still. The avant-garde design caused a sensation at the Paris Auto Salon, and its completion provided Figoni & Falaschi with the opportunity to file four new patents: for the aerodynamic design that stabilized the front fenders; for the disappearing front windshield; for the special lightweight competition tubular seats; and for the disappearing convertible top. The original design also featured a central light mounted in the front grille. The door handles were mounted flush to the body surface, augmenting the roadster’s modern, clean look. In early 1938, this roadster returned to the Figoni & Falaschi shop, where the central headlight was removed, and front and rear bumpers were installed to protect the car from daily driving hazards.

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'Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet “Xenia” Coupe' 1938

'Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet “Xenia” Coupe' 1938

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Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet “Xenia” Coupe
1938
Collection of Peter Mullin Automotive Museum Foundation
Top photo: Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt
Overhead photo: Anonymous from the internet

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André Dubonnet was France’s aperitif baron as well as an amateur racing driver and inventor. Dubonnet worked with engineer Antoine-Marie Chedru to develop and patent an independent front-suspension system in 1927 that was used by General Motors and Alfa Romeo. Following the 1932 Paris Auto Salon, Dubonnet acquired a French built Hispano-Suiza chassis, which he used to create a rolling showcase for his ideas. This car was designed by Jean Andreau, known for avant-garde streamlined aircraft and automotive creations, and hand-built in the coachbuilding shop of Jacques Saoutchik.

The body resembled an airplane fuselage. Curved glass was used, including a panoramic windscreen (not seen again until General Motors cars of the 1950s), and Plexiglas side windows that opened upward in gullwing fashion. The side doors, suspended on large hinges, opened rearward in “suicide” fashion. A tapered fastback was crowned with a triangular rear window. The car featured Dubonnet’s hyperflex independent front suspension system.

The original Hispano-Suiza chassis sat high off the ground, and the “Xenia” – named for Dubonnet’s deceased wife, Xenia Johnson – was built atop the frame, so while its overall appearance is sleek and elegant, it is a comparatively tall and heavy car. Dramatically different from its contemporaries, the “Xenia” appears far more modern than almost any other 1930s-era automotive design.

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'Talbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop Coupe' 1938

'Talbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop Coupe' 1938

'Talbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop Coupe' 1938

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Talbot-Lago T-150C-SS Teardrop Coupe
1938
Collection of J. Willard Marriott, Jr.
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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The sporting Talbot-Lago T-150-C chassis inspired the design of many open roadsters and closed cars, most notably a series of curvaceous custom coupes. Sensational in their heyday, the French-produced Talbot-Lagos remain highly valued today. Streamlined, sleek, and light enough to race competitively, they were called Goutte d’Eau (drop of water), and, in English, they quickly became known as the Teardrop Talbots. Famed Parisian coachbuilders Joseph Figoni and Ovidio Falaschi patented the car’s distinctive aerodynamic shape.

Figoni & Falaschi built twelve “New York-style” Talbot-Lago coupes between 1937 and 1939, so-called because the first was introduced at the 1937 New York Auto Show at the Grand Central Palace. Five more cars, built in a notchback Teardrop style, were named “Jeancart” after a wealthy French patron. It took Figoni & Falaschi craftsmen 2,100 hours to complete a body. No two Teardrop coupes were exactly alike.

Talbot’s president, Antony Lago, offered a top-of-the-line SS (Super Sport) version with independent front suspension. The competition engine, a 4-liter six cylinder topped with a hemi head, could be fitted with three carburetors for 170-brake horsepower. Some cars were equipped with an innovative Wilson pre-selector gearbox, with a fingertip actuated lever that permitted instant shifts without the driver having to take his hand off the steering wheel. In 1938, a racing model T-150C-SS Coupe finished third at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This car was the first “New York-style” Teardrop coupe. Its first owner was Freddie McEvoy, an Australian member of the 1936 British Olympic bobsled team. A prominent player on the Hollywood scene, McEvoy’s ready access to celebrities made him an ideal concessionaire for luxurious automobiles.

hemi head: an internal combustion engine that is designed with hemispherically shaped chambers that optimized combustion and permitted larger valves for more efficiency

pre-selector gearbox: a type of manual gearbox or transmission that allows a driver to use levers to “pre-select” the next gear to be used, and with a separate foot pedal control, engage the gear in one single operation

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'Tatra T97' 1938

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Tatra T97
1938
Collection of Lane Motor Museum
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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One of the most advanced designs of the pre-World War II era came from Czechoslovakia. Czech-based Koprivnicka vozovka evolved into Nesseldorfer Waggonfabrik and was renamed Tatra in 1927 after the country’s prominent mountain range. Tatra vehicles became known for innovative engineering and high quality. The engineer largely responsible was Hans Ledwinka, who had worked under automotive and aircraft pioneer Edmund Rumpler. Ledwinka was an early proponent of air-cooled engines, a rigid backbone chassis, and independent suspension.

The Tatra was a perfect platform for the new emphasis on streamlining being pioneered by aircraft and Zeppelin designer Paul Jaray. A short front end flowed to a curved roofline that gracefully sloped into a long fastback tail. When integrated fenders and a full undertray were added, wind resistance was dramatically reduced. A prominent rear dorsal fin ensured high-speed stability.

Tatra was arguably the first production car to take advantage of effective streamlining. The T97 used a horizontally opposed, rear-mounted, four cylinder engine with a rigid backbone chassis, four-wheel independent suspension and hydraulic drum brakes. Four were built in 1937, followed by 237 in 1938, and 269 in 1939. Top speed was 80.78 mph, which was truly remarkable for a 40-hp car at the time.

According to automobile designer Raffi Minasian, “The Tatra T97 was one of the most interesting and well-developed engineering and design intersections of the Deco period.” It may have lacked the usual flamboyance of the traditional French coachbuilders of the period, but it manifested the expression of Art Deco design as a merger of science and industry where form was dictated by function.

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'Bugatti Type 57C by Vanvooren' 1939

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Bugatti Type 57C by Vanvooren
1939
Collection of Margie and Robert E. Petersen, Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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The Great Depression was slow to impact France, due to that country’s high tariffs and restricted trade, but by the early 1930s, sales of luxury automobiles dwindled. Ettore Bugatti and his brilliant son Jean understood that a special model was imperative to help their company survive. The resulting new Type 57’s styling was at once contemporary and affordable, with custom coachwork available for the very wealthy.

For racing, a normally-aspirated, 3.3-liter straight 8-powered Type 57, on an ultra-low “S” chassis, was fitted with streamlined open coachwork. The factory successes included averaging 135.45 mph for one hour, 123.8 mph for 2,000 miles, and 124.6 mph for 4,000 kilometers. An avid horseman, “Le Patron,” as Bugatti was known, was convinced automobile competition improved the breed, as it did with thoroughbred racing.

The greatest coachbuilders of France: Gangloff, Saoutchik, Letourneur & Marchand, and Vanvooren, as well as Britain’s Corsica, and Graber of Switzerland, all built custom coachwork on the Type 57 chassis. This special Type 57C was the property of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Prince of Persia and future Shah of Iran.

When Pahlavi married Egypt’s Princess Fawzia, many nations sent extravagant wedding presents. A gift from France, this cabriolet’s drophead coachwork – a study in sweeping lines and fluid Art Deco ornamentation – was constructed by coachbuilder Vanvooren of Paris, in the style of Figoni & Falaschi. The windscreen can be lowered into the cowl for an even racier appearance.

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'Delage D8-120S Saoutchik Cabriolet' 1939

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Delage D8-120S Saoutchik Cabriolet
1939
Collection of John W. Rich, Jr.
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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La Belle Voiture Francaise: The Beautiful French Car. Coined by the French public to describe the automobiles created by Louis Delage, these words became the slogan for one of France’s oldest and most renowned automobile companies. Coachbuilders favored the Delage chassis to showcase their designs, winning numerous concours d’legance.

The Delage D8-120S, a new model for 1938, offered a lowered chassis, (“S” stood for Surbaisse) and the 3.5-liter straight 8’s output was increased. The bare chassis could be purchased for 105,000 French francs. The custom coachwork is estimated to have cost an additional 45,000 French francs, making the D8-120S one of France’s most expensive luxury cars. This car was commissioned for the 1939 Paris Auto Salon by the French government, which was promoting French cars in Europe and the United States. Jacques Saoutchik, one of France’s premier coachbuilders, created its coachwork, which includes patented sliding parallel doors that opened outward with a pantograph mechanism, then slid rearward, permitting easy access.

The completed cabriolet was hidden away by the workshop prior to the German invasion of France. After World War II, the D8-120S was used by the Provisional Government of the French Republic for official duties. It was sold in 1949 and the buyer installed faired-in headlights and a postwar Delage grille. The D8-120S passed through several more owners before it was restored to its original condition, with the exception of its modern faired-in headlights.

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'Indian Chief' 1940

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Indian Chief
1940
Collection of Gary Sanford
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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'Chrysler Thunderbolt' 1941

'Chrysler Thunderbolt' 1941

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Chrysler Thunderbolt
1941
Collection of Chrysler Group, LLC
Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

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Detroit-based carmaker Chrysler touted the Thunderbolt and its companion, the Newport Phaeton, as cars of the future. With its aerodynamic body shell, hidden headlights, enclosed wheels, and a retractable one-piece metal hardtop, the sensational Thunderbolt conveyed the message that tomorrow’s Chryslers would leave more prosaic rivals in the dust.

Following the design of Chief Designer Ralph Roberts, both the Thunderbolt and the Phaeton models were built by LeBaron, an American coachbuilding company. Associate designer Alex Tremulis suggested these cars be promoted as “new milestones in Airflow design,” hinting that without the 1934 Airflows, Chrysler styling might not have evolved so far. The Thunderbolt’s full-width hood, which flowed uninterrupted from the base of the windshield to the slender front bumper, and its broad decklid, were made of steel, as was the folding top, a feature designed and patented by Roberts not previously seen on an American car. Fluted, anodized aluminum lower body side trim ran continuously from front to rear. Removable fender skirts covered the wheels, which were inset in front, so they could turn.

Priced at $8,250, eight Thunderbolts were planned, but only five were built, of which four survive. World War II’s interruption meant that while a few features found their way onto production Chryslers, these unique cars were not replicated when hostilities ceased.

.

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Frist Center for the Visual Arts
919 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203

Opening hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 10.00 am – 5.30 pm
Thursday and Friday: 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Saturday: 10.00 am – 5.30 pm
Sunday: 1.00 – 5.30 pm

Frist Center for the Visual Arts website

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08
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Gilles Caron, The Conflict Within’ at The Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 30th January – 12th May 2013

 

Gilles Caron. 'Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

Dead at 30

Died so young

Probably at the barrel of a snub nosed gun.

Guilt, narcissism, parody or irony

Doesn’t matter now

He’s dead…

Photos live on

.
Many thankx to the Musée de l’Elysée Lausanne for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Transport of a victim of the famine of the Civil War in Biafra, July 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Transport of a victim of the famine of the Civil War in Biafra, July 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Demonstration at the first anniversary of the Soviet repression of "Spring in Prague", Czechoslovakia, 21 August, 1969' 1969

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Demonstration at the first anniversary of the Soviet repression of “Spring in Prague”, Czechoslovakia, 21 August, 1969
1969
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'American Patrol during the Vietnam War 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
American Patrol during the Vietnam War 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Israeli Soldiers at the Wailing Wall at the end of the Six Day War in 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Israeli Soldiers at the Wailing Wall at the end of the Six Day War in 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'General Moshe Dayan June 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
General Moshe Dayan June 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

Visual memory of an epoch, Gilles Caron (1939-1970) has chronicled the greatest contemporary conflicts through his images (Six-Day War, Vietnam War, Biafra and Northern Ireland conflicts, May 68, Prague Spring…), a commitment that eventually cost him his life while on assignment in Cambodia. Called up as a parachutist to serve in the Algerian War, Caron became a witness to the brutality inflicted on civilians. Through photojournalism, he sought to cross to the other side in order to contribute to a better understanding of how populations caught up in the spiral of war were living.

His initial heroic vision of war photography soon turned into a reflection on the purpose of his job: can the role of witness, mere spectator, be satisfying? He is one of the first photographers to suffer symptoms from this inner moral conflict, and one of the first to practice a form of introspective disenchantment that led the reporter to gradually turn his camera on him, to become the object of the photographic narrative.

In the early stages of his career, during the Six-Day War and in Vietnam, he chose to focus on inactive figures, soldiers or prisoners absorbed in their thoughts, writing or meditating. During the Biafra War, Caron seemed particularly compassionate for the condition of children and other victims. In May 68 and in Northern Ireland, he was mainly interested in emblematic actors – demonstrators throwing stones or Molotov cocktails – as incarnations of urban guerilla. His inventiveness was never more visible than in his reports on street fighting where, through his lens, demonstrations seemed transformed into choreographies.

A war reporter, regularly exposed to extreme conditions, Caron was however not indifferent to the spectacle of the sixties, the Nouvelle Vague and the young musical scene. He would on occasion photograph on the film sets of Godard or Truffaut and even worked as a fashion photographer. These ventures into cinema and fashion might seem quite remote from the rest of his work but they clearly influenced his formal language, as demonstrated in his reports on the protests in the Latin Quarter or Ulster. The exhibition ends with an anti-heroic portrait of the photojournalist. Essential for the history of photojournalism, this conclusion proves that Caron’s conscience, along that of other photojournalists, became quite an unhappy one at the end of the 60s. Guilt, narcissism, parody or irony… In the end, it is difficult to figure out what image of themselves reporters are making.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November - December 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November – December 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Daniel Cohn-Bendit facing a CRS in front of the Sorbonne, Paris, 6 May 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Daniel Cohn-Bendit facing a CRS in front of the Sorbonne, Paris, 6 May 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité

The Compagnies républicaines de sécurité, abbreviated CRS, are the general reserve of the French National Police. They are primarily involved in general security missions but the task for which they are best known is crowd and riot control.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

The exhibition presented at the Musée de l’Elysée is Caron’s first major retrospective. Comprising 150 prints and archival documents from the Fondation Gilles Caron, the collection of the Musée de l’Elysée and private collections, the exhibition is an opportunity to rediscover in six parts one of the major photojournalists of the 20th century through an original approach.

1. Heroism

Here and Now: Named the “French Capa” by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Caron’s images highlighting the different scenes of military operations are evidence to his audacity and talents as a reporter.

2. Making History?

The contemplative soldier: This section illustrates a recurring theme in Caron’s work of individuals who are absorbed, and/or made fragile and vulnerable by their surrounding events: military prisoners, civilian victims, soldiers shown reading or in reflection, become iconographic images of unedited, and spontaneous moments of stillness.

3. Sympathy

Compassionate Icons: In these photographs, beginning with the war in Biafra and extending across Caron’s travels one sees the deep sensibility of the photographer unfold in his images as Caron must face the very real pain of others. The images of children, starving and void of childhood innocence whom have been sacrificed in conflict mark the beginning of concerned photographic iconography.

4. Demonstrations and guerrilla

The iconography of revolt: In the images of revolt, be that workers, farmers, or students, Caron gives particular iconic importance to the figure of the “lanceur”: like David against Goliath. This representation of the body in action is like a repeated choreography which is performed spontaneously across the fronts of rebellion in Paris, on May 1968, Londonderry (Northern Ireland) and Prague.

5. Nouvelle Vague

Young and passionate in the 60s: In addition to his work in areas of conflict, famine, and war, Caron also gives photography a unique view of the youth of the 1960’s. With images of famous muses (actresses and singers) as well as of university students, and youth on the street, Caron shows his talents for fashion photography and film stills developed during his work with Truffaut and Godard.

6. The last image

Looking at the reporter: After Biafra and Chad, doubt took hold of Caron. The lens of the camera turns back upon the reporter, and these images document the work of the photojournalist in the field. These portraits leave viewers with a mixed message, this is his own profession but the images are in no way heroic portrayals of the work of the photojournalist.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Civil War in Biafra, Nigeria, November 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Civil War in Biafra, Nigeria, November 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Vietnam, November 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Vietnam, November 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Filmmaker and photographer Raymond Depardon, during the Civil War in Biafra, Nigéria, August 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Filmmaker and photographer Raymond Depardon, during the Civil War in Biafra, Nigéria, August 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

The Musée de l’Elysée 
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH – 1014 Lausanne
Phone: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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23
May
10

Exhibition: ‘Miroslav Tichý’ at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 28th April – 29th May 2010

 

A camera of Miroslav Tichy

 

A camera of Miroslav Tichý

 

 

Wow – these are fantastic!!
Tichy’s camera is such an amazing construction (click on the image above to see a larger version).

Many thankx to Jim Edwards and the Michael Hoppen Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

 

“Women are just a motif to me. The figure – standing, bending, or sitting. The movement, walking. Nothing else Interests me. The erotic is just a dream anyway. The world is only an illusion, our illusion.”

“Everything is decided by the earth, which is turning. You can only live as long as the earth keeps turning. That is predetermined.

.
Miroslav Tichý

 

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

 

“The recently unknown photographic work of Czech artist Miroslav Tichý has become a noteworthy presence in the worlds of photography and contemporary art over the last few years. Timeless and uncategorisable, Tichý’s work captures the women of Kijov, from the artist’s native city in Moravia. On 28 April 2010, the Michael Hoppen Gallery will bring together unique photographs, previously unseen in the UK, created in the 1960’s by Tichý with his makeshift cameras and enlargers.

Marginal and exceptionally voyeuristic, in his methods Tichý could be described as an “art brut photographer” yet he is marked by many classical influences. Though his images are produced with poor-quality equipment and carelessly shot, they offer an idiosyncratic and almost hallucinatory vision of a fantastical, eroticised reality. With his endless return to the same subject and the volume and regularity of his production, Tichý’s work draws many parallels to certain practices of conceptual art during the same period.

For thirty years Tichý took up to one hundred photographs each day, pursuing his artistic obsession with the female form. Dressed in rags and using a homemade camera, Tichy captured the universe of the people in the small town of Brno in the Czech Republic. This discovery of photography saved him from madness and the claustrophobia of political dictatorship. Though his work today is widely exhibited, Tichý worked for years as an unknown artist in complete isolation on the periphery of the art world.

A student at the Academy of Arts in Prague, Tichý left following the communist overthrow of 1948. Unwilling to subordinate to the political system he spent some eight years in prison and psychiatric wards for no reason, other than he was ‘different’ and considered subversive. Upon his release he became an outsider, occupying his time by obsessively taking photographs of the women of his home town, using homemade cameras constructed from tin cans, children’s spectacle lenses, rubber bands, scotch tape and other junk found on the streets.

He captured images of their ankles, faces and torsos whilst out strolling or sunbathing, shop-girls behind the counter, mothers pushing prams, and any others who caught his eye, sometimes finding himself in trouble with the police. These small objects of obsession, which might appear to the casual viewer to be simply voyeurism, are simultaneously melancholic and poetic.

Tichý’s work surfaced in July 2005, when he won the ‘New Discovery Award’ at Arles. Within a year he had already been featured in two solo museum exhibitions, at the Wintertaur in Zurich and the Rudolfinum, Prague, and his work has been purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum here in London. Tichý has now exhibited in museums from Holland to Canada, Finland to Ireland and Tokyo. In 2009, a seminal show was held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris where it received rave reviews. Since then, Tichý’s work has recently been on show at ICP in New York where The New York Times reviewed his work as …’intensely fascinating’. American artist Richard Prince wrote an essay for the catalogue. In his signature smart-aleck, red-blooded-male persona, Prince links Tichý to Bettie Page, Swanson’s TV dinners and the short stories of John Cheever.
 Tichý’s work will also appear at Tate Modern later this year as part of their Voyerism, Surveillance and Camera exhibition in May 2010.

Press release from the Michael Hoppen Gallery website [Online] Cited 21/05/2010 no longer available online

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

 

Miroslav Tichý

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, November 20, 1926 – April 12, 2011) was a photographer who from the 1960s until 1985 took thousands of surreptitious pictures of women in his hometown of Kyjov in the Czech Republic, using homemade cameras constructed of cardboard tubes, tin cans and other at-hand materials. Most of his subjects were unaware that they were being photographed. A few struck beauty-pageant poses when they sighted Tichý, perhaps not realising that the parody of a camera he carried was real.

His soft focus, fleeting glimpses of the women of Kyjov are skewed, spotted and badly printed – flawed by the limitations of his primitive equipment and a series of deliberate processing mistakes meant to add poetic imperfections. Of his technical methods, Tichý has said, “First of all, you have to have a bad camera”, and, “If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world.”

During the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, Tichý was considered a dissident and was badly treated by the government. His photographs remained largely unknown until an exhibition was held for him in 2004. Tichý did not attend exhibitions, and lived a life of self-sufficiency and freedom from the standards of society. Tichý died on April 12, 2011 in Kyjov, Czech Republic. …

An essay in Artforum International describes Tichý as “practically reinventing photography from scratch”, rehabilitating the soft focus, manipulated pictorial photography of the late 1800s,

“…not as a distortion of the medium but as something like its essence. What counts for him is not only the image – just one moment in the photographic process – but also the chemical activity of the materials, which is never entirely stable or complete, and the delimitation of the results via cropping and framing.”

Director Radek Horacek of the Brno House of Art, which held an exhibition of Tichý’s photographs in 2006, describes them thus:

“They are all very careful observations of women from Kyjov and of everyday trivial activities. But soon you realise that these trivial situations such as someone sitting on a bench, women waiting for a bus, someone taking a T-shirt off at a swimming pool, are somehow extraordinary. Tichý managed to give this banality a feeling of exceptionality and rarity. Just part of a female body in his pictures can look very esoteric. There are so many magazines that offer much more nudity than Tichý but his photographs are different. A woman’s tights between a knee and a skirt or a swimming costume in his pictures look somehow mysterious.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Miroslav Tichy – “Tarzan Retired”

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011) 'Untitled' c. 1960s

 

Miroslav Tichý (Czech, 1926-2011)
Untitled
c. 1960s
Unique Silver gelatin print
Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
© Miroslav Tichy

 

 

Michael Hoppen Gallery
3 Jubilee Place, London SW3 3TD
Phone: +44 (0)20 7352 3649

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday: 12.30 – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: Closed

Michael Hoppen Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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