Posts Tagged ‘gypsies

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is also the first museum show ever to emphasize his original vintage prints, period books, magazines, and significant unpublished materials.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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03
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes”‘ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 9th April 2012

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“These are simply documents I make.”

Eugène Atget

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“One might think of Atget’s work at Sceaux as… a summation and as the consummate achievement of his work as a photographer – a coherent, uncompromising statement of what he had learned of his craft, and of how he had amplified and elaborated the sensibility with which he had begun. Or perhaps one might see the work at Sceaux as a portrait of Atget himself, not excluding petty flaws, but showing most clearly the boldness and certainty – what his old friend Calmettes called the intransigence – of his taste, his method, his vision.

John Szarkowski

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The first of two postings about the work of Eugène Atget, this exhibition at MOMA the first in twenty-five years to focus on his “Documents for artists.” Atget was my first hero in photography and the greatest influence on my early black and white photography before I departed and found my own voice as an artist. Through his photographs, his vision he remains a life-long friend. He taught me so much about where to place the camera and how to see the world. He made me aware. For that I am eternally grateful.

Many thankx to MOMA 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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Eugène Atget
Coin, Boulevard de la Chapelle et rue Fleury 76,18e
June 1921
Matte albumen silver print
6 13/16 x 9″ (17.3 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Cour, 7 rue de Valence
June 1922
Matte albumen silver print
7 x 8 15/16″ (17.8 x 22.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Cour, 41 rue Broca
1912
Albumen silver print
6 5/8 x 8 1/4″ (16.9 x 21 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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“The sign above the entrance to Eugène Atget’s studio in Paris read Documents pour artistes (Documents for artists), declaring his modest ambition to create photographs for others to use as source material in their work. Atget (French, 1857–1927) made more than 8,500 pictures of Paris and its environs in a career that spanned over thirty years, from the late nineteenth century until his death. To facilitate access to this vast body of work for himself and his clients, he organized his photographs into discrete series, a model that guides the organization of this exhibition. The works are presented here in six groups, demonstrating Atget’s sustained attention to certain motifs or locations and his consistently inventive and elegant methods of rendering the complexity of the three-dimensional world on a flat, rectangular plate.

In 1925 the American artist Man Ray purchased forty-two photographs from Atget, who lived down the street from him in Montparnasse. Man Ray believed he detected a kindred Surrealist sensibility in the work, to which suggestion Atget replied, “These are simply documents I make.” This humility belies the extraordinary pictorial sophistication and beauty that is characteristic of much of Atget’s oeuvre and his role as touchstone and inspiration for subsequent generations of photographers, from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander. This exhibition bears witness to his success, no matter the unassuming description he gave of his life’s work.

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A Note on the Prints

Atget made photographs with a view camera resting on a tripod. An example of his 24-by-18-centimeter glass plate negatives is on display here. Each print was made by exposing light-sensitive paper to the sun in direct contact with one of these negatives, which Atget numbered sequentially within each series. He frequently scratched the number into the emulsion on the negative, and thus it appears in reverse at the bottom of most prints. He also inscribed the number, along with the work’s title, in pencil on the verso of each print. These titles appear (with English translations where necessary) on the individual wall labels, preserving Atget’s occasionally idiosyncratic titling practices. The Abbott-Levy Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, to which the prints in this exhibition belong (except where noted), is composed of close to 5,000 distinct photographs and 1,200 glass plate negatives that were in Atget’s studio at the time of his death. The Museum purchased this collection in 1968 from photographer Berenice Abbott and art dealer Julien Levy, thanks to the unflagging efforts of John Szarkowski, then director of the Department of Photography, and in part to the generosity of Shirley C. Burden.

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Fifth arrondissement 

For more than thirty years, Atget photographed in and around Paris. Curiously, given the depth of this investigation, he never photographed the Eiffel Tower, generally avoided the grand boulevards, and eschewed picture postcard views. Instead Atget focused on the fabric of the city: facades of individual buildings (both notable and anonymous), meandering streetscapes, details of stonework and ironwork, churches, shops, and the occasional monument. Even a selective cross section of the photographs he made in the fifth arrondissement over the course of his career suggests that his approach, while far from systematic, might yet be termed comprehensive.

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Courtyards

Atget clearly relished the metaphorical and physical aspects of the courtyard – a space that hovers between public and private, interior and exterior – and he photographed scores of them, both rural and urban. The motif was chosen as the backdrop for what was likely Atget’s first photograph of an automobile (Cour, 7 rue de Valence), and it was versatile enough to transform itself depending on where Atget placed his camera (see the two views of the courtyard at 27 quai d’Anjou). The dark areas that appear in the upper corners of some prints are the result of vignetting: a technique in which the light coming through the camera’s lens does not fully cover the glass plate negative, allowing Atget to create an arched pictorial space that echoed the physical one before his camera.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève
June 1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 11/16 x 8 3/4″ (17 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Maison où Mourut Voltaire en 1778, 1 rue de Beaune
1909
Albumen silver print
8 9/16 x 7″ (21.8 x 17.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Balcon, 17 rue du Petit-Pont
1913
Albumen silver print
8 5/8 x 6 15/16″ (21.9 x 17.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes presents six fresh and highly focused cross sections of the career of master photographer Eugène Atget (French, 1857 – 1927), drawn exclusively from The Museum of Modern Art’s unparalleled holdings of his work. The exhibition, on view at MoMA from February 6 through April 9, 2012, gets its name from the sign outside Atget’s studio door, which declared his modest ambition to create documents for other artists to use as source material in their own work. Whether exploring Paris’s fifth arrondissement across several decades, or the decayed grandeur of parks at Sceaux in a remarkable creative outburst at the twilight of his career, Atget’s lens captured the essence of his chosen subject with increasing complexity and sensitivity. Also featured are Atget’s photographs made in the Luxembourg gardens; his urban and rural courtyards; his pictures of select Parisian types; and his photographs of mannequins, store windows, and street fairs, which deeply appealed to Surrealist artists living in Paris after the First World War. The exhibition is organized by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Atget made more than 8,500 pictures of Paris and its environs in a career that spanned over 30 years, from the late-19th century until his death. To facilitate access to this vast body of work for himself and his clients, he organized his photographs into discrete series, a model that guides the organization of this exhibition. More than 100 photographs are presented in six groups, demonstrating Atget’s sustained attention to certain motifs or locations and his consistently inventive and elegant methods of rendering the complexity of the three-dimensional world on a flat, rectangular plate.

With seemingly inexhaustible curiosity, Atget photographed the streets of Paris. Eschewing picture-postcard views, and, remarkably, never once photographing the Eiffel Tower, he instead focused on the fabric of the city, taking pictures along the Seine, in every arrondissement, and in the “zone” outside the fortified wall that encompassed Paris at the time. His photographs of the fifth arrondissement are typical of this approach, and include facades of individual buildings (both notable and anonymous), meandering streetscapes, details of stonework and ironwork, churches, and the occasional monument.

Between March and June 1925, Atget made 66 photographs in the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris, almost half of which are on view in this exhibition. His approach was confident and personal, even quixotic, and his notations of the time of day for certain exposures read almost like diary entries. These photographs have long been recognized as among Atget’s finest, and this is the first opportunity for audiences outside of France to appreciate the full diversity and richness of this accomplishment.

Atget photographed the Jardin de Luxembourg more than any other Parisian park, likely reflecting his preference for its character and its proximity to his home and studio on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse. His early photographs there tend to capture human activity – children with their governesses or men conversing in the shade – but this gave way to a more focused exploration of the garden’s botanical and sculptural components following the First World War, and culminated in studies that delicately balance masses of light and shadow, as is typical of Atget’s late work.

Atget firmly resisted public association with the Surrealists, yet his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – captured the eye of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived down the street from Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott, while working as Man Ray’s studio assistant, made Atget’s acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death to MoMA, almost 40 years later.

Atget clearly relished the metaphorical and physical aspects of the courtyard – a space that hovers between public and private, interior and exterior – and he photographed scores of them, both rural and urban. This exhibition marks the first time these pictures have been grouped together, allowing the public to appreciate previously unexplored aspects of the Abbott-Levy Collection, which includes prints of nearly 5,000 different images.

Only a tiny fraction of the negatives Atget exposed during his lifetime are photographs of people, yet they have attracted attention disproportionate to their number. With few exceptions, this segment of his creative output can be divided into three types: street merchants (petits métiers); ragpickers (chiffonniers) or Romanies (romanichels, or Gypsies), who lived in impermanent structures just outside the fortified wall surrounding Paris; and prostitutes. As with each section of this exhibition, Atget’s career is represented by the finest prints drawn from critically distinct and essential aspects of his practice, allowing a fresh appreciation of photography’s first modern master.”

Press release from the MOMA website

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1923-25
Matte albumen silver print
6 7/8 x 9″ (17.5 x 22.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1923-25
Matte albumen silver print
7 x 8 13/16″ (17.8 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1902-03
Albumen silver print
6 5/8 x 8 3/8″ (16.8 x 21.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Jardin de Luxembourg 

Atget photographed the Jardin de Luxembourg more than any other Parisian park, likely reflecting his preference for its character as well as its proximity to his home and studio on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse (about a ten-minute walk away). His photographs of the gardens made around 1900 tend to capture human activity (children with their governesses, men conversing in the shade), but this gave way to a more focused exploration of the garden’s botanical and sculptural components following the First World War and culminated in studies that delicately balance masses of light and shadow, typical of Atget’s late work.

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Parc de Sceaux 

Between March and June 1925, Atget made sixty-six photographs in the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris. His approach was confident and personal, even quixotic, and his notations of the time of day for certain exposures read almost like diary entries. John Szarkowski wrote of this body of work: “One might think of Atget’s work at Sceaux as… a summation and as the consummate achievement of his work as a photographer – a coherent, uncompromising statement of what he had learned of his craft, and of how he had amplified and elaborated the sensibility with which he had begun. Or perhaps one might see the work at Sceaux as a portrait of Atget himself, not excluding petty flaws, but showing most clearly the boldness and certainty – what his old friend Calmettes called the intransigence – of his taste, his method, his vision. Atget made his last photograph at Sceaux after its restoration had begun. He perceived that the effort to tidy the grounds in anticipation of their conversion to a public park would fundamentally alter the untended, decayed grandeur that had been his muse.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux
June 1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
7 x 8 7/8″ (17.8 x 22.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux, mars, 8 h. matin
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
7 1/16 x 8 13/16″ (17.9 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux, 7 h. matin
March 1925
Matte albumen silver print
6 15/16 x 9 1/16″ (17.6 x 23 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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People of Paris 

Only a tiny fraction of the negatives Atget exposed during his lifetime feature the human figure as a central element. With few exceptions, this segment of his creative output can be divided into three types: street merchants (petits métiers); zoniers—ragpickers (chiffonniers) and Romanies (romanichels, or Gypsies)—who lived in impermanent structures in the zone just outside the fortified wall surrounding Paris; and prostitutes. The painter André Dignimont commissioned Atget to pursue this third subject in the spring of 1921, but the decidedly untawdry resulting images of brothels and prostitutes are only obliquely suggestive of the nature of their trade, so it is not difficult to imagine why the commission was concluded after only about a dozen negatives.

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Surrogates and the Surreal 

Atget’s photograph Pendant l’éclipse (During the eclipse) was featured on the cover of the seventh issue of the Parisian Surrealists’ publication La Révolution surréaliste, with the caption Les Dernières Conversions (The last converts), in June 1926. The picture was uncredited, as were the two additional photographs reproduced inside. Although Atget firmly resisted the association, his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – had captured the attention of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived on the same street as Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott (working as Man Ray’s studio assistant) learned of the French photographer and made his acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death (in 1927) to The Museum of Modern Art almost forty years later.

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Fête du Trône
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 7/16 x 8 7/16″ (16.4 x 21.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Fête de Vaugirard
1926
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 13/16 x 8 3/4″ (17.3 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Avenue des Gobelins
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
8 1/4 x 6 1/2″ (21 x 16.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Romanichels, groupe
1912
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
8 3/8 x 6 11/16″ (21.2 x 17 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Phone: (212) 708-9400

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MoMA 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: ‘Mask’ 1994

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