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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jaromir Funke - Apples

Jaromir Funke - Apples
Jaromir Funke - Apples

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

Apples – such an elegant close-up!

Funke was a leading figure in Czech photography in the 1920s and 30s. In 1924 he, Josef Sudek and Adolf Schneeberger founded the Czech Photographic Society. Funke headed the photography department at the School of Arts and Crafts in Bratislava and was editor of the journal Fotografický obzor (Photographic Horizons) for several years (Wikipedia).

Here are some more works of Funke. The Visual Force of Posters: the eye there is haunting; like the one from the Man with a Movie Camera it gives a metaphysical dimension to the image. The next photo is named New Architecture: it has the delicacy of Sheeler’s drawings. Follows a study of shadows. There is a subtle tension in this photo: a drama where the main characters (the objects) seem to be present only to send their shadows. The same with the two other photographs: the Spiral seems to have holistic properties, telling us somehow the story of the whole room; the Abstraction (the name of the last image) is not so much about the nude as it is about relationships between nude, run, shadows.

Jaromir Funke - The Visual Force of Posters
Jaromir Funke - New Architecture
Jaromir Funke - Shadows
Jaromir Funke - Spiral, 1924, Washington National Gallery of Art
Jaromir Funke - Abstraction

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Devětsil and Abeceda

A is like a simple hut

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

(Modernism, Designing a New World, 1914-1939 - Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art)

When the world gets too crazy and everything is upside down you should consider starting again with the alphabet. That’s what the guys from Devětsil did. It was just a couple of years after the end of WWI, in the early 20’s, and Devětsil was a group of avant-garde artists from Prague, looking for their way. Vitěszlav Nezval was challenging the meaning for each letter of the alphabet. Sounds weird? Think at the Suprematists, Malevich and all the others, and their Victory over the Sun. Think at Magritte, or Jasper Jones. The whole art of the twentieth century put itself firstly in motion to search the meaning of objects, to come then to the language. Words were questioned, and the relationship between words and objects. The meaning of each word was challenged: to be refined, consolidated or even redefined. It was the century of Wittgenstein.
What Suprematists did in Victory over the Sun with words, Devětsil did with letters, in their Abeceda.
Vitěszlav Nezval wrote for each letter a small poem, excited by the intellectual gymnastics afforded by poetry’s most immediate object: letters. He focused on their visual suggestiveness. A was reminding him of a simple hut, C was reminding him of the crescent. As for S, this was associated with snake charmers, snake dancers and syphilis (which could have been the unfortunate result of too close encounters between charmers and dancers):

On the plains of darkest India
Lived John, a charmer of snakes.
He loved Alice, the snake dancer.
She kissed him too strongly,
He died of syphilis

So, at the beginning was a poet. Then a ballerina came into picture: Milca Majerova imagined choreographic movements for each letter.
The dances needed to be immortalized. And the photographer came: Karel Maria Paspa, author of some still images for each dance.
Much later, in 2000, a movie would be made with Mayerova’s dances, Alphabet. The movie was done at the Wolfsonian Florida International University, an institution trying to recreate the spirit of Devětsil, Bauhaus, VKhUTEMAS… the avant-garde of the twenties.
But let’s come back to the epoch of Devětsil. Someone was still needed for the building of Abeceda, the Alphabet Book. This was Karel Teige, who made the graphical design of the book, chose the images and decided on the layout for the poems of Nezsval.
Teige was interested in the relationships between verbal and visual art, industrial technology and mass media. So, he respected the integrity of the text while playing with it now and then (as well as with photographs of the dancer and the letters themselves). What Teige got was a poetic dialogue between text and images: and here is where the strange appeal of the book comes from.
Karel Teige would say later (in Moderní Typo), in Nezsval’s Abeceda, a cycle of rhymes based on the shapes of letters, I tried to create a typofoto of a purely abstract and poetic nature, setting into graphic poetry what Nezsval set into verbal poetry in his verse, both being poems evoking the magic signs of the alphabet.

Like so many avant-garde artists, Teige was a fervent Communist. And it happened with him what happened with so many avant-garde artists: after welcoming the Soviet army as liberators, Teige was silenced by the Communist government in 1948. In 1951 he died of a heart attack, said to be a result of a ferocious press campaign against him as a 'Trotskyite degenerate', his papers were destroyed by the secret police, and his published work was suppressed for decades (Wikipedia).




The video on top of this post was created by Larsen & Friends.

S tells us of snack charmers and snack dancers

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

František Čermák - Sadness of a Quai in Prague, 1934

František Čermák - Sadness of a Quai in Prague, 1934
František Čermák - Sadness of a Quai in Prague, 1934
(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)
I have to say that I'm in love with Prague. It is a strange city that pours in you a perverse fascination. Gustav Meyrink believed that the Golem was coming there every thirty tears, Jan Švankmajer met there Alice and Faust - I cannot be positive about; anyway some wizardry is there; perhaps an old puppeteer playing with magic and teasing the visitors. It was that puppeteer who left the carts on the photo, later they were no more.
The only information I found about František Čermák on the web was that his works are at the Moravská galerie v Brně.

(Modernism in Central Europe)


Friday, June 22, 2007

Imre Kinszki - Bridge and Fog, 1930

Imre Kinszki - Bridge and Fog, 1930
Imre Kinszki - Bridge and Fog, 1930
(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

Born in Budapest in 1901, Kinszki was a well-connected Modernist photographer whose works could stand up with pictures by more famous Hungarian peers like André Kertesz, Brassai and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Fotolia).

Here are some other photos of him: his daughter, Judith, then After the Rain (made in 1930) that reminds me of a great image from Regen, the masterpiece of Joris Ivens (from 1929), then the cover of a Kinszki album (the railway image), followed by a typewriter (compare it with the photos of Albert Renger-Patzsch). Follow two studies of shadows on the snow, a Budapestan street as it was looking in 1929, a locomotive (and here another masterpiece of Ivens comes in mind, De Brug, made in 1928), and a monumental close-up of a chess game (Fotolia).

Imre Kinszky never left Hungary, and he died in a concentration camp in 1945 (Fotolia).

Imre Kinszki - Judith

Imre Kinszki - After the Rain, c. 1930

Cover of an album by Imre Kinszki

Imre Kinszki - Typewriter, 1930

Imre Kinszki - Shadow, 1929

Imre Kinszki - Shadow on the Snow, 1931

Imre Kinszki - Budapest, 1929

Imre Kinszki - Locomotive, 1929

Imre Kinszki - Chess, 1930

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Eva Besnyö - Magda, Balaton, 1931

Eva Besnyö - Magda, Balaton, 1931

Eva Besnyö - Magda, Balaton, 1931

I did not see any photos of Eva Besnyö at the Modernity in Central Europe exhibition. She was born in Budapest, but emigrated in The Netherlands at age 22. She became in the 40's the Great Lady of Netherlands' photography, Grande Dame van de Nederlandse fotografie (Tieske).

Central in her work are photographic properties, like focus, attention for detail and print (Noorderlicht Photofestival 1997).

Here are some more photos made by Eva Besnyö: a too small music player with a too big instrument, a fantasy, a self-portrait from 1931, a child.

Eva Besnyö - a little music player with a big instrument
Eva Besnyö - Fantasy

Eva Besnyö - Self-portrait, 1931

Eva Besnyö - Child

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kata Kálmán - Coal Worker, 1931

Kata Kálmán - Coal Carrier, 1931, Hungarian Museum of Photography Kata Kálmán - Coal Worker, 1931

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

The photographs made by Kata Kálmán have a strong social accent, visible also in her images of children.

Kata Kálmán - Ernö Weisz, ouvrier, 1932

Kata Kálmán - Child eating Bread

Kata Kálmán - Petite Tzigane, 1930

Kata Kálmán - Enfant à l'imperméable

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Albert Renger-Patzsch - Still Life with Tools

Albert Renger-Patzsch - Still Life with Tools
Albert Renger-Patzsch - Still Life with Tools
(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

Still Life with Tools - I remained astonished by the beauty of the photo. Then I saw at the exhibition another work of Renger-Patzsch, Glasses.

Die Welt ist schön was published by Renger-Patzsch in 1927. This book is a collection of one hundred of his photographs in which natural forms, industrial subjects and mass-produced objects are presented with the clarity of scientific illustrations. In its sharply focused and matter-of-fact style his work exemplifies the esthetic of the New Objectivity that flourished in the arts in Germany during the Weimar Republic (Wikipedia).

Here are some more images: Glasses (1927), Kaffee Hag (Bremen, 1925), Maschinenhammer (1927), Zollverein (Essen, 1929)

Albert Renger-Patzsch - Glasses, c. 1927

Albert Renger-Patzsch - Kaffee Hag, Bremen, 1925

Albert Renger-Patzsch - Maschinenhammer, 1927

Albert Renger-Patzsch - Zollverein, Essen, 1929

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Miroslav Hák - End of Line in Dejvice, 1944

Miroslav Hák - End of Line in Dejvice, 1944, Brno Moravska Galerie
Miroslav Hák - End of Line in Dejvice, 1944

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

This image of a street car at the end of line is really cool. I think this is the photo I liked the most from the whole exhibition and I am glad that later I found it on the web, on a site of the Washington National Gallery of Art, so I can show it to you.
Here are some other photographs made by Miroslav Hák: the first one is named A dalši (literally, And So On), the second one is a Little Girl, then you see a Mask - the last one is entitled Window.

Miroslav Hák - A dalsi

Miroslav Hák - Little Girl

Miroslav Hák - Maska, 1938

Miroslav Hák - Window

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

John Heartfield - Fathers and Sons, 1924

John Heartfield - Fathers and Sons, 1924
John Heartfield - Fathers and Sons, 1924

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

Helmut Herzfeld chose to call himself John Heartfield in 1916, as a protest against the anti-British sentiment prevalent in Germany during World War I. Under the influence of Brecht he chose the photomontage as a form of strong political expression. Heartfield activated within the Communist Party of Germany and worked for Die Rothe Fahne and for A-I-Z (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung). After the arrival of Hitler at power, Heartfield left Germany - he moved to Czechoslovakia, then to England. After World War II he settled in East Germany (Wikipedia)

John Heartfield - Photomontage, 1933

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Martin Munkácsi - A Second Too Late

Martin Munkásci, A Second Too Late

Martin Munkácsi - A Second Too Late

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

Born in Cluj in 1896, Martin Munkácsi worked firstly as a newspaper writer and photographer in Budapest, specializing in sports. In 19928 he moved to Berlin, where his photo of Leni Riefenstahl made the cover of Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, to make in the same year the cover for Time, too.

Martin Munkásci - Leni Riefenstahl, 1931

After Hitler's arrival at power, Munkácsi left for New York, where he worked for Harper's Bazaar and for Life.
Innovatively, he often left the studio to shoot outdoors, on the beach, on farms and fields, at an airport. He produced one of the first articles ilustrated with nude photographs in a popular magazine (Wikipedia).

Black Boys Ashore Lake Tanganyika, was shot in 1931.

Martin Munkásci, Black Boys ashore Lake Tanganyika'

Martin Munkácsi died in New York in 1963.

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kazimierz Podsadecki - City, Mill of Life

Kazimierz Podsadecki - City, The Mill of Life Kazimierz Podsadecki - City, Mill of Life, 1929

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

Here is another photograph made by Kazimierz Podsadecki. The title is Wenus. The approach is surrealist, while his City, Mill of Life is a superb example of futurism.

Kazimierz Podsadecki, Wenus

A photomontage co-authored by Kazimierz Podsadecki and Janusz Maria Brzeski. They established in 1932 the Polish Avant-Garde Film Studio (SPAF).

Both were fascinated with experimental cinema, especially its daring and dynamic editing, and for them the photomontage was a dynamically edited film (Polish Photomontage Between The World Wars).

Kazimierz Podsadecki and Janusz Maria Brzeski, Photomontage

And three works by Janusz Maria Brzeski. The first is Runner, made in 1935. As for the other two, I don't know their titles.

Janusz Maria Brzeski, Runner, 1935

Janusz Maria Brzeski, Sielanka
Janusz Maria Brzeski, Polska

(Modernism in Central Europe)