André Kertész | The Other Venus – A Show by Orshi Drozdik | “…and what about the Jews?” | Urban Tactics | The Wanderer in the Land of Illnesses – A Show by György Román
Gábor Rieder: André Kertész
Regarded to have been one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, André Kertész is now celebrated in the Hungarian National Museum with a matchless exhibition of his vintage copies. Equipped with magnifying glasses, Hungarian and foreign visitors are vying to get close to the miniature pieces. Instead of digital blow-ups of poster size, courtesy the curators of the Jeu de Paume of Paris we now have the small but original vintage photographs that are very rare in Hungarian museums since most of our world-star photographers including Kertész had worked, and made vintage copies of their works, abroad.
It is a fact acknowledged across the world’s art market that a crumpled, acid-eaten copy developed by the artist himself can be worth a hundred times more than a digital blow-up executed half a century later, and in excellent condition. This fact has double validity in the case of Kertész who hardly set foot in his lab after WWII. But even before that, for all his commissions from French and American magazines, he had remained a “photo artist” rather than being a press photographer, working primarily for himself and his friends, signing, and commenting on, his copies that he would often send to his friends as PPCs by mail.
Kertész was no careerist like his fellow-Hungarian colleagues Robert Capa or Márton Munkácsi obsessed as they were with fame and money. Although he had exhibited in Paris in the company of Avant-Garde artists, he kept as great a distance from the various Isms of the art scene as from the glaring world of press-photography (a field that fed him). His melancholy pessimism overwhelmed him after his move to New York City in 1936. The US public thought little of Kertész’s refined symbolism, his pretty shadows, playful reflections, telling compositions. He turned to stray clouds confronting skyscrapers, withering tulips, chimneys in disarray, snow-covered parks, decomposing firewalls.
For much of his isolation lasting several decades in New York City Kertész suffered from genuine depression. Not that he had been too fond of social turmoil before that. During WWI he would make snapshots of his friends back home, or of simple peasants appearing on the roadside rather than frontline military action. In Paris, he made a dozen portraits of the most important Avant-Garde artists including Lajos Tihanyi and Mondrian. The composition was always telling whether it centred on a face or just a pipe, a bookshelf, or nooks and crannies of a disorderly atelier. He preferred to look behind the egos of his artist friends.
At the time of his re-discovery in the 60s and 70s he was put into the pigeon-hole of socially committed photographers. Not without any foundation. He did sympathise with the miserable, but disliked the brutal imagery of press-photography. He preferred to make a picture of an artificial limb left behind in a cheap hotel room. The Americans thought he was a Surrealist (they thought each Avant-Garde artist was one) which, in its turn, was also true to some extent, see e.g. his elephants trotting before an aeroplane, or the arm sticking out of a fan, or indeed his female nudes viewed through a distorting mirror.
But no pigeon-hole is fitting for him. He was a man for himself; he even photographed for himself rather than the magazines or the history of photography. In the meantime he managed to shoot some of the most outstanding pictures of the 20th century including the fork put on the edge of a plate, or the blind violinist who since has become a symbol of Eastern Europe, or the errand-boy snoring in the café, or Mondrian’s pipe and spectacles, or the melancholy tulip, or the giggling dancer on the sofa, etc. All those can be seen at the exhibition in vintage copies as early as possible, from the earliest photos shot while he had lived in Hungary right on to the last Polaroid pictures made in his old age in NYC.
29 September – 31 December
Hungarian National Museum
The Other Venus – A Show by Orshi Drozdik
8 October – 8 January, 2012
MODEM – Modern and Contemporary Arts Centre, Debrecen
While still a student at the Arts Academy, in the mid-70s, Drozdik was already pre-occupied with an individual mythology, i.e. her own system of values in the midst of a patriarchal social and art scene. The show consists of her earliest works, elaborations on her earliest works, and more recent, current works by the artist engaged in an ongoing battle for self-expression.
“…and what about the Jews?”
5 October – 5 December
Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archive
The exhibition is not about the existence or non-existence of Jewish art (sometimes even the adjective Hungarian can be questioned); neither is it about what a Hungarian artist (Jewish or not) thinks about the Jews. It is about what today’s Hungarian artists (Jewish or not) take to be the general social attitude of today’s Hungarian society towards Jewishness – as expressed in their respective particular visual styles.
8 October – 30 October
Organised by “Art Moments by Hybridart”, the show wishes to give a sense of the ordinary pedestrian meeting quality works of art as he/she moves about in the street. Foreign and Hungarian artists invited to the show produce a large billboard each day – an effort bordering on graffiti art. Another aim of the show is to prove that street art is not equal to vandalism.
The Wanderer in the Land of Illnesses – A Show by György Román
10 October – 5 November
Hungarian Academy of Arts – Barcsay Hall
Román’s paintings and writings were equally marked by “the all-the-same technique of a message impossible to defer” (Miklós Erdély). His art and writing are based on the visionary dreams that he had lived through during his childhood illnesses. Along with his curious paintings, his graphic art, sketches, dream diaries, documentary photos, manuscripts etc. are also represented. A film made on him and his art back in 1979 is also on view.