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Header photo credit: Ilse Bing, American (1899-1998), Me in Mirror with Leica (detail), 1931; gelatin silver print. Gift of the Estate of Ilse Bing Wolf (DIA NO. 2001.106), © Estate of Ilse Bing. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.
André Kertész (1894-1985) brought a fresh eye along with his own perception of time and place to the art of photography. He worked intuitively – from the heart – most often without preconceived notions of the outcome of his photographs. His attention to light and composition was unique in his time.
Recently the Detroit Institute of Arts opened the exhibition An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-1969, which celebrates the artist’s work from over five decades. The exhibition, drawn primarily from the DIA’s permanent collection, surveys his long and impressive career with 60 black-and-white photographs taken in Hungary, Paris and New York.
André Kertész was born in Budapest, Hungary, and obtained his first camera at the age of eighteen. He frequently photographed in his native countryside, and found meaningful subject matter in the landscape and among local farmers, family and friends. During World War I (1914-18) Kertész joined the Hungarian army and continued to take photographs, although he did not depict the horrors of war and instead made casual photographs of fellow soliders. The DIA is fortunate to have a selection of these early photographs which are on loan from the Museum of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
But Kertész is largely known for his photographic work made in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. Looking to prove himself as a serious photographer, he moved to the city in 1925. There he captured famous artists, writers and other creative individuals he met, but he became best known for his photographs of the city, mostly made on foot while he wandered around in neighborhoods, parks and other public spaces as a solitary observer. Kertész found great success in Paris. His workwas included in exhibitions and was published frequently in magazines.
In 1936, Kertész moved with his wife, Elizabeth, to New York. He made the photograph Melancholic Tulip just two years after their arrival around 1938. Using distortion mirrors, a technique he had experimented with in Paris, he created it as a self-portrait representative of his disillusionment over a stalled photographic career and difficult transition to life in America. Although he only intended to stay in the U.S. for a short time, the outbreak of World War II made his return to Paris impossible. It was a difficult period for the artist, and he had problems making professional connections in New York.
Eventually he signed a contract with House and Garden magazine, to photograph interiors and architecture from 1947-62. His personal work diminished, but the DIA has a few photographs from these years including photographs of Washington Square Park, a frequent and familiar subject that he captured from the height of his 12th floor New York City apartment. It was not until he retired from the magazine in the early 1960s that he returned to his personal work with a renewed enthusiasm. He also finally achieved recognition that had alluded him for years when a renewed interest in his work led to international exhibitions and publications.
Just in time for the holidays, An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-69 is now on view in the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography and will run through April 10, 2011. The exhibition is free with museum admission.
Daily Beast blogger and former NYTimes page one picture editor will present a lecture this evening on the life and work of Hungarian photographer André Kertész. Join us a 7p.m. in the DIA’s Lecture Hall. The lecture is free with museum admission and is sponsored by The Forum for Prints, Drawings and Photographs.
Since its reopening in the summer of 2008, the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography has been the site of four exhibitions, along with nails, wire, plaster and the general wear and tear that plenty of foot traffic can bring into the gallery. So earlier this year, the DIA’s photo gallery closed for a minor facelift and general sprucing up. Contractors are now finished up with work and installation on the next exhibition begins this week.
Recently, museum techs assisted with testing paints, colors and lighting to compliment photographic works of art. In recent years, we brought a cooler, contemporary look to the space quite unlike its original and outdated suburban look from the days of yore…
And visitors will find photograph exhibitions now adjacent to another refurbished space intended for more permanent collection treasures. This area currently is closed off but will see completion closer to the end of the year. Preliminary work has revealed the original footprint and Beaux Arts details that architect Paul Cret had originally envisioned for this section of the building nearby Cafe DIA. But you may get a sneak peek when coming to see the next exhibition featuring work by Hungarian photographer André Kertész. Visitors will pass through the area to enter the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography which will reopen to the public Wednesday, November 24, just in time for our annual Thanksgiving holiday rush.
As summer comes to a close, and we push through our annual August slow down, it’s no doubt our visitors are wondering what’s been going on at the DIA. Through African Eyes closed earlier in the month. The exhibition was carefully packed up and is now en route to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. A few select photographs from the DIA’s collection by West African photographer Sedyou Keita and South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa will travel with other exquisite and very unique African treasures from museums around the world.
In the meantime, our special exhibitions galleries are presently in overhaul mode as we prepare for the November 21, 2010, opening of Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries which will feature about 50 re-evaluated permanent collection works of all media and from many cultures. The exhibition explores the methods used by museums to examine and authenticate works of art. One photograph will be on view – a dubious Man Ray rayogram (also known as a photogram) that experts believe is a copy, but you’ll have to come to the exhibition to learn more about this.
With the Robert Frank photo exhibition closing in July, and our main photo gallery down for most of the year, behind the scenes preparations are ongoing for an upcoming season of new programs and more exhibitions in development. The Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery is now under wraps for a fresh paint job and cleaning but will open again to the public on November 24, 2010, with An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-1969. Largely a permanent collection exhibition, we were fortunate to find the artist’s lesser known, but critical early Hungarian photographs which will be on loan from University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor. From the DIA’s collection, we’ve included Kertész’s iconic work from Paris in the 1920s and 1930s in addition to late work he made throughout New York City after 1940. The exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work at the DIA and coincides with the 25th anniversary of his death in 1985.
Our stellar department support group – The Forum for Prints, Drawings and Photographs – will host a series of artist’s lectures this fall as well as an encore presentation by Philip Gefter on the work of André Kertész. Gefter traveled to Detroit and the DIA this past June for a talk on Robert Frank, and we so enjoyed it, we asked him back again! Join us for his lecture and a special preview of An Intuitive Eye at 7pm on Friday, November 19, 2010. The exhibition will open officially to the public on Sunday, November 24, 2010, and is free with museum admission.
On the publications front, DIA editor Judith Ruskin and I have finalized texts for an upcoming issue of the DIA’s Bulletin – the first dedicated solely to the medium of photography (the DIA’s Bulletin has been in publication since 1919). Ongoing research and interest in our growing collection by several colleagues across the nation led to the development of this journal. The issue will feature essays on permanent collection works including Victorian era photography as seen in the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins and examine the pre World War II era of pictorialism in the work of Paul Anderson. Also highlighted are contemporary photographs including work by Lewis Baltz, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Greg Crewdson and the young women of the so-called Yale School who rose to fame in the late 1990s. MFA, Boston, colleague Karen Haas was even kind enough to take time away from her research as curator of The Lane Collection to pen a very interesting article on a series of 1955 photographs made by Robert Frank for an essay on train travel for Fortune magazine. The Bulletin is due out sometime in September 2010 and will be available in our museum shop.
One highlight from the summer was an email from writer and film producer Mary Dejarlais asking if I would take part in the upcoming documentary film based on the life and photographic work of Detroit native Bill Rauhauser, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday. As a former photo student of Bill’s at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, back in the 1980s, it was an absolute pleasure to share what I remembered about him as a mentor and creative spirit. And so few people know about his efforts to establish the DIA’s photography collection early in the 1960s. Bill still supports the DIA and attends events and exhibitions. News about the film’s première and accompanying biography will get posted here as soon as I get word from the producers, but we may see it screen locally in September 2010. Desjarlais is also the author of a biography about Bill to be published this fall.
For a good part of the summer, DIA Mellon Fellow Hope Saska has been immersed in the work of Hungarian photographer André Kertész for preparation of an upcoming exhibition from our permanent collection. In this picture of the week – we feature one of the artist’s iconic images which he made shortly after his arrival in Paris and while on a visit to Dutch painter Piet Mondrian’s home. Kertész later mused,” I went to his studio and instinctively tried to capture in my photographs the spirit of his paintings. He simplified, simplified, simplified the studio with its symmetry dictated composition.”
This image is one of about seventy photographs that will be on view in An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-1969 opening Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at the DIA.
Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955 will be on view through Saturday, July 3, 2010. It may be your last chance to see these rare pictures by the legendary artist. The next photo show at the DIA will open on November 24, 2010 when we present An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-1969. The exhibition surveys Kertész’s career with nearly 100 photographs taken in Hungary, Paris and New York.