Underwater Swimmer, 1917
André Kertész (1894-1985) is a Hungarian-born photographer whose practice has defined contemporary views on artistic composition in photojournalism. As a huge over-simplification, his work can be divided into three phases based on his location - Hungary, France and the United States. Although Kertész began experimenting with composition in Hungary, it seems that his time in Paris (between 1925-1936) was his most significant period of conceptual development. His circle of friends included Mondrian, Robert Capa, Madga Förstner, Étienne Beöthy, Man Ray, Colette, Sergei Eisenstein and Marc Chagall, all of whom seem to have influenced his style and focus.
Last week, I took my mother and my grandmother to André Kertész, a retrospective at Jeu De Paume, a gallery space at the foot of le jardin des Tuileries. All the photographs featured in this entry were on display.
Broken Plate, 1929
The show is curated by Michel Frizot and Annie-Laure Wanaverbecq. They did a fabulous job of collecting works from galleries and private collections around the world. In terms of a retrospective, the exhibition is a success, showcasing every transition in the artist’s career. Relevant photographs, negatives and magazine excerpts are clustered together so subtly, that the viewer develops a genuine intimacy with the progression of Kertész’s work.
There are, however, basic presentation flaws that were overlooked by the curators and gallery staff. The wall paint is uneven and patchy in areas. Furthermore, certain framed Kertész pieces have spots or dirt on the glass, creating shadows on the photographs. The fact that these two simple gallery procedures - preparing the walls and making sure the art is properly visible - have been neglected, demonstrates a level of unprofessionalism that has tainted my fondness for this retrospective. Why go to the trouble of researching and collecting so many rare Kertész works if the gallery space looks amateur? Call me a perfectionist, but the presentation of André Kertész does not meet my standards; I expect more from a gallery in Paris.
Fan, December, 1937
My infatuation with the photography and life of André Kertész is transparent- I relate to the feeling of being an outsider trying to capture the essence of Paris, letting the city’s culture envelop me and flow into my art. Similar to Kertész, most of my friends are artists or fashion-enthusiasts drawn to Paris from other countries. I can only hope that I have sipped espresso alongside the next Mondrian or Sergei Eisenstein, but that is not my goal here. I see this experience as an opportunity to learn art history at the birthplace of so many significant movements. I want to attend as many exhibitions as I possibly can! Hopefully, the next one I attend will be organized by people who know how to work a bottle of Windex.
Lost Cloud, 1937
André Kertész is on display at Jeu De Paume (metro Concord) until February 6, 2011.