Soul and Body

Kertész to Mapplethorpe through the Eyes of the Greatest Masters of Photography

6 June 2008 - 6 July 2008

Until now important photographic art exhibitions in Hungary have either presented a well- defined period, the life of an individual artist, or in other cases the works of art of a group of artists. The exhibition entitled Soul and Body takes a new approach: the organisers set out to ensure that the visitor to the exhibition not only gets the opportunity to see outstanding works of art by photographic artists, but will also be able to follow the aesthetic and technical changes in the history of photography through the two essential approaches to human existence along which the pieces on display, spanning from the 1900s to the present day, are organised.

Among those in the art world it is common knowledge that in the period between the two world wars Hungary was one of the most significant countries in the area of photographic art. Artists bearing the stamp of genius such as André Kertész [Andor Kertész], (1894–1985), László Moholy–Nagy, (1895–1946), Brassaï [Gyula Halász] (1899–1984) and Robert Capa [Endre Ernő Friedmann], (1912–1954) guarantee success in every exhibition hall anywhere in the world. Their photos were icons of the period between the two world wars; the ones featuring in the exhibition present the work of these artists from the years preceding World War I to the years after World War II. However, our exhibition also shows the kind of photographic environment in which the careers of these photographers developed in Hungary. We would not be able to understand the roots of these artists without the work of their contemporaries, such as Rudolf Balogh, Károly Escher, Olga Máté, József Pécsi and Dénes Rónai. Similarly, we would not be able to fit their work into the universal history of photography if we were not familiar with the works of their contemporaries. For this reason, we "wove" works of art into the tapestry of the exhibition from numerous public collections from around the world that are icons of photographic art, by artists who represent a reference point in an introduction of this branch of art anywhere in the world. Parallels can be drawn between László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray, between Martin Munkácsi and Henri Cartier Bresson, as well as between Alfred Stieglitz, who was active in the painterly era of photography, and the Hungary-based József Pécsi.

In the course of exploring the photographic themes on display we also present works of art which, although not photographic icons were nevertheless created by artists that played an outstandingly important role in the history of photography.

Thus, pictures will be displayed from the oeuvre of such artists as Lewis Hine, Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti and Sebastião Salgado, who are not so well-known in Hungary but nevertheless fit into our themes through what they wish to express. Other world famous artists that will be given a place in our exhibition include Berenice Abbott, Ilse Bing, Werner Bischof, Yousuf Karsh, Dorothea Lange, Joan Myers, Helmut Newton, Alexander Rodtchenko, and Cindy Sherman. A place was also reserved for a display of prominent works of the last few decades, all the way to contemporary photography. In examining these works a conceptual kinship can be discovered between Robert Mapplethorpe and György Tóth, as well as between Josef Koudelka and Imre Benkő, which only becomes possible in the framework of an exhibition presenting Hungarian photographic art through the eyes of the great masters of photography worldwide. Thus, the thematically constructed visual voyage takes visitors from André Kertész, who was born in 1894, to Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989.

Péter Baki
Museum of Hungarian Photography

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