“The camera is my tool.
Through it, I give a reason to everything around me.”
The Art Institute of Chicago presents a landmark exhibition of early experimental works by preeminent photographer, André Kertész.
A true master of his craft, Kertész was one of the most important practitioners of the 20th century, renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to photographic composition and the photo essay.
Characterized by geometric shapes, shadows, reflections, and a remarkable acuity, his profoundly captivating monochrome renderings traversed photographic genres and helped transform the landscape of European photography thenceforth.
In the fall of 1925, with barely more than his camera and a pocketful of savings in hand, Kertész left his native Hungary for Paris. By late 1928 he had forged a reputation as one of modern-art photography’s most exciting exponents and was contributing regularly to renowned magazines, and exhibiting internationally alongside such illustrious names as, Man Ray and Berenice Abbott.
The preceding three years were integral in shaping his practice, a time of investigation, experimentation, and exploration. During this period (and this period only), he somewhat unusually used carte postale, (postcard paper) for much of his printed output.
Though initially at least, it was a format perhaps chosen for its low cost and convenience, Kertész soon discovered its artistic potential and spent countless hours in the darkroom, transforming his unique compositions into physical mementos that served both as objects and images.
Their diminutive scale lent itself to easy circulation, whether passed by hand across the café table or, enclosed in an envelope and sent to loved ones abroad.
This exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago is the first to bring together an extensive collection of these creations, offering fresh insights into the early, experimental years that helped mold Kertész’s practice. They display the foundations of the distinct visual language that would become his sigil, and which would influence countless iconic photographers that succeeded him.
In addition, it extols the creative potential of Paris, (then a hotbed of avant-garde artistic talent of all disciplines) a city where he spent little more than a decade (he relocated to New York City in 1936) but with which he will forever be synonymous, as it was here he created some of his most memorable works.
André Kertész: Postcards from Paris is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago until Jan 17, 2022.