Little-known Czech surrealists meet French counterparts in Germany
A German exhibition uncovers the work of Czech Surrealist artists from the 1920s to 1940s, juxtaposing it with pieces from the French scene. Artists from the period explored the relatively new medium of photography.
Elements of surprise and non sequitur are characteristic of Surrealism, which began in the early 1920s and became one of the most successful artistic movements of the century. It was centered in Paris but influenced artists throughout Europe. A new exhibition in the south-western German city of Ludwigshafen is showing works from the period that span the European continent. One of the most prominent members of the Prague Surrealist group, Jindrich Styrsky, lived in Paris during the 1930s and had close contacts to the French avant-garde movement.
In this collage, Karel Teige uses a female torso superimposed on a diving board while divers float ominously overhead like airplanes.
Many Surrealists chose to depict bodiless garments, evoking abandonment and estrangement. Miroslav Hak was one of the co-founders of Skupina 42, a group devoted to avant-garde art including Surrealism.
Eugene Atget photographed the city of Paris. Many of his images show reflections in shop windows of the time. His work was discovered by the Surrealists after his death in 1927. They considered his work a precursor to Surrealism.
In this collage, disembodied body parts find their way into a street cafe where eyes, breasts and a hand decorate the furniture. Teige constructs poetic reality by absurd juxtaposition of images extracted from their original context.
Vobecky's "Artificial Paradise" uses light, shadow and disparate objects in a dream-like arrangement steeped in eroticism.
Jaromir Funke was one of the leading photographers in Czechoslovakia during the 1920s and 1930s. This print is part of his series featuring reflections, a favorite subject for Surrealist photographers.
Karel Teige, one of the founders of the Surrealist Group in Prague, was a poet and philosopher as well as artist. He exploited the physicality of collage as a medium and created poetic reality with scissors and glue.
Emila Medkova's unique perception was based on incredible attention to detail. She believed that surrealism was a part of reality itself. Although Surrealism was forbidden under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, she refused to give up her work.
Surrealist photographers developed new techniques to push the medium beyond mere representation. Taborsky created special effects by heating the negative during the printing process.
The exhibition is held jointly in the Kunstverein Ludwigshafen and the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum and runs through February 14, 2010.
Author: Mariana Schroeder
Editor: Kate Bowen