New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Miroslav Tichy and Josef Sudek
Behind the Curtain
MIroslav Tichy, “Untitled” c. 1950-1980.

Two Czech photographers with two distinct styles equals one worthwhile summer show at Howard Greenberg. The exhibition’s “Behind The Curtain” title refers to the Iron Curtain that both artists had to live with...and is reflected in the sense of secrecy and mystery that imbues the work of both artists.

Miroslav Tichy was virtually unknown until his work was introduced at the 2004 Seville Biennial; in 2008, his work was shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and more recently there was a major exhibition of his work at the International Center of Photography. There’s a growing interest in his work and for good reasons. Miroslav was an eccentric, nonconformist who battled mental illness most of his life. His nonconformity extended to his choice of cameras—he made his own out of wood boxes, tin cans, cardboard, spools and other found objects. The fact that his hand-made camera didn’t look like an ordinary camera probably allowed him to take the voyeuristic images of women that comprise much of his work. Miroslav roamed the streets of Kyov, Czechoslovakia with his camera hidden under his clothes; many of his pictures are clearly taken surreptitiously on the street and at the public swimming pool—he captured backsides, parts of legs, breasts, cleavage, and a few nude sunbathers.

All 36 images in the Greenberg show are of women and many photos look sensual and primitive, which adds to their uniqueness and value. (However, one or two could pass for your great grandmother’s portrait as a young girl.) They exhibit light leaks, blurriness, weird angles, and dust. Some of the photos, which were all printed between the 1950s-1980s, are framed by the artist with scraps of corrugated cardboard or colored pieces of tape. Priced from about $6,000 to $11,000, these photographs look like works of art and are compelling enough to garner a second look.

 by unidentified photographer.
Josef Sudek, “Still Life in the Style of Caravaggio, First Variation (Day)” 1956

Josef Sudek was the complete opposite. He hid nothing—including the fact that he only had one arm, having lost the other during World War I. Despite his disability, he used a large format camera and lugged it through the streets of Prague by himself—he had no assistant–and also photographed from the window of his studio.

The 24 images in the Greenberg exhibition are representative of Sudek’s landmark work—moody landscapes of Prague and beyond including images from his acclaimed 1940-1954 series, “From The Window of My Studio.” His work is all about light and dark and a number of photographers acknowledge his influence. For example, in Memories: Lovers III, A Variation, rays of light illuminate a vase and a Greek god-like bust on a desk; the light from behind the vase may come from a candle. It draws you in. Another image in the “From the Window of My Studio” series is of a single tree trunk surrounded by sepia toned foliage. Nice. So is the Still Life in the Style of Caravaggio, a single shoe filled with peacock feathers and a conch shell next to it. Priced at $18,000, this is what black and white imagery should and can be. And there are others here in Behind The Curtain equally appealing.

Spend an hour or so at The Howard Greenberg gallery this summer. You’ll feel refreshed.

Miroslav Tichy and Josef Sudek
Behind the Curtain

Howard Greenberg
41 E 57th St. 14th Fl
Midtown         Map

212 334 0010

Friday, June 18 to
Friday, September 3, 2010
Hours: Tues - Sat, 10 to 6