On a midweek, mid April, midday in midtown Manhattan, whiling away a few hours before returning to Philly after a visit to what will be our new town, I dropped into the International Center of Photography, 6th at 43rd, to see what photographic entertainments were on. And I chanced into two wondrous and intellectually (and aurally and sensually) simulating exhibitions.
In the first floor galleries I greet the work and equipment of a photographer new to me. Miroslav Tichy traveled through his Czech home town as a familiar and an outsider — a 1950s countercultural character who eschewed conformity. Rude instruments captured images — cardboard formed the structures, toothpaste polished lenses. Willfully ad hoc equipment. All part of the story. To my eyes, the observer writer’s eyes, he embodies the necessarily detached observation stance perfectly.
“Like the Parisian Surrealists of the 1930s, Tichy approached urban space on foot: he was a walker in the city. All of his photographs … constitute a running documentary record of off hand observations on his daily walks. [his shooting quantity] corresponded to the time and duration of each passing day.” [wall plaque]
So we have paced observations. A flaneur / walker / observer.
“He was drawn to the spontaneous, the marvelous, and the unexpected as he passed through the streets.” [wall plaque]
“Tichy’s exploration is public and secular. LIke a gleaner he moves through the city, collecting the small moments that others might ignore or overlook. Taken together, these small moments offer a panorama of everyday social life…. [H]e devoted himself to recording that level of daily life that for most others was simply too unremarkable to consider.” [wall plaque]
Comparative art impressions according to Martha: the photograph above, taken with Tichy’s intentionally raw and rude instruments immediately made me think of this image [“Boys Bathing”, 1896, Edvard Munch] to which I was introduced in February 2009 in a fabulous exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago entitled “Becoming Edvard Munch” http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Munch/index
Downstairs in the lower level exhibit space is the twilight world of the surrealist photographers and their familiars (and a few artists inspired by them). Film projected by Bunuel, Dali, Jean Renoir. Photographers Man Ray, Georges Hugnet, Josef Breitenbach, Atget, Brassai, Kertesz, Ilse Bing.
Images projected and hung. French in the air to hear and to see. One wonders whether the smells of the city streets, at least coffee roasting and bread baking, might have been appropriate to add to the milieu.
A side gallery features a collection of photographs that some might argue that are related to the rest of the exhibit only in the French language of the photographer (here a Montrealer) and in the twilight world the photographer inhabited. Alan B. Stone, who photographed and published under the Mark One Studio label, published male “beef cake” … non pornographic body focused shots of men in swim suits and otherwise extensively exposed. A Rebecca Solnit quotation provides a sweet context for the images presented as well as for a life closely observed, in any context:
“The places inside matter as much as the ones outside.”
for the full scoop on what’s on at ICP: