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André Kertész

June 12 - September 5, 2005


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, presents the West Coast premiere of André Kertész on view through September 5, 2005. Widely hailed as one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, André Kertész (1894-1985) created some of the most deceptively simple yet compelling photographs ever taken. André Kertész will be among the first major Kertész retrospective of vintage photographs held in the United States and will include several works being exhibited or reproduced for the first time in Southern California.

"André Kertész was a pioneer in his field, creating photographs with an understated elegance, and we're thrilled to share his fascinating works with the Los Angeles community," said LACMA president and director Andrea Rich. "We are extremely grateful to all who contributed in bringing this important retrospective to LACMA."

André Kertész is a retrospective exhibition of the work of one of the 20th-century's greatest photographers. As evidenced by some of his earliest surviving photographs, he appears to have recognized almost immediately that he could use the camera to explore, preserve, and question his relationship to the world. He had little interest in grand subjects or newsworthy events, but instead photographed his friends and family on their outings to the countryside, as well as his neighborhood in Budapest. In all his early works he created a curious sense of distance, as if he was, at one and the same time, both a participant in the activities he documented and an outside observer.

The exhibit will showcase approximately 140 objects featuring photographs from all periods of Kertész's 70 year career, including some of the most celebrated works in 20th century photography, such as Chez Mondrian and Satiric Dancer. From the early photographs of his native Budapest made in the 1910s and early 1920s, to his studies of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, and the final series of photographs he took of New York in the 1970s and 1980s, shortly before his death.


André Kertész

In 1925 he decided to abandon his career as a clerk in the stock exchange and moved to Paris, where he was successful in selling his photographs to leading European newspapers and journals. There he befriended not only his fellow Hungarian émigrés, but also some of the leading artists of the time such as Mondrian, Léger, Chagall, Calder, and Eisenstein. The work of these artists, and others, intensified his awareness of how he could use formal structure to impart both mood and meaning in his photographs. During his years in Paris he created some of the most celebrated works in all of twentieth-century photography, including The Satiric Dancer of 1926, Chez Mondrian of the same year, The Eiffel Tower of 1929, and Clock of the Académie Française of 1932.

In 1936, lured by the prospect of a lucrative contract with a picture agency in New York, Kertész moved to the United States. Almost immediately he realized that his European sensibility would not easily merge with an American way of doing business. Turning inward, he continued to make photographs for himself that expressed not only his fascination with the spectacle of New York City, but also his growing sense of isolation and loneliness. He died in 1985.

Kertész is represented in LACMA's permanent collection by 48 prints including a unique print, Still Life, Paris of 1926-1927, one of the museum's treasures.

This exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. D.C. The Los Angeles presentation was made possible in part by LACMA's Wallis Annenberg Director's Endowment Fund.


Exhibition Catalogue

A full-color, 302-page catalogue published by Princeton University Press in conjunction with the exhibition is available for purchase at the LACMA Museum Shop


Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy these earlier articles:

and this video:

Andre Kertesz: 30 minutes 1989 "Andre Kertesz, "the father of 35 millimeter photography," was born in Hungary in 1894 and lived in the Paris of the 1920s and 1930s before emigrating to the United States just before World War II. Long before every home had a camera, his work embodied the spirit of what the world now calls candid photography: personal, mobile, unposed. This documentary presents Kertesz in his own words, explaining his pictures and sharing his memories-provincial life in Hungary, central Europe in World War I, famous friends like Colette, Einstein, Chagall, and Mondriaan, and details of the poetry of human life."

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