The Andre Kertesz show on display at the National Gallery of Art until May 15 is a fantastic little show. Comprised of approximately 113 photographs, this exhibition covers Kertez's remarkable 70-year career. And what a career it was!! The NGA Web site states this about the show:
"...André Kertész (1894-1985) made some of the most deceptively simple yet compelling and poetic photographs that have ever been created."
That sums it up pretty well. These snapshots initially come off as pictures that anyone with a camera could take. And honestly, when I walked into the first gallery, I had that exact reaction. But, upon closer examination and prolonged thought, I found an abundance of beauty, sophistication and genius. In Kertesz's photographs there is a subtle, yet distinct, rythmic language of line, shape, tone and meaning. Much like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Kertesz mastered the art of capturing a specific, unique moment in time. These are images that anyone can appreciate because the captured scenes are a part of everyday life. Kertesz's eye was so good that he could see a monumental scene - one that would surely be overlooked by almost anyone else - and snap a well-composed photograph. When I finished viewing the show I couldn't help but think to myself, during this time of huge, brightly colored c-prints, that I wish we had more photography like this today. Again, although the works are deceptively simple, I think it takes an enormous amount of talent and vision to execute photographs of this quality. In general, the images in this exhibition are quite small, some as small as 2" x 3". There is nothing else to make these photographs work... not the potential crutch of enormous size, bright colors, excessive digital manipulation, etc. These are just images and a great many of them are extremely successful.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The Kertesz show is an absolute must-see but it does require some work on the viewer's part. Unlike the recent Dan Flavin show where you could just walk through and bask in the light of Minimalism, you'll want to study these photographs and think about why they work. Very easily you could just walk right on by, but you'll want to dedicate some time to each gallery, particularly the first which holds many of the exptremely small images. I am very interested to hear your thoughts about this show. Did the show strike you or were you left unimpressed?
I can't wait to get back and see the show again. I'm certain there are many nuances I missed during my first pass.