January 5, 2010

Czech Photography – MoCP Chicago - Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection Exhibition

The Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection
of Czech Photography: Recent Acquisitions

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago
January 29 - March 28, 2010


JAROSLAV ROSSLER, Untitled, 1927
Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago
Gift of The Baruch Foundation

In conjunction with the Contemporary Czech Photography exhibition (previous post), the Museum of Contemporary Photography highlight works from the Baruch Collection which were gifted to the museum in 2009.  The exhibition includes works by Vaclav Chochola, František Drtikol, Josef Ehm, Jaromir Funke, Emila Medkova, Jaroslav Rössler, Jan Saudek, Adolf Schneeberger, and Josef Sudek.

The Czech Republic has an incredibly rich photographic tradition. At the turn of the 20th century, professional photographers such as František Drtikol and Josef Sudek joined their European counterparts in exploring experimental techniques to achieve artistic goals, in a movement that came to be known as Pictorialism. In the 1920s and 30s, a group of artists including Jaroslav Rössler and Jaromir Funke began creating highly experimental works influenced by French Surrealism and Russian Constructivism. Often combining elements of montage and abstraction, these avant garde masters became influential worldwide. After World War II, as artists were forced to grapple with pressures from the government, experimentation continued and imaginative and surreal photography grew strong underground and were used to subtly counter political ideology.  Simultaneously, the social documentary tradition thrived, exemplified in the work of Viktor Kolář and Jindrich Streit, who documented the often trying social circumstances. The Baruchs promoted, sold, and collected it all. 

Anne and Jacques Baruch began collecting work by Czech artists in 1968 during a visit to Prague and ended up becoming a window and a voice for the artists following Soviet occupation beginning the same year. Since many of the artists the Baruchs wanted to work with were not sanctioned by the authorities, Anne began smuggling art out of the country, often at great risk to everyone involved. Although government agents would seal her packages of officially sanctioned art before her departure, she would often alter or remake the seals with the help of artists in order to add more to her packages. She always traveled to Prague with a bright red Hartman suitcase equipped with a false bottom. On the way there she would fill it with art supplies that the artists could not buy, and on the return it would have artworks hidden inside. Once she was questioned by the FBI at her gallery, and once she was detained at the Prague airport and questioned at length. She even came up with a code that she used to correspond with artists and take notes about pricing and exhibition details. Through her travels Anne amassed a remarkable collection of both historical and contemporary Czech photography.

MoCP – Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
Chicago IL 60605 - USA


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