July 1, 2011

Janos Szasz, Gabor Kerekes in London at Hotshoe Gallery

Modern Visions: Hungarian Photography Then and Now
János Szász and Gábor Kerekes
HotShoe Gallery, London 
Curated by Bill Kouwenhoven
Through 9 July 2011 

Poster of the exhibition. Courtesy HotShoe Gallery
Photograph by Gábor Kerekes, Stone Ball, 1992 © Gábor Kerkes 

It is impossible to imagine the history of photography without the contributions of a vast array of extraordinary talents from Hungary. As the cliché went, “You don’t have to be Hungarian to be a great photographer—but it helps.”

Hotshoe, contemporary photography gallery in London, presents through 9 July two bodies of work from two photographers whose oeuvre spans the mid 20th Century to the present day, JANOS SZASZ and GABOR KEREKES. Their work epitomizes the Hungarian talent for innovation and artistic expression that continues the great tradition established by Brassaï, André Kertész, Martin Munkácsi, Robert Capa and László Moholy-Nagy.

János Szász, whose work remained largely unknown outside of Hungary until recently when it was heralded as the most important artistic discovery of Pécs2010 and called “a true find, one to re-write the annals of European photography” by photography historian Ulrich Rüter (formerly of the F.C. Gundlach Foundation), was born in Pécs and trained as a lawyer graduating with honours. Under the Socialist regimes of the post-war era he was unable to practice law and turned to photography and supported himself as a sign-painter. 

János Szász, School Ball, 1965. Photo © János Szász Estate 

Both photographers moved by stages from landscapes in the case of Janos Szasz, and architectural subjects in the case of Kerekes through distinct forms of Modernism inflected by the dynamic energies of Molholy-Nagy with his radical use of perspective and reduction to graphic abstractions. Each photographer, too, in his way experimented with manipulations of photographic techniques and materials with Kerekes taking over in the 1990s from where Szász left off in the 1980s.

Since his discovery in the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gabor Kerekes has been heralded as the master who brought post war Hungarian photography to light.  His work, which combines the Hungarian love for technology and dynamism, has been widely collected in Europe and America and Kerekes as one of the most important living Hungarian photographers. Regardless of whichever process he uses, his images reflect his great forebears and the forceful vision of János Szász. As such, Kerekes represents a turning point in the history of Hungarian photography and a bridge between the old and the new Hungary.

Both Janos Szasz and Gabor Kerekes can be seen as having continued this great Hungarian tradition of innovation and artistic articulation in photography throughout the difficult years of the 20th century that saw so many changes in Hungarian society and politics. Their work can also be seen as inspirational to the younger generation of Hungarian photographers now coming of age 20 years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Curated by Bill Kouwenhoven

29-31 Saffron Hill, Farringdon


See also Hotshoe Magazine