The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 500 University Ave., will present “Modern Czech Photography,” a body of work by mid-century Czech artists, on Dec. 13 until March 31, 2019.
Featuring artists Jaromir Funke and Josef Sudek, the portfolio holds historic importance since it was published in 1943, during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The portfolio is a recent gift by MAG director Jonathan Binstock and his wife, Ann, in honor of his father and stepmother, Moreton and Marisol Binn.
Czech photography from the first half of the 20th century is synonymous with the history of modernism — the concerted effort to use new imagery, materials and techniques to create works of art reflecting the realities and hopes of modern societies.
Associations, courses of study and journals dedicated to photography started appearing after Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918, after World War I. A new generation of art photographers was trained. The work of Funke and Sudek remained unknown throughout the German occupation and WWII, and during the Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia and the Eastern Bloc after the war. The so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989 brought an end to the communist regime and awareness of the art traditions of the country now called the Czech Republic flourished.
“Modern Czech Photography” intends to showcase the work of prominent mid-century Czech photographers, and spread and promote the notion of photography as a fine art.
Binstock acquired the portfolio as a gift from his father, who purchased it while on a business trip to Prague in the early 1990s. At that time, the portfolio had eight of the original 10 photographs. Over the years, Binstock located and added the remaining prints to the portfolio.
“Ann and I are pleased to share this important portfolio with the public,” Binstock said. “We have only had the opportunity to display one of the pictures in our home over the years. The portfolio deserves a broader audience and to be cared for in its entirety in perpetuity, as we know MAG will do.”
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