Post by Christopher H. Paquette
I’ll admit that the only reason I went to New York to see the show Andre Kertesz: The Polaroids at Silverstein Gallery was for the Polaroids.
I am certainly a fan of Kertesz’s work, though not well enough to know that this body of work, created in the last years of his life, even existed. I am obsessed with the medium of Polaroid film and I will jump at the chance to see a gallery exhibit of the genre. Bonus points if it is the work of one of the masters of photography.
What I discovered at this well presented show at Silverstein was far more than the obviously brilliant use of an SX-70, and confirmation of Kertesz as a master of light and shadow. The show reflects both a love story and the rebirth of an artist.
Following the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1977, and decades of unsatisfying work in New York as a contract photographer for Conde Nast, Kertesz was a broken man, living alone in a city to which he never felt a connection. In the window of a local bookstore he noticed a small glass bust that reminded him of his late wife. It was the purchase of this piece of inspiration, and the discovery of the Polaroid SX-70, that allowed Kertesz to work through his overwhelming grief and re-awaken his artistic talents.
The glass bust reappears again and again in hauntingly beautiful compositions taken from within his Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Washington Square. Kertesz reworks and rediscovers his old familiar themes of visual rhyme, distortion, and shadow play, freeing himself of the years of magazine photography; work he described as “lifeless documents…nothing more.”
Andre Kertesz continued to photograph until the day he died in 1985, and his last years were filled with renewed acclaim and celebrity. Every chance he had, Kertesz would recognize Elizabeth as the inspiration and driving force behind his success. That success continues in this show, and simultaneous exhibitions in Daytona, Chicago, and Toronto.
There is also an accompanying publication Andre Kertesz: The Polaroids published by W.W.Norton.
Andre Kertesz: The Polaroids
October 18- November 24, 2007
535 West 24 Street, New York, NY
–Christopher Paquette is both a photographer and a writer. Here’s a link to his blog C.H. Paquette Photography, and here’s a link to a recent article of his, My Precious Polaroid Obsession, in JPG Magazine.