André Kertész (1894 – 1985) had a brilliant but insecure start in Hungary (1912 – 1925), found fame in Paris (1925 – 1936), survived a catastrophic commercial and artistic period in New York (1936 - 1962), and enjoyed a professional rebirth in the early 70s. However, following the loss of his wife Elizabeth to lung cancer in 1977, and nearing the end of his own life, Kertész was admittedly a broken man.
Alone and in New York, a city in which he never felt fully embraced, Kertész would once again retreat into the safe confines of his Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Washington Square Park. Fortunately, it was the inspiration found in a small glass bust, discovered in the window of a local bookshop, whose figure reminded him of his late wife, which would trigger the artist’s remarkable recovery process. The resultant body of work is now the focus of this unique exhibition.
Turning to a relatively new technology, the Polaroid SX-70, Kertész worked through his overwhelming grief, obsessively shooting the bust alone and placing it among other artifacts he and Elizabeth had collected together over the years. Taken from within his apartment, he photographed many of these still-lifes by placing personal objects against cityscape backgrounds, which were often reflected and modulated by glass surfaces.
Throughout his career, Kertész experimented with overlapping themes and ideas. His approach here is no different. It is in these Polaroids where he resurrects and reworks old ideas and concepts, and explores new ones generated by his reaction to this special camera itself. They are powerful metaphorical and literal symbols of life, love, loss, death and mortality.
In the years following Elizabeth’s death, until his own in 1985, André Kertész continued to photograph and exhibit work, solidifying his stature as an artist of world rank.