Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918–1945

Brilliant Eastern European photographers have a rare showing in the United States.

A remarkable number of the 20th century's finest photographers were born in Central and Eastern Europe, said Richard B. Wood­ward in Art + Auction. The list 'œof outstanding Hungarian-Jewish photographers alone'”André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy, Brassaï, Robert Capa'”has caused some to wonder what vital strains of cultural DNA pooled east of the Oder River early in the century.' Foto explores how they and many lesser-known talents used cutting-edge technology and avant-garde techniques to chronicle the rapid modernization of their societies. 'œHistorians and dealers who want to go deeper into the period' will refer to its authoritative catalogue for years to come.

The viewer may be bowled over by these artists' 'œfearless pursuit of new ways of taking and making photographs,' said Andy Grundberg in The Washington Post. Photo collages such as Herbert Bayer's Lonely Metropolitan, 'œin which a face appears out of two hands upraised in front of a drab apartment building,' drew upon French surrealism and German dada to create impossible images that shocked and baffled contemporaries. 'œBy bending the viewer's eye beyond conventional ways of seeing, the theory went, these images would liberate the mind from its self-impression.' Central Europe, with its tradition of amateur artists and craft schools, synthesized the political radicalism of Russia with the artistic experimentalism of Western Europe. In the end, 'œwondering why this photography came into being is less satisfying than experiencing the results,' but the show's more than 150 collages, portraits, propaganda images, and street photographs leave plenty of time for both.

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