Viktor Kolář is one of the most important Czech photographers of the second half of the 20th century. The exhibition includes around 60 silver gelatin prints from his Ostrava and Canada series.
“There is nothing more surreal than reality itself” – this quote by Brassaï helps to discern a multitude of meanings in Viktor Kolář’s work inspired by the environment of postwar Ostrava, where the communist present, with its double identity, withstood German occupation, the short-lived Czech Republic and Habsburg empire. Viktor Kolář has been photographing Ostrava for over 50 years.
His work experience at Vitkovice Steel Works, the ancient mill in the former industrial centre of the Czech Republic, largely influenced his photography. Viktor Kolář says, “The pain and misery some of us go through can often result in creating the best photographs. It is when things are hard, I believe, that we may see what appears invisible, or appreciate the potential of a subject that looks ordinary.”
Photography of Viktor Kolář bears similarities to works of the previous generations of Czech photographers. His talent of capturing the atmosphere of space and the fragility of the unrepeatable moment recall photographs of the interiors of St. Vitus Cathedral from the 1920s by Josef Sudek, “emotive photography” from the 1930s by Jaromír Funke, documentation of the perversity of meaning under state control on the streets of Prague from the1950s-60s by a Czech surrealist Emila Medková.
Viktor Kolář combines intellectual contemplation of and empathy toward his subjects. Psychological dynamics was central to his work produced in Canada and the USA from 1968 to 1973 where he shot in public places and in the streets of Hamilton, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and New York City and continued to capture it after his return to Ostrava. His photographs of the streets of Ostrava in the 1970s-80s reveal the psychological state of people in front of his lens and at the same time bring viewers in contact with the atmosphere of the time formed by the imposed rules of the communist state, destruction of values, loss of the utopia and anticipation of change. In his photographs of the independent Czech Republic, the symbols of a new capitalist society – shopping malls, cheep markets, ubiquitous advertising – contrast with the residents of Ostrava unfamiliar with market economy. Contradictory motifs of this later work trace back to Kolář’s early photographs and derive from his aspiration to embrace all of the multifaceted reality of the city. Kolář says about these photographs: “I have to be as realistic about the new order as I was about the old one. Sentimentality will not save us.”
Viktor Kolář (b. 1941) | based in Ostrava (the Czech Republic) | began to photograph at 13 and had his first exhibition at a local museum when 23 | fled to Canada after the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968 and returned under the amnesty for Czech immigrants five years later | a winner of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography award (1991) | has exhibited his works at solo and group exhibitions in France, Germany, Greece, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and in the USA, among others | his works are included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, International Centre of Photography in New York City, Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Musée de l’Elysee pour la Photographie in Lausanne and Museum Ludwig in Köln.
Viktor Kolář – VISIONS OF VIKTOR KOLář. CZECH PHOTO
@ The Lumière Brothers Centre for Photography (3 Bolotnaya Emb., Building 1, Moscow, Russia)
Grand opening: June 15, 2016
The exhibition will be open to the public until September 25, 2016