Saturday, July 28, 2007

Miroslav Tichy by DuMont Literatur




Starting in 1948, Miroslav Tichy’s life seems to have been comprised of many personal protests. He rebelled against the changes brought about by Communism in the late 1940’s and was forced to leave the art academy in Prague where he was studying painting and drawing. As a result, he did all he could to drop out of society. He stopped working and spent most of his time wandering the city parks. He neglected his appearance. He would wear the same clothing for weeks and repair it with wire. He grew his hair and beard long. He was the opposite of the image of the new Socialist man being championed by the new government.

Through the 50’s and 60’s he paid a high price for his dissidence by being forced to spend eight years in prisons and psychiatric clinics. He suffered many incidents of repression afterwards including being forcefully evicted from his attic studio in 1972 and subsequently having his artwork thrown into the streets.

His rebellious streak seems to have carried over into his photography which he started in the 1960’s. He avoided anything that smacked of ‘correctness.’ His is a practice of photography, at least technically, would be considered 180 degrees from the procedures Ansel Adams was laying out in his technical book series of the late 40’s and early 50’s.

Using handcrafted cameras that were an assemblage of cigarette boxes and paper tubes with lenses from eyeglasses, his lo-fi equipment seemed to mock the technological progress the world was experiencing with flights into space and nuclear warfare capabilities.

With his homemade materials, he photographed the women of his town of Kyjov. These are images that were made mostly surreptitiously of women in the streets or sun bathing at the local pool. Some are aware of his presence and others are not. His photographs highlight their bodies and are not shy about revealing his interest in their sexuality. The abundance of cleavage and thighs in his images attests to that. The extreme soft focus from his handcrafted lenses makes some of his clothed subjects look nude. It might all seem a bit creepy if these were clear and crisp descriptions but his equipment distorts and reduces the images down to a simpler form.

Comparison has been made to Garry Winogrand and his obsessive habit of photographing women. For both, the hemline of short skirts is often their focus of attention and they seem to have perfected their timing to snapping the shutter when the bottom of a skirt falls highest on the leg while mid-stride.

These are lusty pictures, but they are not reduced to the lowest common denominator. They are lusty in the same way that Matisse and Picasso reveal in their descriptions of bodies.

With seeing Tichy it is impossible to ignore his process of creating images which extends far beyond the usual. He takes pencil to the image to finish off lines obscured by the uneven chemical development or outfits them with frames of colored paper and cardboard. The final stage of finishing, which is entirely non-photographic, seems to be the most important in creating the Tichy patina. The prints are left for years to be slept on, sat on, rained on, and in some cases, chewed by rodents. Or they are simply ignored and discarded into a pile to collect dust. There seems to be a metaphor at work. No matter the aging or deterioration of the photo paper, the sense of that initial response to beauty remains unblemished.

Tichy has just come into the public view and at 79 had his first solo exhibition at the Seville Biennial in 2004. In 2005, the Kunshaus in Zurich exhibited his work and DuMont Literatur published a hardcover catalog. Miroslav Tichy includes 106 works by Tichy and an essay by Tobia Bezzola and another by Roman Buxbaum. Buxbaum is the son of one of the psychiatrists that treated Tichy during his stays at the psychiatric clinic in Opava.

The book is well done aside from its neon pink spine, backcover and endpapers. The reproductions are fine. This title is out of print and rather expensive when found. At the end of this year Hatje Cantz has announced that they releasing a monograph of Tichy in December.

There was also a small book issued in the FotoTorst series of Czech photographers but like to Photo Poche series, they are nice but a bit too understated in trim size to serve the work well.

It isn’t often that discoveries like Tichy happen, especially when the artist was doing their best to keep themselves a secret. Luckily he has been flushed out of his hiding space so we can discover what he was leaving for the dust and mice to claim.

Special thanks to Bernard Yenelouis for bringing Miroslav Tichy to my attention.

Book Available Here (Miroslav Tichy Kunsthaus)

Book Available Here (Miroslav Tichy Hatje Cantz)

27 comments:

Stuart Alexander said...

Tichy's work is so good, so unlikely and so much controlled by Buxbaum that I sometimes have wondered whether or not his entire photographic oeuvre might not be an "invention" of Buxbaum.

John Gossage said...

You might find Eugene Von Bruenchenhein of interest in the same way, if you don't know of him. An "outsider" artist who among a great many other things, photographed his wife as a love goddess he named Marie. Him work was found by the Kohler arts center upon his death. They published a catalogue of his range of works. He deserves a real book.

Jeff Ladd said...

John,

I don't know Eugene Von Bruenchenhein...thanks for the tip. I'll also look out for that catalog from the Kohler.

Stuart,

Have you ever seen any of Tichy's works in person? Do they come through Christies? I was wondering about value in relation to the archival instability that those prints must suffer from.

Stuart Alexander said...

I have seen Tichy prints at AIPAD, Paris Photo and Photo London in the past year. None have been proposed to us at Christie's yet. I don't think collectors of his work worry about their chemical instability. A lot of von Bruenchenehin prints have been on the secondary market. I find them much less interesting than Tichy. The photographs by Gerard Petrus Fieret make me think of Tichy also.

One Way Street said...

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein's prints have been shown at Kinz, Tillou & Feigen, in Chelsea. A few years ago I attended a panel at the Museum of American Folk Art, the subject being "outsider photography," which seems a potentially rich & expanding field of study.

Dan Otranto said...

Excellent post. Amazing photography find. I wonder if theres anyone working now that resembles him.

Stuart Alexander said...

Dan, Maybe in 30 years we will learn of some guy who lives on the edge of an electronics recycling dump who cobbles together LCDs and posts his images on Flickr right now from his local library.

p.s. Tichy is still alive but too ill to work. Fieret is alive but I don't know if he is making new photographs.

Anonymous said...

I have known Mr. Tichy nearly the whole my life, I know the true story of his life, I am in a personal contact with him each day, but I am surprised, what can people write about him. Now he is an old man and he stopped to take photos nearly seventeen years ago.
And now he is not interested in his photos, he considers hinself to be a painter, he loves his paintings and pictures.

Jeff Ladd said...

Anonymous,

thanks for the comments. You said "but I am surprised, what can people write about him." That sounded like you were offended. Was something offensive said here? Just curious.

Please reply.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,
I am not offended at all, but there are some obscurities in the text. For instance, Mr Tichy has not been in prison or clinic for eight years. And he has problems with authorities because of his appearance, not because of his protest.
He was different all his life, but it wasnt protest. But some people believed, that it was protest against the regime. We were talking about this many times. And when the 1989 came, I told to Mr. Tichy: well, the time has changed, now is the time for you to change your image. He smiled and answered: O yes, the time has changed but people remained the same.
But Mr. Tichys life and his work is for a very long discussion. I just wanted to say, that people, that dont know him and his life ought to be more serious.
They write about his life, about his work and they dont know the truth.

Jeff Ladd said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for the comments.

Sorry if I was incorrect with some of my information. I was gathering "facts" from the essays that accompany this book. I hope that the Hatje Cantz book is more accurate regarding his life story. The prison or clinic story if inaccurate seems to be a major part of all of the essays about him.

I am all for factual truth so if you know of a text that is more fitting to an accurate description of Mr. Tichy could you please direct us to it for the sake of not propagating myths.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

unfortunatelly I dont know any serious text about Mr. Tichys life, but I can give you a contact to a serious young artist from Germany. She has made a film about Mr Tichy- www. worldstar.sleeping-tiger.com.

Roman said...

Hallo

I know Miroslav Tichy best of all...

Alena said...

Roman, I think nobody knows Miroslav Tichy,especialy you. Why?

Jeff Ladd said...

Is the Roman from the October 7th comment Roman Buxbaum? If so I am now starting to think that Stuart Alexander's comment regarding your fabrication about Tichy's life is true. Care to comment? Or anyone who knows any semblance of truth for that matter?

ALEX said...

Richard Misrach [American Photographer, born in 1949] Guide to pictures of works by Richard Misrach in art museum sites and image archives worldwide.

Anonymous said...

Brünchenhein is a typical outsider artist, as they are so many, suddenly discovered by the art world with much hype.

Tichy is not an outsider, he went to the Fine Arts Academy and has an amazing artistic and esthetic culture.
And the plot theory about him, whether he exists really or not, whether he is kept hostage by RB or not, is also part of the myth construction.

Adi Hoesle said...

Roman Buxbaum is my friend, he is my teacher, father, brother. I will support him whoever he is.

Stuart Alexander said...

Adi,

I will continue to question my teachers, my father (even beyond the grave) and my brother. I will question him, whoever he or she is. Questioning is good. I would think that someone who lived under a totalitarian regime would value the worth in questioning authoritarian statements.

My remark at the beginning of this thread was only a suggestion for discussion and not an attack. I do not know the facts. I would like to hear more about Mr. Tichy and his work from independent researchers.

Jana said...

Stuart,

if you want to know everything about Mr. Tichy, contact me.My name is Jana Hebnarova and I am his neighbour.

Stuart Alexander said...

Hello Jana,

Thank you for your offer. I read the following text by Mr. Buxbaum, so I understand you know Mr. Tichy well. I am sure he is grateful for all you have done for him. But I am still interested to hear from someone who knows Mr. Tichy but is not involved in the financial arrangement.

From the TichyOcean site:
"On several occasions I was able to buy bundles of photographs from Tichý's neighbour and "surrogate mother" Jana Hebnarová, to whom he had given them. Jana Hebnarová has taken care of Tichý over several decades (since the death of his mother) and he has appointed her his heir. I have been providing her with financial support for the care of Miroslav over a number of years and bear his basic living costs."

Jana said...

Stuart,

I have known Mr Tichy the whole my life. Me and my brother were friends with him.
Mr. Buxbaum has never lived in our town, he stayed in Prague and as a boy, he visited his grandmother only during the holiday.
In 1968 his family left for Switzerland and he disappeared for years.In 80th he visited his grandmother only several times, for two or three days. I can remember it very clearly, I have been living next to Mr. Tichy and I have been nearly in daily contact with him for many years.
Things are not so clear that they seem to be and many things on the PacificOcean site are different.

Brian Tjepkema said...

Adi Hoesle and Roman Buxbaum are DUO HOBUX

Anonymous said...

look at www.tichyfotograf.cz

Roman Buxbaum said...

Adi Hoesle and Brian Tjepkema are just like twins,they are both the most handsome men in the world, clever and very near to my heart. I dont want to live without them.

Adi Hoesle said...

Roman Buxbaum and Brian Tjepkema are very good friends, they are similar to me I want to look after them the whole my life,I love them.

Roman Buxbaum said...

Adi Hoesle is my best friend, he is my star I could not live without him.