#EVENT: Josef Sudek & The Language of Loss
Jeu de Paume
by Pac Pobric | 07 June 16
In Prague at Night, a photograph taken by the Czech artist Josef Sudek (1896-1976) sometime between 1950 and 1959, the city is bare but bright. There are no people, but the light of a nearby lamp and the glow of buildings in the near distance brighten an otherwise quiet scene. Walter Benjamin wrote in 1916 that all things, whether animate or inanimate, speak some language. Sudek understood that point intuitively.
“He was a sensitive and astute observer of the ordinary things in the world around him,” says the curator Ann Thomas of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, who has co-organised a show of Sudek’s work at the Jeu de Paume, Paris. The show includes 130 works and focuses on his relationship with Prague, where he worked for much of his career.
Sudek’s life, and to an extent his work, is marked by tragedy. He lost his right arm in the First World War. Thomas stresses that “although he never dwelt on” this loss, some works carry “residual memories of bodily fragmentation”, as in pictures of truncated trees. Of course, in Europe after 1918, and again after 1945, loss was everywhere. His pictures unavoidably capture some of it.
The show travels to the National Gallery, Ottawa (28 October-19 March 2017), where it will be supplemented with work by artists in Sudek’s circle.
• The Intimate World of Josef Sudek, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 7 June-25 September