Josef Koudelka: Invasion 68 Prague
Judith Joy Ross: Protest

September 4–October 11, 2008

32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY


 

Installation Views
 

Selected Works
 

The exhibitions are in conjunction with Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka’s latest book, Invasion 68: Prague (Aperture, August 2008), which features almost 250 of his photographs of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Prague — most of which have never been seen before.

In 1968 Josef Koudelka was thirty years old. He had committed himself to photography as a full-time career only recently, and had been chronicling the theater, and the lives of gypsies, but he had never photographed a news event. That all changed on the night of August 21, when Warsaw Pact tanks invaded the city of Prague, ending the short-lived political freedom in Czechoslovakia that came to be known as the Prague Spring. In the midst of the turmoil of the Soviet-led invasion, Koudelka took to the streets to document this critical moment.

The year 1968 was fraught with change, at times as violent as it was revolutionary. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the Tet Offensive, antiwar protests throughout the United States, U.S. athletes giving a Black Power salute at the Olympics, student riots on the streets of Paris and Mexico City, the brutal execution of a Vietcong prisoner—so many events of that year are iconically embedded in the cultural consciousness. Czechoslovakia too was undergoing radical changes.

Koudelka’s documentation of the invasion that terminated his country’s recently achieved freedoms, and the remarkable resistance of the Czech people, is as riveting as the strength and courage it portrays. On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the invasion, Aperture Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery jointly present two exhibitions of Koudelka’s remarkable work made during that one week, which will celebrate the publication of Invasion 68: Prague. The exhibition at Aperture Gallery will be unprecedented for Koudelka: coproduced with Magnum Photos, this installation will feature large-scale, ink-jet prints of a selection of work from the related publication, and will include some of the seminal texts featured in the book as well. The exhibition at Pace/MacGill Gallery will incorporate this sensibility, and will also feature vintage and recent prints of some of Koudelka’s most iconic images from this work.

This one-time-only exhibition is presented in conjunction with the publication of a stunning monograph entitled Invasion 68: Prague, photographs by Josef Koudelka. This new volume features nearly 250 searing images—most of them published here for the first time — personally selected by Koudelka from his extensive archive. Compelling texts by three Czech historians, primary source material, and a detailed chronology together provide a multi-layered and unparalleled look at the events of that extraordinary week in Prague, as well as the implications for the Czech people.

Koudelka’s photographs of the invasion were miraculously smuggled out of the country. A year after they reached New York, Magnum Photos distributed the images, but credited them to an unknown Czech photographer to avoid reprisals. The intensity and significance of the images earned the still-anonymous photographer the Robert Capa Award. Sixteen years would pass before Koudelka could safely acknowledge authorship.

Josef Koudelka (born in Moravia, Czech Republic, 1938) is the recipient of the Prix Nadar, Grand Prix National de la Photographie, Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson, and Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. Major exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; Hayward Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. In 2007, Aperture published his bestselling self-titled monograph. He is a member of Magnum Photos.

Pace/MacGill Gallery is pleased to present Judith Joy Ross: Protest the War, an exhibition of twenty 8 x 10 inch gold-toned gelatin silver prints dating from 2006-7. An opening reception and book signing with the artist will take place at the gallery on Wednesday, September 10 between 5:30 and 7:30 pm. In her most recent series, Ross photographed men and women of varying ages and backgrounds who were protesting the U.S. war in Iraq at rallies and demonstrations throughout the state of Pennsylvania and in Tempe, Arizona.

Ross's images are deeply personal yet remain objective reflections of ordinary citizens taking a stand for their political beliefs. In an era when the images of war we see are often manipulated, censored or prohibited altogether, Ross's images are an outspoken and cumulative portrait of grass roots activism. It is the protestors' conviction and steadfast commitment to end the war in Iraq that Ross hopes will inspire viewers and affect change. In an essay accompanying Ross’s book Protest the War (Steidl, 2007), Andrew Szegedy-Maszak observes:

 

Even though most of the people are shown in bright sunshine, Ross's pictures strongly suggest that they would be just as steadfast during a downpour. To paraphrase the old song, they shall not be moved.

 

Working in the tradition of cultural documentarians such as August Sander and Diane Arbus, Ross uses an 8 x 10 inch view camera to photograph her subjects. The cumbersome nature of large format photography requires Ross’s subjects to remain still for an extended period of time and, by extension, developa rapport – however fleeting - with her. Individually situated within the picture's frame, each of Ross’s "Protestors" create a quietly powerful statement with little evidence of their avowed activity with the exception, perhaps, of an anti-war sign or button.

For over two decades, Ross’s work has been widely exhibited by museums such as the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover; the Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop; the Allentown Art Museum; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; the Museum Folkwang, Essen; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Parish Art Museum, Southampton; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the August Sander Archive, Cologne; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Sprengel Museum, Hannover; and the Yale University Art Museum, New Haven. Upcoming exhibitions include a group show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in early 2009 and a solo exhibition at the Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University in spring 2009. Her work can be found in both domestic and international museum collections including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the August Sander Archive, Cologne; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

Monographs of Ross’s work include: Judith Joy Ross: Contemporaries/A Photography Series (MoMA, 1995), Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools (Yale University Press, 2006), Protest the War (Steidl, 2007), and Living With War: Portraits 1983-2007 (Steidl, 2008).