Saudek Hardcover – 29 Nov 2006
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There are a lot of classic prints that have appeared before, but there also are a lot of new prints. This book is a very worthwhile addition to one's Saudek collection.
'Our life is a journey, a journey to the end of night' is a phrase from Saudek, quoted by editor/essayist Daniela Mrázková, in the opening biography of the artist, a biography that includes Saudek's birth in Prague in 1935, his internment in a Polish concentration camp for Jews, his survival and early life in Czechoslovakia, military service, multiple marriages and children, and his immigration to the United States where his reputation as an enfant terrible of photographic art grew steadily. All aspects of this interesting, diversified life are accompanied by photographs of the artist and his influences. They prepare the way very well for the generous catalogue of Saudek's unique art that follows.
For those who are new to Saudek's art, this volume will explain his techniques thoroughly. Beginning as a black and white photographer, Saudek soon appreciated the fact that his vision of the world he wished to capture was a combination of reality pushed to extremes and fantasy overlay - and his finished products became hand colored enhanced images of physical feats, anatomical variations from normal, homage to the history of art, and explorations of sexuality that never offend but rather celebrate variants of dreams that seem to have no limits. He places himself in many of the works and seeks out the spectrum of models that range from the massively obese to the aged to the emaciated to midgets to accompany his tableaux vivants. Many of his works are narrative: one particularly beautiful work is entitled 'The Love Story' and is a sepia toned series of 12 images of a white rose in a glass of water beside a girl's photograph, the series showing the bud blooming then losing its petals and finally extracted from the glass which is then removed from the series in the last frame - a simple but deeply moving story of a love eroding to nothingness.
Saudek's images are grouped into exhibitions: The Family of Man, Memories, Forbidden Fruit, The Game, The Fight, The Window, Tales of Love and Ruination, To Be or Not to Be, Every Woman is the Most Beautiful in the World, Sinners, Warriors of God, Paradise Lost, and A Journey without End, a Cry in Vain. Placing his photographs in context with theme allows the viewer a gallery walk where the complete idea of that exhibition can be explored. The images may disturb some, but isn't that a part of fine art's mission - to think in ways outside our frame of reference? In all the works are reproduced carefully, including the all-important margins of each photograph in which Saudek makes meaningful notes and manipulates time, a concept that remarks on his vision of the 'journey to the end of night'. It would be difficult to imagine a finer art monologue than this, and it is apropos that such an important and fascinating artist receive such a fine tribute to a long and very productive life. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, September 08
The earliest work collected here tends strictly towards black and white, and the earliest chapter has a family oriention. With no clear break between phases of his career, Saudek's work in the early 1970s tended toward a more documentary style. Then, by the late 1970s, many features of his later work had emerged: studio nudes, often hand-colored, often set against a decrepit background, and with increasing sexual content. Paired photos, clothed and nude, appeared, as did time sequences. Saudek's quirky sense of humor came to the fore, also, expressed in terms of all the other features of his work. For example, the clothed/not and sexual themes came together in gender-bending sequences (like The Wedding, parts I and II) that elicit giggles along with confusion and careful attention. By the 1990s, Saudek's work added models well outside the usual range considered attractive, which added new facets to the sexuality and humor.
This huge, beautiful book makes it easy to trace Saudek's changing esthetic through his images. Readers (in English, French, and German) also see biographical information covering Saudek's life inside and outside the gallery world. A book this vast and a career so varied can't be summarized briefly except to say this: it's an outstanding presentation of a strange and wonderful collection.
PS: The cover picture is actually half of something - the other half changes its meaning completely!
The book contains a large amount of his work. For those not familiar with Saudek's work, please look at some of the other reviews that describe his style. But let's say the book quality is not the only thing that makes it an eye opener. It is a real conversation starter with images that are beautiful, artistic, odd and sometimes pleasantly offensive.
This book is not for those who dislike nudity or the exploration of sexuality. It contains explicit material, including real and simulated sex acts; obese, pregnant, little people, underage, mature, male and female full frontal nudity. For those looking for straight beauty/models/nude/sexuality, I would recommend Roy Stuart or Guy Bourdin first. However, if you enjoy an odder or wider range of sexuality in an artistic package and unique hand colored photographic style, Saudek does not disappoint. Leafing through the pages while writing this review, reminded me at how beautiful his odd view is.
Perhaps, works by Daniela Mrázková known as Jan Saudek belong to this category.
Live, deep, gay colours depicting controversially for even a modern viewer explicitly manifested homoeroticism and nudity, are surely shocking today as much as hundred years ago for then contemporaries.
A very special picturesque philosophy of Jan Saudek places these masterworks in a line with the best in this area of visual arts immortally.