Monday, September 19, 2011

The Poetry of Mistakes: Miroslav Tichý

"If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world."

--Miroslav Tichý

From the early 1960s through 1985, the eccentric, reclusive Miroslav Tichý took hundreds of surreptitious photographs of the women of Kyjov, his hometown in the Czech Republic. His unconventional method involved the use of homemade cameras with crude telephoto lenses constructed from cardboard tubes, tin cans, toothpaste, sandpaper and other found materials. Though his soft-focus, black-and-white images were generally taken through fences or peepholes and are blurred, scratched, under- or over-exposed, stained, spotted and skewed, they exude a profoundly voyeuristic yet tender eroticism.

His images of women bathing, waiting for the bus, arranging their hair and performing other trivial activities, unaware of the photographer, are intensely personal, somehow imbued with an acute sense of rarity and exceptionality. Art critic Allan Doyle writes that Tich
ý's photographs
“evidence a paradoxical coupling of intention and accident.”

Tichý, who was trained as a classical painter but left the academy after the Communist takeover forced artists to focus on socialist subjects, was known as somewhat of a pariah who wandered around Kyjov in ragged, disheveled suits with unkempt long hair and a beard. He disregarded societal standards and painted, drew and photographed purely for his own personal satisfaction. Tichý remained relatively unknown to the art world until 2004, when his first exhibition was held. He printed each negative only once, and his works were untitled, unnumbered and undated. He died in April 2011 in Kyjov, Czech Republic.

"A mistake. That's what makes the poetry."

Tichý with one of his homemade cameras

Miroslav Tichý: Sun Screen, a solo photography exhibition, was on view until September 10, 2011 at Horton Gallery; 504 West 22nd St., New York.

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