Monday, February 15, 2010

There's That Creepy Old Guy Again

The International Center of Photography is currently exhibiting over 100 untitled, undated works by a little-known (at least to me) Czech photographer named Miroslav Tichý.

Tichý, who is now 80 years-old, started taking photos around his hometown of Kyjov in the 1950s using a variety of homemade cameras like the one shown below.

Some of these contraptions are on display in the exhibition, as is Tarzan Retired, a 35-minute film about Tichý made by his neighbor, Roman Buxbaum, in 2004.

Karen Rosenberg had an interesting review of the show in the New York Times last week.
You might call Mr. Tichy (pronounced TEE-kee) an outsider artist if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and was for a time a celebrated painter. His photographs may look naïve, but they’re the product of a carefully orchestrated series of missteps that begins with crude, homemade cameras. As he says in the film, “If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world.”
He seems to have been tolerated as the town eccentric, alarming in habits (daily visits to photograph at the local pool) and appearance (an unkempt beard and ratty sweater) but harmless enough. In one memorable shot two seated girls confront the camera with disdain, as if to say, “There’s that creepy old guy again.”

As Mr. Buxbaum’s film reveals, some of Mr. Tichy’s subjects assumed that his camera was fake. The cameras certainly don’t look functional; he fashioned them from shoeboxes, toilet-paper rolls and plexiglass, polishing the lenses with toothpaste and cigarette ash.
Read the rest here and visit for information on the exhibition, which is up through May 9th.

An exhibition catalog will be available from ICP in March, with an introduction by Richard Prince.

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