Fotograf Magazine

Štěpán Grygar

From 5 February till 25 April Štěpán Grygar showed an extensive selection of his photos at the Fotofest Headquarters in Houston. Wendy Watriss prepared the exhibit as curator and conceived it as a dialogue between two artists, whose works are connected by the term: visualism. The exhibit included 105 of Štěpán Grygar’s photos from the period, 1981–2008, and 75 photographs by Fernando La Rosa from the period, 1968–2008.

Here we show part of a review by Douglas Britt, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle on 23.4.2009:

Grygar and La Rosa have enough in common — and enough that separates them — that it’s no surprise curator Wendy Watriss, FotoFest’s cofounder and artistic director, chose to present their work at the same time.

“Despite the fact that the subtle interweaving of form, space, darkness and light constitutes the primary element of photographic image making, few photographic artists explore the interconnection of these elements as the primary principal subject matter of their work,” she writes. “In the history of photography, these concerns were more visible in the experimental, avant-garde work of the 1920s–1940s in Europe than they are in most photography today.”

Experimentation is a staple in both photographers’ work, more obviously in La Rosa’s, which is frequently subject to in-camera manipulation. In his early work, La Rosa often shot his images through windows and doors, as in Ventana [Window] II, Peru (1974). Later, he began using acetate inside the camera to blur or hide parts of images. You often feel as though you’re seeing part or parts of an image through a grimy window pane or a scrim. In other cases, an image from a landscape may appear “inside” an urban image — perhaps a result of multiple exposures.

Grygar’s images are typically more straightforward — honing in on part of an object or an architectural element or shooting a view from a window under varying weather conditions — but he, too, sometimes introduces some form of manipulation. Sometimes these resemble gashes, reminding viewers of how painter Lucio Fontana used to slash his canvases.

It’s probably silly to think that there’s greater integrity in manipulating pictures through mechanical rather than digital means, but in an era when we’re bombarded with PhotoShopped imagery, something about La Rosa’s and Grygar’s approaches feels fresh and welcome.

Douglas Britt