Until May 4, the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York showcases the series Window Views by one of photography’s pioneers, André Kertész. From the time he moved to the United States in 1952 until his death in 1985, the Hungarian photographer created contemplative images by photographing the view from his twelfth-floor apartment window in Washington Square.
Fragments of city life
Kertész’s images are snapshots of city life. Taken from above, they don’t allow us to distinguish any face. The play of perspective and shadow is heightened by black-and-white contrasts. Kertész is a voyeuristic photographer par excellence. It is hard to look at these images today without thinking about their modern legacy: drone and surveillance images. However, Kertész’s work is neither documentary nor visionary; rather the opposite. His photographs are modernist abstractions in which the camera’s frame is paired with the casing of the window. In one of the images, we can see the Twin Towers, a reminder that the series is also a testimony to its time, to the passage of seasons, and to the changing urban landscape.
An emotional frame of mind
The exhibition also includes color Polaroids Kertész took after the death of his wife and which comprise here as if a second part of the series. Amid emotional turmoil, Kertész plunged into experimentation. His Polaroids show less a voyeuristic view of the outside, than an introspective vision formed by an interior reflection of the photographed scenes. We no longer see a view of the building opposite but the window frame, the play of light on the pane, the juxtaposition of objects.
Between isolation and poetry
The entire series conveys a feeling of isolation, an impression that Kertész is an outcast in the city even while trying to understand his adoptive country. Although the camera is aimed outside, the viewer is placed in the privacy of the photographer’s home. Even though Kertész felt out of place in New York, he managed to find a kind of poetry by the window side.
By Claire Debost
André Kertész, Windows Views
From March 28 to May 4, 2019
Bruce Silverstein Gallery, 529 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011, United States