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Fotoskupina Pěti (1936)


Gelatin silver photo-graphic (painting with photographic fixer), original positive, mounted on board. 126x179 mm (157x231 mm). The two offered photographs (62 and 63) present a very rare demonstration of the work of Fotoskupina pěti (F5), the most radical avant-garde group of the 1930’s in Czechoslovakia. This group consisted of five students of prof. Emanuel Hrbek in Brno’s Škola uměleckých řemesel (Applied Arts School). Josef Jiří Kamenický studied decorative painting, while Jaroslav Nohel, Bohumil Němec, František Povolný and Hugo Táborský studied typography and commercial graphics. These students asked prof. Hrbek for photography lessons and thanks to Hrbek’s connections the students could use the professional equipment of Brno University of Technology. These students formed surprisingly radical ensemble of young and daring pioneers of extreme photographic experiment in Brno between 1933 and 1936. The F5 group did not come from the environment of amateur photographers' clubs, it was not bound by regulations or tendencies of the Association of Czech amateur photographers’ clubs, whose mayor was for many years conservative Jaroslav Krupka. The F5 group stood against the outdated pictorialism, but also (and maybe above anything else) against purism, “which maybe went in the right direction in 1924, but by the beginning of the 1930’s it appeared to be exhausted and didn’t have anything new to offer.”1 As Karel Teige wrote in 1921: “nothing ages so quickly as modernism”2 and that was the reason why the young students looked for new and unexplored ways in the photographic experiment, tried to move the borders of photography and to freshen up photographic modernism. They used arranged surrealistic still lifes, constructivist portraits or multi-tone photograms. They interfered with the negatives and positives, played with the photographs manually and chemically and created brand new techniques. These new procedures were first tested in the Czech Republic and probably also in the world by F5 group members. At the similar time experimented with this process also František Hudeček. At the beginning of the 1940’s, this technique was systematically explored by Miloš Koreček, who called such photographs "Fokalks". In the creation of “photo-graphics”, as František Povolný called his works made only with the help of chemicals and light (and without negatives), the members of the F5 group were also most probably the world leaders. Works of this type appeared for the first time publicly at their group exhibition entitled “fota, fotoexperimenty, fotogramy, foto-grafiky " ("photos, photoexperiments, photograms, photo-graphics”) in "Družstevní práce" in Prague in 1934. The exhibited works had their admirers3 as well as severe critics4. The technique of creating photographs using only light and photographic chemistry was used in our environment also by Miroslav Hák, who called to his works “Strukáže”. Hák's oldest “Strukáže” date back to 1937. Similar pieces are known from the work of foreign artists, especially Raoul Ubac and Oscar Domínguez, but these photographs also come from the late 1930’s. The adjustment of the offered photographs is very similar to those in the collections of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, which were exhibited at some of the period exhibitions of the F5 group (cf. the collection of Moravian Gallery in Brno, inv. No. MG 8880, MG 8909, MG) 8921…). It can be assumed that even these two photographs could have been part of one of the exhibitions. The photographs in the collections of the Moravian Gallery in Brno are often marked only with a glued label on the cardboard. There is no such label here, but it may have fallen away in the past. Photographs made without a camera using only light and chemicals are known both from the works by Hugo Táborský (cf. the collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, inv. No. MGA 3620) and by František Povolný (cf. the collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, inv. No. MG 8878, MG 8877). Considering the artist's approach of Hugo Táborský and František Povolný, it is possible to say that most probably the author is František Povolný. 1) František Povolný, Mladá brněnská fotografie, Světozor, year 34 issue 21, Prague 24th of May 1934. 2) Karel Teige, Foto Kino Film, Život II, Prague 1922, p. 153 – 168. 3) Vítězslav Nezval, Fotoskupina pěti, Měsíc, issue 8, 1934, p. 10 – 11. 4) Augustina Škarda, Směs, Fotografický obzor XLII, 1934, p. 94.

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