Slice of life: Kert?sz and Fried at the Corcoran

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September 6, 2001

With only 24 photographs and 24 paintings, Away from Home is a bite-sized exhibit, a one-room sampling of photographs, paintings and personal documents that trace the development of a lifelong friendship between photographer Andr? Kert?sz and painter Theodore Fried. Not a retrospective of the works of either artist, Away from Home focuses on the bonds that drew Kert?sz and Fried together as young expatriates in Paris in 1925 and nourished their friendship until 1980, the year of Fried’s death.

Their shared experiences in Paris, and later New York, both influenced their art and made for an enduring friendship. The paintings, photographs and personal letters that circle the walls of the Corcoran Museum of Art’s Rotunda span 40 years and show the crisscrosses as subject matter, friendship and family blend together. Smaller, more personal and more intimate than most exhibitions, Away from Home offers viewers a slice of life of two different men who lived parallel lives. Born in Budapest in 1902, Fried moved to Paris in June of 1925. In September of the same year, fellow Hungarian Kert? (Alprazolam) sz also relocated to Paris. The two were introduced and quickly became friends. Early works see both men exploring their new surroundings. Kert?sz’s photographs, often on postcard-sized paper, show Parisian landmarks such as “Quai d’Orleans, Fisherman Behind Notre Dame”(1925), but also show the patrons of his local haunt, the Caf? du D?me.

Fried’s works from the same time use somber tones of charcoal to sketch “Untitled (Displaced Persons)” (1925) a group of men, women and children lounging on a bridge.

These atmospheric and locational works set the stage for the rest of the exhibit, where the strands of art and life begin to interweave. Kert?sz’s portrait “Christopher Fried, age 300 minutes, 3 June 1930” introduces Fried’s newborn son and frequent model. In “Untitled (Theodore and Christopher Fried)” (1931) a slightly older Christopher sits on the shoulder of his father and clutches a banner. Painted in luminous striated colors and rounded perspectives, “Untitled” has a feeling of warmth and buoyancy. It’s echoed in Kert?sz’s photographs “Theodore and Christopher Fried, Christopher’s birthday, June 3, 1935,” two snapshot-sized prints that capture father and son talking together, neither? as in “Untitled”? looking at the viewer.

The intersections of their artistic and personal lives are echoed in a series of works from their later careers. After a move to New York (in 1936 for Kert?sz; 1942 for Fried) the two continued to visit and correspond. A 1947 photograph by Kert?sz shows an armless crucifix hanging beside a naked lightbulb in an apartment building hallway. “Crucifix with Light Bulb (outside Theodore Fried’s Studio in Chelsea)” depicts the doorway to a studio Kert?sz would later show in greater detail in 1969’s “Untitled (Contact sheet of Theodore Fried’s Studio),” in which shots of the interior and the view from the studio window are found.

Their association is more fully fleshed out by the examples of correspondence from Kert?sz to Fried dating from the 1960s. The viewer can see holiday greeting cards featuring Kert?sz’s works and scribbled notes in Hungarian, and even a 1965 letter to Fried with two small prints of Kert?sz’s studio clipped on, with hand-drawn arrows pointing out where Fried’s works were hanging.

Of course, the abundance of correspondence from Kert?sz to Fried makes the lack of material from Fried to his friend even more frustrating. In fact, Away From Home can seem at times curiously imbalanced. While the exhibition provides ample images of Fried to study?both self-generated and in photographs by Kert?sz?the only physical reminders of the photographer are in his handwriting. Conversely, despite the wealth of images of Fried and his loved ones in various stages of their lives, there are no letters or cards bearing his thoughts.

An exhibit so small must necessarily exclude certain things, and part of the charm of Away From Home is its personal, seemingly unordered selection of material. A cross-section of the many documents and works produced over a life’s friendship, the works exhibited give the viewer a glimpse into the private world that influenced a life’s work. Not a show to ground a viewer in the background of either man, Away from Home adds a new depth to the total portrait of both artists.

Andr? Kert?sz and Theodore Fried: Away from Home runs through Sept. 17 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. Student admission is $1 and free on Mondays and Thursdays after 5 p.m.

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