MILWAUKEE, WI.- A golden age of photographic experimentation takes shape in the Milwaukee Art Museums presentation of Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 19181945, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and on view in Milwaukee from February 9 through May 4, 2008. Together with its accompanying film program, Foto explores photography in Germany, Austria, the former Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary as the ultimate modern art form: a democratic response to such hallmarks of modernity as the advent of industrialization and new technologies, the growth of cities and urban lifestyles, and the rise of nationalism.
A survey spanning 27 years, the exhibition explores the myriad uses and forms of photography in 165 original artworks, books, and illustrated magazines from several dozen American and international collections. Foto is divided into eight sections organized thematically, each comparing local differences against a heritage of shared institutions and attitudes towards modernity. A mix of avant-garde, landscape, and documentary photography, as well as photomontages and printed materials, appears throughout. Four films displayed within the exhibition space, along with weekly film features by period filmmakers, complete the presentation.
Foto examines photography during a period of unparalleled growth in its popularity, at a time when artists were catalyzed by unprecedented social and political upheaval between the two world wars. The exhibition locates photographic innovation in places previously overlooked by the standard art historical focus on America, France, Germany, and Russia alone. Photographers across central Europe united to engage the modern world, and to forge a history for their chosen medium, in ways that continue to influence how we interpret both reality and photography in the present day.
Foto is the first exhibition to bring together recognized masters such as El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, and Hannah Höch with lesser-known contemporaries such as Karel Teige, Jaromír Funke, Stefan Themerson, and Kazimierz Podsadecki, attesting to the range and dynamic output of the era. Lending institutions include the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museums of Hungary and Poland, and Albertina Museum in Vienna.
The exhibition is curated by Matthew S. Witkovsky, associate curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Art, and is coordinated at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Lisa Hostetler, associate curator of photographs. Previously shown at the National Gallery and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the exhibition tours to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, from June 7 to August 31, 2008.