MEXICO CITY.- In 1968 Josef Koudelka was thirty years old. He had committed himself to photography as a full-time career only recently, and had been chronicling the theater and the lives of gypsies, but he had never photographed a news event. That all changed on the night of August 21, when Warsaw Pact tanks invaded the city of Prague, ending the short-lived period of political freedom in Czechoslovakia that came to be known as the Prague Spring. In the midst of the turmoil of the Soviet-led invasion, Koudelka took to the streets to document this critical moment.
The year 1968 was fraught with change, at times as violent as it was revolutionary. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, antiwar protests throughout the United States, student riots on the streets of Paris and Mexico Cityso many events of that year are iconically embedded in the cultural consciousness. Czechoslovakia, too, was undergoing radical changes. Koudelkas documentation of the invasion that terminated his countrys recently achieved freedoms and the remarkable resistance of the Czech people is as riveting as the strength and courage it portrays. Invasion 68 Prague brings together the extraordinary photographs made during that one week.
The setting of Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco, which is the first international venue for Invasion 68 Prague, is particularly fitting. It is located in Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, the site of the 1968 massacre at Tlatelolco, where on October 2, 1968, just ten days before the start of the XIX Summer Olympics in Mexico City, government troops and police opened fire on a crowd of student protestors and bystanders, killing and wounding scores of people.
We are honored to collaborate with Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco to bring this powerful exhibition by one of the most important photographers of our time to Mexico, and to a location where it will have particularly meaning and significance for the Mexican people, said Juan García de Oteyza, Executive Director, Aperture Foundation.
An opening reception with Josef Koudelka will take place on Wednesday, April 1 at 7:00 p.m.; the show will remain on view from April 2 through July 30.
Invasion 68 Prague debuted last September in New York City, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the invasion, at Aperture Gallery. A companion exhibition opened simultaneously at Pace/MacGill Gallery. The next stop was the Katzen Arts Center at American University in Washington, D.C. in November 2008.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the publication of a stunning monograph entitled Invasion 68: Prague, photographs by Josef Koudelka, which was published in nine different languages, Lunwerg being the Spanish-language co-publisher. The U.S. edition is published by Aperture. This volume features nearly 250 searing imagesmost of them published here for the first timepersonally selected by Koudelka from his extensive archive.
Koudelkas photographs of the invasion were miraculously smuggled out of the country. A year after they reached New York, Magnum Photos distributed the images, but credited them to an unknown Czech photographer to avoid reprisals. The intensity and significance of the images earned the still-anonymous photographer the Robert Capa Gold Medal. Sixteen years would pass before Koudelka could safely acknowledge authorship.
Josef Koudelka (born in Moravia, Czech Republic, 1938) is the recipient of the Prix Nadar, Grand Prix National de la Photographie, Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson, and Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. Major exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; Hayward Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. In 2007, Aperture published his bestselling self-titled monograph. He is a member of Magnum Photos.