Photography: Jiri Kolar a Czech Artist

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By far the largest source of photograph reproductions, until the invention of the “photo book”, were found in various magazines which depended on topics the photographer fancied. Avantgarde and so called Underground magazines played a notable role in the distribution of the work of fringe photographers until their work was discovered by either the mainstream press, publishers, museum curators, etc. Often these magazines were not photographically oriented, and carried various types of art, poetry, literature or art criticism. The above magazine Manuskripte is such an example and the back cover illustrated below says it all. The leading German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung named this Austrian magazine Manuskripte one of the best German language Avantgarde magazines.

The cover of this magazine issue 23/24 was published in 1968, a year of political unrest all over Europe, and it featured a photo collage by the controversial Czech artist Jiri Kolar.

Undoubtedly, the cover was a reference to the Prague Spring repression executed by the Communist Czech Government aided by the Warsaw Pact and Soviet troops in August of that year.

Who was Jiri Kolar (1914-2002)? By clicking the link you can get an excellent overview about his work, in the video discussing a museum exhibition.

Since 1943, Jirí Kólar worked as a freelance author, published poems and translations and worked as an editor for the Association Dílo in Prague between 1945 and 1948.
He was co-founder of the “Gruppe 42”, an Association of Czech artists and men of letters. Around 1959 Jirí Kolár abandoned his poetic work to attend exclusively to visual arts. He developed the “Rollage” Technique, executed chiasmages, rumples, assemblages and visual poetry. He included materials from everyday life like hairs, razor blades, zippers, cords et al. in his works.
Over the years Jirí Kolár experimented with text and image, combined poetry and visual arts to colour and touch poems and varied his forms in many different ways. Circle rollages and transparent poems were executed and finally he began with three dimensional works and produced miniature-objects. (source www.jiri-kolar.com) Was Kolar a photographer in the strict sense of the word? The answer must be a definitive no, but when we ask ourselves if by using other people’s photography he broadened our definitions of photography and made us look at photography in a different way, then the answer must be a convincing yes.