IKONAR. Archival Constellations is the first retrospective entirely devoted to the work of Josef Koudelka in Switzerland since 1977. For the first time, this exhibition and publication project provides new insights into his career by exploring in depth a part of his personal archives, in particular the 30,000 35-mm contact sheets covering the years 1960-2012.
Aiming to capture the essence of this photographer’s view of the world, who was born in 1938 in the Czech Republic and naturalised in France in 1987, this project is structured around key works from his most important series, including Theatre, Gypsies, Invasion 68: Prague and Exiles. It also includes an installation entirely devoted to his archives, which focuses on the examination of their place in the personal and artistic journey of one of the main actors of 20th century photography, as well as a selection of his most emblematic books. This selective and condensed retrospective retraces the evolution and working methods of the photographer, with emphasis on Josef Koudelka’s archives and their place in his personal and artistic career.
The exhibition thus addresses some of the central paradoxes of Koudelka’s work, life and career: a nomadic life versus an unrelenting focus on collecting and archiving; a constant revision and reworking of his iconic works versus a “maximalist” philosophical agenda; and in the latter half of his career, a self-proclaimed obsession with continuing to exhibit and capture images – sometimes to the detriment of their analysis and material production.
One of the last great representatives of the humanist tradition that dominated European photography in the second half of the 20th century, Koudelka has exhibited his works in numerous international museums, including the MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Stedelijk Museum, the Centre Pompidou and the Hayward Gallery.