Božidar Jakac, New York from the 17th Floor of Hotel Manger, May 1931.
Owner of copyright Primož Pablo Miklavc Turnher.
Exhibition curator: Lara Štrumej, MA
This exhibition provides the first comprehensive overview of Božidar Jakac's photography ever. Renowned as a printmaker, the artist sought creative outlets in new media even as a student. Giving prominence to the newly discovered photographs of his from before World War II, the exhibition follows the chronology of the photographs the artist took at significant stages in his life: in Prague (1922-23), Novo mesto (around 1923), Paris (1925), Tunisia (1925), America (1929-1931), and while with the partisan forces (1943-1945). This covers the first two decades of Jakac's involvement with photography, when his creative development in the media was most intense and he also matured both as an artist and as a person. By including a number of his works in other media - drawings, prints, pastels, and an oil - which represent the same experiential reality as the photographs, the exhibition shows that photography actually represented a new source of insight for the artist.
While some of the early photographs with Novo mesto motifs are still reminiscent of Jakac's painterly perception of his home town and its surroundings prior to his departure for Prague where he would go to study, photography became a means of perceiving and interpreting reality when he traveled abroad, to Paris, Tunisia, and America. Breaking free of the restraints of his painterly topos, first clearly realized in his portrait of Harald Saeverud in Paris in 1925 and rendered in an avant-garde spirit, led to the development of Jakac's modern photographic idiom, based on fragmentariness, momentariness, and close-up views of reality. These features became fully developed in his interaction with Arab culture, when Jakac portrayed life in the streets of Tunisian towns as though he were part of the action; and then too, in America, where the great scale and the aesthetics of the great urban landscape of skyscrapers and bridges awakened his sensibility to the fruits of technological advancement. Like American Precisionist painters and photographers of the time, Jakac explored the cities from the streets and from skyscrapers, but most frequently approached and experienced them as expansive urban spaces with the illusion of space, where in addition to physical urban attributes there was room also for people, be it as part of a crowd or as lone pedestrians.
Jakac's photographic poetic implies his painterly sensibility concerning light, his impeccable sense of composition, and his familiarity with the aesthetic of Japanese and Chinese art, but it is realized in a modern photographic idiom based on his awareness of the ontological features of the medium. In urban environments he captured moments of human presence, translating them into images in which the semantic and aesthetic components are in perfect balance, transcending the ephemerality of the moment; in portraits of his near and dear ones and in self-portraits, on the other hand, he also exploited the potential of photography to reveal the subjects' spiritual traits.
Thanks to his modern perception of the medium and of course his subject matter, be it the exotic reality of North Africa or the symbols of American progress and prosperity, skyscrapers, bridges, and factory chimneys, Jakac's photography is a far cry from the then prevalent conceptual and aesthetic paradigms in Slovenian photography. As Jakac never exhibited his photographs and his shots remained obscure, unseen in his archive, the discovery of his early photographs brought an astounding realization about his creative power in this medium; and in the process changing irrevocably our established view of the history of photography in Slovenia.
In addition to the few surviving photographs and the (approximately 180) prints made for this occasion (by Stojan Kerbler), the exhibition includes also several drawings, graphic prints, pastels and an oil. The exhibition and the catalogue are the result of the collaboration between Moderna galerija and Jakac's heirs, Maja Turnher Miklavc and Primož Pablo Miklavc Turnher, Muzej novejše zgodovine Slovenije (the National Museum of Contemporary History), Dolenjski muzej (Jakčev dom) (the Dolenjska Museum (Jakac House)), and Galerija Božidar Jakac (the Božidar Jakac Art Museum) in Kostanjevica, and of the work and research of Lara Štrumej, MA.
The project was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and by Krka, d.d., Novo mesto