Kicken Berlin’s spring exhibition, which opens on April 30, 2010 to coincide with Gallery Weekend Berlin, will show some thirty works from Jitka Hanzlová’s new series HIER. Jitka Hanzlová (*1958 in Náchod, formerly Czechoslovakia) is internationally recognized, with works represented in important collections. She has received the Otto Steinert Prize (1993) and the BMW Prize for contemporary photography (2007), among other awards.
Hanzlová’s oeuvre is marked by the experience of unfamiliarity. She collects “pictures of people and places” that move or irritate her, be it in her childhood village of Rokytník, in the Ruhr area, Berlin, London, or Japan. The Czech photographer, who left her homeland as a refugee and won asylum in West Germany, has lived in Essen since 1982.
The formerly heavily industrial city that she chose as her home is the subject of her current series HIER – here. The project’s narrative tells of the search for one’s own identity and of the contradiction between city and country. Its origins go back to 1998, when Hanzlová began an intensive exploration of the ecologically “re-naturated” “civilized” landscape in and around Essen. She was disconcerted by the artificial waterways, hills, and forests she observed springing up where there had once been coal mines and heaps. It wasn’t until 2006 – after completing such series as Female (2000), Brixton (2002), Cotton Rose (2004) and Forest (2000-2005) – that she took up the project again.In addition to landscapes, there are images of people and architectural details.
Hanzlová’s gesture of showing gives shape to the set of problems connected to modern urban life; revealed here is a ambivalent and complex web of relationships among humans, the city, and nature as the artist herself has experienced it.
In her project Rokytník (1990-1994), Hanzlová saw the village of her childhood through new eyes, the eyes of somebody returning. In her current series, she devotes herself to the HIER and now, to her ongoing life in the city. Here she has added an unfamiliar environment and collected important new experiences. But urban life, even when it has grown to become familiar, is marked by feelings of strangeness and anonymity – of distance that must continually be transformed into proximity. Hanzlová was already confronting this conflict as early as her 1994 series bewohner (residents).
Nearly a decade and a half later, with HIER, she continues to apply her independent visual language to the formally consistent web of portraits, landscapes, and still lifes that won validity with Rokytník and bewohner. Subtle coloration furnishes both a binding and contrasting element. Hanzlová’s exclusive use of the vertical format places her subjects within a tight frame, conferring significance to the space around them.
Works from the series HIER will be presented alongside pieces by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joachim Brohm, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Struth, among others, in the exhibition “Ruhrblicke” to be held in the SANAA building of the Zeche Zollverein in Essen from April 24 to October 24, 2010. Photographs from her series Forest will be on view at Museum Schloß Moyland from March 28 to August 15, 2010 as part of the exhibition “Landschaft ohne Horizont. Nah und Fern in der zeitgenössischen Fotografie“ (Landscape without Horizons: Far and Close in Contemporary Photography).
Twenty years Hanzlová’s senior, Helga Paris also confronts situations that she finds irritating and ambivalent. On display in Kicken II are works from her series Friedrichshain (1993), a series born of the upheavals that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall – and related soul-searching on the part of the artist. In the Volkspark Friedrichshain, a park not far from her Berlin apartment, Paris experimented with a new visual language, one that made room for her own memories and subjective perceptions. With close-ups, crops, and passages that are intentionally out of focus, she shaped personal pictures into a photographic narrative that encompasses both poetic and threatening moments.