PAUL ALMASY

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, TALIESIN WEST, 1956

Madrid, 21/03/2015-16/05/2015

A pesar de su reconocimiento, el fotógrafo húngaro Paul Almasy (1906-2003) aparece siempre como un solitario, y así se considera él mismo en más de una ocasión: “Soy un expatriado, un solitario. En el mejor de los casos un ciudadano de ese mundo menos conocido, ajeno casi siempre a los poderosos; mi trabajo trata de reflejar aquello que debemos denunciar o comprender“.

Aunque algunos ensayos lo vinculen a la fotografía humanista francesa, en realidad su obra, y así lo declaró Almasy en algunas ocasiones, es deudora de la gran generación de fotoperiodistas alemanes de los años 30, buena parte de ellos judíos, que se exilió en Inglaterra o murió en Auschwitz: Erich Salomon, Felix H. Man o Stefan Lorant (también de origen húngaro), cuyos trabajos en los dos principales medios ilustrados de la época: Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung y Münchner Illustrierte Presse, fueron claves para Almasy (el reportaje de Man sobre Mussolini en 1931 marcó a toda una saga de fotoperiodistas).

A propósito de Almasy suelen citarse siempre dos de sus aseveraciones sobre fotografía; o, más bien, dos de sus teorías “ejemplares”. A saber:
1, refiriéndose a la fotografía documental, su distinción entre “documentos históricos de frío interés para el lector” (aquellas imágenes tomadas con el consentimiento de sus protagonistas y sin la presión del acontecimiento; las que él prefiere) y “documentos de cálido interés” (aquellas otras ligadas a hechos de evidente actualidad).
2, refiriéndose a, en palabras de Cartier-Bresson, la “fotografía en sí”, su distinción entre fotografía “estética” y fotografía “utilitaria”. A Almasy le interesa esta última, y la llama en otras ocasiones “fotografía informativa”: bascula sobre dos ejes que, en apariencia, pueden ser divergentes: el emocional y el reflexivo. Pero, en cierto modo, los textos añadidos (notas de descripción y precisión del contexto de la imagen que se transforman en pie de foto) pueden ayudar a reducir una parte de esa incertidumbre.

Almasy insiste mucho en el hecho de que la imagen es “escritura” y, por tanto, que sus elementos son controlables. Sus fotografías no son fruto del azar sino, según declara él mismo, “de una investigación previa y de una ardua tarea de espera y abordaje”.

En 1956, Almasy, como haría en otros reportajes sobre creadores de su época (la mayoría de aquellos reportajes se publicaron en distintas revistas de organizaciones no gubernamentales o en medios como Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung), visita a Frank Lloyd Wright y conoce a fondo Taliesin West.

En Casa sin fin, en un proyecto desarrollado con la colaboración de Irene Antón y dos coleccionistas franceses, presentamos ahora tanto las extraordinarias imágenes de aquella visita (copias vintage) como el artículo y los pies de foto que escribió el fotógrafo húngaro, cuyos originales mecanuscritos también se exponen en la galería. 


EL EXTRAÑO MUNDO DE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
Un revolucionario de ochenta y nueve años
(1956)


Cuando un hombre de ochenta y nueve años va por delante de su tiempo podemos hablar de él como de un fenómeno extraordinario, incluso "sensacional". Es el caso del arquitecto Frank Lloyd Wright, que al final ya de una larga carrera representa, todavía hoy, la vanguardia de la arquitectura norteamericana. Su estilo, muy personal, sacude hasta tal punto las convenciones estéticas en materia de construcción que incluso son pocos los jóvenes que osan seguirle. Las obras de Wright son desde hace décadas objeto de controversia, no sólo en los ambientes profesionales, sino también entre el gran público.

Frank Lloyd Wright tiene una personalidad ante la que es imposible permanecer indiferente. O bien nos convertimos en fervientes admiradores de su genio, o bien rechazamos categóricamente sus ideas arquitectónicas. Su reputación es tan universal como su obra. Desde las pequeñas ciudades de provincia americanas hasta Tokio, por todas partes encontramos villas, fábricas, palacios, etcétera, concebidos por este anciano extraordinario, quien, cada vez que recibe la visita de los representantes de alguna institución, no duda en declarar, con un tono de perfecta cortesía: "Los gobiernos y las administraciones públicas no tienen absolutamente nada que ver con la cultura. El arte, la literatura y todo lo que constituye la parte espiritual de una civilización continúan siendo potestad de los creadores, independientes de toda burocracia".

Los dos periodos creativos más notables en la carrera de este genio son, curiosamente, su juventud y estos últimos años, es decir, ya pasados los setenta y cinco. Los años que se consideran «la mejor edad de un hombre», y en los que el común de los mortales generalmente está en el apogeo de sus energías, son para Wright años de meditación y, por así decirlo, de reposo.

Entre 1894 y 1916 da la primera serie de obras sorprendentes a la arquitectura moderna. Desde 1910, y en todos los medios artísticos, se han desatado vivas polémicas a favor o en contra de la personalidad y los diseños de Wright. Aun cuando a la edad de ochenta y nueve años sigue siendo un revolucionario y permanece a la vanguardia de la arquitectura, se opone formalmente a la arquitectura funcional, considerada generalmente como la arquitectura del futuro. Frank Lloyd Wright, un súper individualista, es, en toda su filosofía y su concepción artística, un romántico al que ciertos ambientes denominan incluso "wagneriano". Busca ante todo una armonía entre las construcciones y el medio en que se encuentran, al igual que en las relaciones emocionales entre el hombre y la arquitectura. El mejor ejemplo de esta concepción arquitectónica es su propia vivienda y la escuela que ha hecho construir en pleno desierto de Arizona, en la región de Phoenix. En este lugar, llamado Taliesin West, sesenta y cinco jóvenes trabajan siguiendo el espíritu de Wright.

Es una escuela de arquitectura tan extraordinaria como el propio maestro. Los alumnos no han de presentar ningún diploma al llegar, y Wright no se interesa en absoluto por la instrucción anterior de sus adeptos. Invita a cada candidato a una conversación y decide si lo acepta o no siguiendo las impresiones que le transmite el joven. Una vez en la escuela de Wright, los alumnos pueden permanecer en Taliesin tanto como quieran: dos, tres, incluso cinco años si lo desean. Pagan mil quinientos dólares por cada curso y ese precio lo incluye todo: los gastos de estudio, el alojamiento, la manutención, etcétera.


Los edificios que forman parte de la escuela ofrecen un alojamiento confortable para sesenta y cinco personas. Durante los meses de verano, cuando el calor en el desierto de Arizona se hace insoportable, Frank Lloyd Wright y sus alumnos se mudan a Spring Green, en Wisconsin; a Taliesin East. Cuando cada alumno abandona la escuela de Wright, no recibe ningún diploma ni certificado. Una simple carta firmada por el maestro, confirmando que la persona ha sido durante x años colaborador suyo, vale más que el diploma de cualquier escuela de prestigio.

                        Texto original de Paul Almasy
                        (Traducción de Irene Antón)

 

PAUL ALMASY

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, TALIESIN WEST, 1956

Madrid, 21/03/2015-16/05/2015

Although his work brought him international acclaim, Hungarian-born Paul Almasy always appeared to be a solitary man, and that is how he described himself on several occasions: “I´m an expatriate, a loner. Perhaps the best way to describe it would be to say that I am a citizen of those hidden, unheard communities that are almost always disenfranchised and denied access to power, and whose stark reality and everyday life I try to capture in my work”. According to some critics his work followed in the tradition of French humanist photography although, as Almasy confessed on various occasions, he actually drew heavily on the work of the great generation of German photojournalists of the thirties, such as Erich Salomon, Felix H. Man and Stefan Lorant (also from Hungary). Many of these photographers were Jewish, and eventually went into exile in England or died in Auschwitz. However, their photo reports, many of which which were published in Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung and Münchner Illustrierte Presse, the two most prestigious illustrated magazines of the time,  decisively influenced Almasy´s work (Man´s photo essay on Mussolini in 1931 inspired a whole generation of photojournalists).

Over the course of his career Almasy developed several theories which exemplified his approach to photography, and two of his most well-known assertions are frequently cited in any discussion of his work.

1: When talking about documentary photography, Almasy drew a distinction between “photo reports chronicling historical events and everyday life that engage the readers at an intellectual level” (photos taken with the consent of the subjects where it is possible to carefully plan the shots; these were the photos he preferred to take), and “photo reports that engage readers at a more emotional level” (photos capturing topical events and breaking news).

2: When talking about “photography itself”, as Cartier-Bresson had put it, he drew a distinction between “aesthetic” photography and “utilitarian” photography. Almasy was particularly interested in the latter, sometimes referring to it as “informational photography”, and considered it to be a form of photography that balances two apparently contradictory elements: the emotional and the reflexive. In this case he believed the supplementary texts (the captions that explained and summarised the context of the photo) could reconcile this dichotomy.

One of Almasy´s most firmly held beliefs was that a photograph is comparable to “written text”, and therefore its elements could be controlled. His photographs were not the result of luck or accident but rather, as he himself affirmed, taken after “conducting preliminary research and then actively waiting for precisely the right moment”.

Almasy wrote several photo reports on contemporary creators of his time (most of these reports were published in non-governmental organisation magazines or magazines such as Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung), and in 1956 he visited Frank Lloyd Wright at his home in Taliesin West with a view to writing an in-depth report. At Casa sin fin we are pleased to present this exhibition, developed in collaboration with Irene Antón and two French collectors, of the extraordinary photos taken during that visit (vintage copies) as well as the report and captions written by Almasy.  The original typewritten captions are also on display in the gallery.

 

 

THE STRANGE WORLD OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
An eighty-nine year old revolutionary
(1956)

When an eighty-nine year old man is far ahead of his time he will undoubtedly be seen as an extraordinary phenomenon, a visionary. This is the case of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who even at the end of his prolific career was in the vanguard of North American architecture while his buildings are still considered to be avant-garde today. His extremely personal style shook aesthetic conventions in the world of architecture, and was so radical that even now there are very few architects who have dared follow in his footsteps. Wright´s buildings have been the subject of controversy for decades, not only among professionals in the field, also the general public at large. The force of his personality is such that people either love him or hate him.

Thus some people are fervent admirers of his genius, while others categorically reject his architectural ideas, and the man himself is as universally famous as his buildings. We can find examples of the work of this extraordinary old man, such as villas, factories, and palaces, all around the world, from small provincial cities in America to Tokyo. He was a man who, whenever he was visited by public institution officials, never hesitated to inform them, albeit extremely courteously: “Governments and public administrations have absolutely nothing to do with culture. Art, literature, and everything that forms part of the spiritual side of a civilisation belong to the creators, and cannot be restricted by bureaucracy”.

The two most outstanding creative periods in the career of this genius were, strangely enough, when he was a young man and his final years, that is to say, when he was over seventy-five. The years which are traditionally considered to be “the best years of a man´s life”, when most people are generally at the height of their powers, were years during which Wright devoted himself to mediation or, to put it another way, “resting”.

From 1894 to 1916 he designed the first in a series of radically new buildings that made him a pioneer of modern architecture, while from 1910 his personality and designs unleashed a storm of controversy among his detractors and admirers in the arts world.  At the age of eighty-nine he continued to be a revolutionary and a supporter of avant-garde architecture, vociferously opposing functional architecture which was generally considered to be the architecture of the future. Frank Lloyd Wright was a true individualist, a romantic whose philosophy and artistic perception have even been termed “Wagnerian” by some critics. His primary objective was to seek a harmony between his buildings and their settings, and to forge an emotional relationship between people and architecture. The best example of this conception of architecture is Taliesin West, his home and architectural school which he had built in the heart of the Arizona desert, in the region of Phoenix, where sixty-five young apprentices studied his theories and principles.

This school of architecture was as unusual as its founder. The students did not have to present a diploma in order to enrol as Wright was not in the least interested in their previous training. Instead, he would engage each candidate in conversation and then either accept or reject them, depending on the impression they had made on him. After being admitted to Wright´s school, the students could stay at Taliesin for as long as they wanted to, for two, three or even up to five years. They had to pay one thousand five hundred dollars each year, a price which included course expenses, accommodation, meals etc.

The school buildings could comfortably accommodate sixty-five people. During the summer, when the heat of the Arizona desert is unbearable, Frank Lloyd Wright and his students would move to Taliesin East in Spring Green, Wisconsin. When a student left Wright´s school they did not receive a diploma or any kind of certificate. Instead, they were given a brief letter signed by the founder himself, confirming that the student had trained with him for x years; a letter which was worth far more than any diploma from a prestigious school of architecture.

 

Original text by Paul Almasy 

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