Kladno – the 80's
23. 9. — 20. 11. 2011
District Trade Union Council, Kladno, 1988
Jitka and Květa Válová, 1988
In Front of the District Court Building, Kladno, 1988
Gottwaldovo Square, Kladno, 3.10.1989/16.40
Ping Pong, 1988
Tyršova Street, Kladno, 1988
Photographs from the exhibition opening
Kladno plays a similar fundamental part in Jiří Hanke´s work like Ostrava does in Viktor Kolář´s photographs or Sovinec and its surroundings in Jindřich Štreit´s production. In his native town Hanke created a number of known cycles, to which People from Podprůhon (1974–1989), Views from the Window of My Flat (1981–2003) or Entrepreneurs (1992–1995) belong – and he has also been organizing photography exhibitions at the Czech Savings Bank Malá Gallery for thirty-four years there.
His present exposition at the Leica Gallery Prague includes both several photos from the collections mentioned and many so far unpublished snapshots. In spite of all the motif and style differences, they are linked by the place unity of an industrial town in the vicinity of Prague, time of origin during one decade that was beginning with a profound totalitarianism and ended with the return of freedom, and even by a subjective author´s view that discovers, with a subtle irony and dry humour, in seemingly trivial situations and environment expressive visual symbols. Hanke belongs, next to Gustav Aulehla, Viktor Kolář, Bohdan Holomíček, Jaroslav Kučera and Dana Kyndrová, to an expressive group of authors without formal education, who enriched the Czech documentary photography of the 1980s in a decisive way. Their snapshots, created from their own needs and often with a prior resignation for publication, are much more outspoken and authentic than pictures bound by censorship and autocensorship taken by official photo-reporters. They depict the grotesqueness of Husák´s normalization with ongoing devastation of the environment and people, omnipresent ideological slogans, empty shops and pompous celebrations of communist holidays on the one hand, and relief escapes of the majority of people from a grey reality into a private world of own families and friends, to gardens, pubs or dancing-parties on the other hand. On Hanke´s granulated black-and-white photographs we can see a crude, and at the same time many times almost surprisingly poetic picture of a sad city without tourists, in which simple life of old working-class families mingles with more ferocious style of the young generations, the contrast between officialdom and spontaneity is accentuated, and typical counterpoints between jubilant slogans and weather-worn houses, on which the slogans hung, are captured. Hanke avoids primary jokes to which many motifs could tempt. His view is more multi-layer and complex, it is not a sarcastic grin, but rather a Chekhovian bitter laughter through tears, in which there is no lack of understanding of human weaknesses. In his pictures, the author is not only an outside observer of life at that time, but also its direct participant. He shows us his own family during Christmas celebrations, friends, coming to Kladno see exhibitions, organized by him, relevant to artists and photographers who were not allowed to exhibit in Prague, views from the window of his own flat. Hanke´s collection is a picture of a concrete town of the ´80s, as one of its residents saw it in his subjective view, belonging to distinct personalities of the Czech photography document. However, it is also a generalizing picture of a time in which you had to do so much, and were allowed so little.
Vladimír Birgus, curator of the exhibition
Jiří Hanke is represented by Leica Gallery Prague. More about him can be found under the reference PHOTOGRAPHERS
The exhibition is the part of FOTOGRAF festival, which takes place in nine Prague galleries. More: www.fotografestival.cz