Collection of Barry Friedman, New York
Acquired from the above, 2000
cf. Jaromír Funke (Köln, 1984), pls. 22-28
Like many photographers of his time, Funke progressed through the waning style of Pictorialism into a new type of photography that accepted fully both the freedoms and limitations of the camera, and that was not indebted for aesthetics or subject matter to other forms of art. Funke's work from the early 1920s shows the photographer experimenting adventurously with the conventions of the still-life genre. These studies are deliberate and methodical explorations of the opacity or translucence of his subjects, which included glass negatives, transparent cubes, bottles, bowls, and plates. Funke's direction of the light in these images is deliberate and confident, and the reflections and shadows cast by his subjects are integral to their compositions.
These studies led directly into the Abstraktní foto series, which expanded the still-life genre both aesthetically and conceptually. In this series, Funke moved the subjects off-camera and concentrated instead upon the shadows they cast on shifting planes of mat board. He may have used mirrors to direct and intensify the light. In some of these studies, the objects are clearly recognized by their shadows (corked bottles appear frequently). In others, such as the composition offered here, the shadows are less identifiable. The present study stands out among the remarkable images in this group for its pronounced degree of abstraction, as well as for its vigorously kinetic composition. In this image, Funke displays not only his considerable gifts as a creator of complex and sophisticated compositions, but also his skills as a photographic craftsman. This picture depends, for its impact, upon Funke's deft handling of the light and dark areas, both of which contain a level of detail not easily achieved. The modulation between light and dark is expertly executed, and the print stands as a significant achievement in both the art and craft of photography.
In Witkovsky's Jaromir Funke's Abstract Photo series of 1927-1929, History in the Making, to which this entry is indebted, he writes that extant prints from this small series are rare and often unique (History of Photography, Autumn 2005, p. 228). As of this writing, it is believed only one other print of this image is reproduced in the Funke literature, a smaller print (measuring 4 5/8 by 6 1/2 in.) illustrated horizontally in Czech Vision: Avant-Garde Photography in Czechoslovakia (Berlin, 2007, p. 93).
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