The eye of desire
After his great exhibition at the Pompidou in Paris, Brassai arrives at the Mapfre Foundation in Barcelona. He was the icon photographer who captured the bohemian life in the Paris of the Avantgarde.
Gyula-Halász, Brassai, was born in Brasov, Hungary in 1899. His father was literature professor at Sorbonne in Paris. Brassai studied painting and sculpture at the Fine Arts Academy in Budapest before joining the Austro-Hungarian army cavalry.
After the First World War he returned to University in Berlin and worked as a journalist.
From 1924 he lived in Paris. He learned French reading Marcel Proust and living with artists in Montparnasse, immersed in the effervescent Surrealist atmosphere.
He collaborated in the magazine “Minotaure” with artists like Dali, Duchamp, Matisse and Picasso. Their close friendship was reflected in his book “Conversations with Picasso”. He was intimate with writers like Henry Miller and poets like Jacques Prévert.
He lived intensely the Parisian bohemian world exploring it with the flashes of his clandestine camera. Every night, he toured the underworld, catching instants of artists, prostitutes and criminals. His photography is neither documentary nor creative, they are stolen images in the style of the “Exquisite corpses” by André Breton. He defined Surrealism as “a screen in fluorescent letters, letters of desire in the form of dreams, signs or memories.”
For Brassai, the Surrealist essence is the stage theatre where his hunting eye projects.
He was ahead of his time, capturing bodies of transgressive women, searching for the impossible symbiosis between male and female, animal and human, in a line that recalls Dali’s photomontage “The phenomenon of ecstasy”. Both have in common that they reach beyond order, regardless of logic. The images of Brassai, “thief of instants”, introduce us to bustle, hustle or silence and manage to stop time.