André Kertész and Theodore Fried: Away From Home
When photographer André Kertész and painter Theodore Fried first met in the late 1920s, they were both far away from home on a journey of self-discovery. They had left their native Hungary for Paris, where artists from throughout the world gathered to create an experimental atmosphere. Their tools were different: one used a camera to explore the atmospheric details of everyday life in this new world; the other, a palette of somber oil and colored pigment to express the feeling of loneliness he felt as an immigrant in a new place. Their common heritage, shared language, and mutual goals brought these two expatriate artists together, establishing a bond that influenced their art. This exhibition, Away from Home, is about a friendship and the fortuitous circumstances that linked two very different artists, Kertész and Fried, at a time of both creative freedom and political turmoil.
Like many other European artists, Kertész left Paris and immigrated to New York in the mid-1930s. He arrived in October 1936, a time when New York had begun to replace Paris as a cultural locus. Fried, on the other hand, remained in Paris. With the rise of National Socialism in Germany during this time and its influence spreading to France, Fried faced great danger because he was Jewish. In 1940 Fried left Paris, in advance of the German occupation, for Toulouse in southern France. There he continued to paint and set up a photography studio through which he assisted the French underground and the America Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in their fight against the Nazis. . In mid-1942 he received a special visa through the AFSC and left France for New York with a group of other endangered artists, including Jacques Lipchitz and Marcel Duchamp.
As in Paris, Kertész was exploring the quirky soul of his new home. Crucifix and Light Bulb, 1947, depicts the entrance to Theodore Fried's New York studio in Chelsea. Kertész and Fried met again in New York, and they remained lifelong friends until Fried's death in 1980. During this time they exchanged pictures, letters, greeting cards, and occasional visits. Their shared memories of Hungary and France before the war sustained their bond. Kertész found fame as an innovative and influential photographer, showing his work in major museums and publishing it internationally. Fried continued to paint and taught art at the Hudson Guild, a community art center which he helped organize in his Chelsea neighborhood. Their paths had diverged; yet the inspiration and mutual respect they shared in Paris led them to maintain their friendship, forged from the new aesthetic traditions they had helped to create from the geometry of everyday life.
André Kertész and Theodore Fried: Away from Home is supported by the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation. The Corcoran Gallery of Art would like to thank the trustees of the Theodore Fried Trust for their generous assistance with this exhibition.