Jirka Stach - Natura Magica

Last year Prague, the city where he was born, proclaimed Jirka Stach (b. 1944) its Photographer of the Year, an honor for a photographer who for more than thirty years now has been working in relative isolation on an idiosyncratic oeuvre. Stach's photographs, abundantly garnished with drawings, sketches and marginalia written in a secret code, occupy a middle ground between surrealistic fantasy and scientific research. He does not use computers or other digital tools in their production. Like a craftsman, he prefers to construct the instruments himself that he needs to indulge his unbridled fantasy and appetite for experimentation.

For the past thirty years Stach has worked on three loosely connected series: Family Bestiary, Pinhole Blues and Natura Magica. It was under this last title that a book appeared in 2006, in which Stach for the first time presented a comprehensive selection from his oeuvre. The present exhibition has been assembled on the basis of the book.

Stach's universe is a labyrinth in which everyday objects - including plants, vegetables, forks, spoons and books - lead a new life of their own, answerable to an order that is at the same time both recognizable and unrecognizable. The result is multifaceted - both a private diary as metaphor for the social developments of his era and a commentary on bureaucratic systems. At the same time his work is full of absurdist twists and nimble gaiety - a combination of elements that is familiar to us not only from Czech photography but also the literature of that country.

Opening Friday, April 6 at 5:00 p.m. by John Müller (former art editor of NRC Handelsblad and good friend of Mr. Stach), with Mr. Stach present.

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