Kati Horna at the Cobra Museum

Pumpkin (2016)

As a photographer, Kati Horna (Hungary, 1912 – Mexico, 2000) recorded numerous major historic events of the twentieth century. For her, being a photographer was a way of contributing to her political ideals while at the same time being able to lead an independent life as a woman. Horna gained great fame with her socially engaged photographs of the Spanish Civil War.

Kati Horna recorded numerous historic events of the last century. As a photographer, she chose involvement with her subjects over artistic stardom. As a result, she has not become as widely known by the general public as contemporaries and compatriots such as Brassaï, Robert Capa, André Kertész and László Moholy-Nagy. After major retrospective exhibitions in Mexico City, Madrid and Paris, this will be the first retrospective with works from Horna’s entire oeuvre in the Netherlands.

Kati Horna was a world-class photographer. But because she was so modest and saw herself as a functional ‘Artworker’ (her own words), her work has been lesser known for a long time and unjustly so. Stefan van Raay, general Director of the Cobra Museum of Modern Art

Kati Horna’s style is rooted in her childhood in the politically turbulent Budapest, and her later teens in Berlin in the run-up to Hitler’s regime. From Berlin, she first returned to Budapest, where she was trained by the Hungarian photographer Jószef Pécsi. It was during this period that her lifelong friendship with fellow student Robert Capa began. She belonged to a generation of young photographers who were forced to flee Hungary because of the uprisings in the 1930s and the threat of the Nazis. This group included Eva Besnyö (Hungary, 1910 – the Netherlands, 2003) and Ata Kandó (Hungary, 1913 – the Netherlands 2017), who would both settle in the Netherlands later. In this exhibition their work is shown in additional presentations.

In 1933 Kati Horna followed her friend Robert Capa and moved to Paris. There, she continued to develop herself as a photographer, and photographed the streets and cafés of Paris with a unique sense of irony and poetry. This birthplace of surrealism intensified her preference for staged and poetic images. Horna became a renowned photographer with her photographs of the Spanish Civil War. As one of the few women on the front, she portrayed the Republican troops who fought against Franco. She was particularly fascinated by the consequences of the war for the daily life of especially women and children. When the Second World War broke out in France she had to flee once again. In 1939, 27-year-old Horna moved to Mexico City where she would stay for the rest of her life. Here, she became one of the most active photographers of the city with numerous publications in newspapers and magazines to her name, including El arte de cocinar, Seguro Social, Mexico This Month, Tiempo, S.nob and Diseño. She continued to portray Mexican life, with her trademark compassion and social engagement. From documentary photography about abuses in psychiatric institutions (Nosotros, 1944 and La Castañeda, ca 1960) to more personal artistic photography projects about vampires (History of a Vampire: It Happened in Coyoacán, 1962), and feminism and her personal experience as a woman (Woman with Mask, 1962).

Kati Horna was actively involved in various artistic and intellectual circles in Mexico, together with the surrealist artists Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo and sculptor/ architect Mathias Goeritz. Kati Horna, photographer. Compassion and Engagement shows Horna’s work with more than 100 photographs and publications from magazines and newspapers. The exhibition allows visitors to discover a phenomenon who has long stood in the shadow of her contemporaries.

Untill 30 June 2019

Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst
Amstelveen Sandbergplein 1
|1181 ZX Amstelveen
W: cobra-museum.nl