1995 RYSZARD HOROWITZ, 1995
A book by Jon Blair, Robert A.Sobieszek, Barbara Kosinska WAiF & MM Art Books,Inc.
This book is out of print
PHOTO DISTRICT NEWS, June 1995
excerpts from the book review by Nancy Madlin/Editor
"Ultimately, it does not matter that many of Horowitz's photographs were created for advertising or editorial purposes," declares Robert Sobieszek in this fascinating biography. "What matters is their completeness, their singularity and their unparalleled innovation". By any measure, Ryszard Horowitz is a photographer at the top of his profession; He has had dozens of awards and exhibitions and is a guest lecturer for many schools and organizations. This very book recently won the national book award in Poland. He is also (perhaps most important of all) someone whose work never seems to fall out of favor and thus someone who is always working. An energetic self-promoter, Horowitz's work is known by all, and this book presents it beautifully with more than 100 gorgeous color reproductions of bright and imaginative images. The book also goes into some depth about Horowitz's life and past. Many of us learned something new about this well-known industry figure when his name and image appeared in Steven Spielberg's film "Schindler's List". But there is a lot more to Horowitz's story... Like the lives it recounts, this book has many complexities. In an era of over-simplification to reach the lowest common denominator, I would say that is a commendation...Complexities. They are also something always present in the work of Ryszard Horowitz. And now, I guess, we know why.
ASMP BULLETIN, August 1995
excerpts from the book review by Peter Skinner/ASMP communications director
Behind the extraordinary images of New York photographer Ryszard Horowitz is an even more extraordinary story of courage and survival through one of the most inhuman periods of modern history- the Holocaust of World War II. The 144-page book ...contains fascinating anecdotes by Ryszard's numerous famous friends including Roman Polanski who was a childhood playmate. Also included is a fine gallery of Horowitz's provocative, surrealistic images - black and white and color - in insights into the creative genius of Horowitz's vision. Of his background, Horowitz says: "The most important heritage I got from my country is an understanding of art, painting in particular. A photographer ought to be able to use in his work the whole achievement of art history, and his work should be a sum of artistic experience from the past". And for the new technology and how he has harnessed it, Horowitz says: "I exchanged the darkroom for the computer. I don't intend spending the rest of my life trapped in electronics. It is a certain stage for me, one of the techniques which I am applying at the moment, because it suit my present creative purposes best." To gain an appreciation of what Ryszard Horowitz has achieved and the scope of his talent and vision, this book is well worth having on your shelf.
Ryszard Horowitz: from Wonderland to Cyberspace
by Robert A. Sobieszek
"Nothing belongs to anywhere anymore. All the cats have been let out of all the bags, and they've gotten mixed up." William T.Vollmann, 1993
"Astonish me!" Alexey Brodovitch challenged his students. Actually, the former creative director of Harper's Bazaar was quoting the earlier "etonnez-moi!" of the Russian ballet master Sergei Diaghilev, but with his charge Brodovitch set the stage for more than half a century of modernist design in America. Design - whether it was illustrational, typographic, or photographic - was obliged to be provocative and new; otherwise it would disappear within the quotidian white-noise of that which assaults us visually. "I hate imitation and cliches," he said to a class in 1964; "I hope we can discover a new way of communication... You should provoke me and only then can I provoke you back. I believe in this backfire technique." The model of contemporary design and photography Brodovitch promoted in his classes and promulgated in the pages of Harper's Bazaar between 1934 and 1958 was a fertile, energetic, and sophisticated laboratory - a sort of one-person Bauhaus - in which such notable photographers as Richard Avedon, Hiro, Art Kane, Arnold Newman , Irving Penn - and Ryszard Horowitz - refined their personal visions and styles.
he aesthetic genius of Ryszard Horowitz's photography is squarely rooted in a strategy of unqualified provocation. Regardless of its intent, whether the work was done for advertising, editorial, experimental, or strictly personal reasons, his motivation for the past two decades has been dominated not only by a need to make images that are compellingly and startlingly original, but also to defy the very logic by which photographic narratives are read and iconic emblems comprehended. His visual fantasies are not taken from a crude realist world; they are formed purely by an overactive and joyful imagination that plays with equal amounts of the unexpected, the uncanny, and the oneiric. His means range from the hard physics of conventional camera optics to the sophisticated morphings of the latest electronic software. Part magician and wry humorist, part consummate craftsperson of cut-and-paste montages, part techno-jock and hacker of virtual irrealities,
Ultimately, it does not matter that many of Horowitz's photographs were created for advertising or editonal purposes. What matters is their completeness, their singularity, and their unparalleled innovation. Matter becomes liquid, perspectives are inverted, gravity is cancelled, and scale means nothing. Doves fly languorously through a pane of glass; a beautiful nude dives laconically through a liquescent, transparent plane or out of a body of sensuous perfume while holding a gem. Television images and video screens hover above a futurist cityscape ; Manhattan is viewed in the distance from within a floating lode of quartz-like ore. Glamorous mannequins cherish equally a spectacular diamond brooch or a complicated array of microchips. The Empire State Building is dwarfed by a little girl in one image, while in another a minuscule young girl hangs tenderly onto the ear of a giant black cat. And out of an infant's head rises a technicolor vortex of contemporary emblems and commodities; a nude baby crawling across desert sands dreaming a tornado of disembodied images and television monitors. Ryszard Horowitz's photo-compositions are ultimately a set of early excursions into the imaginative as opposed to menu-driven options artists now have in fabricating the potential worlds that lay before us, worlds of con-sensual hallucinations and poetry and astonishment. As an artist of these new cyber spaces he shows us what inventions are possible, what complete visual freedoms are now available for fashioning images of consider-able provocation, and what unparalleled scenic wonders are latent in the latest electronic and computer technologies at hand - and all this in the service of Brodovitch's mandate: "Astonish me!"
ROBERT A.SOBIESZEK, Curator of Photography Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ryszard: the Man, the Adolescent, the Child
by Jon Blair
Show a five-year-old the gates of hell and then show us the dreams and imagination of the grown man. This is the story of Ryszard Horowitz, photographer, Polish immigrant and survivor of Auschwitz (QT Movie 1M) . The man, the adolescent, the child.
When Regina and Dawid (Dolek) Horowitz - middle class, non-orthodox Jews - conceived their second child one day in 1938, they could hardly have known the turbulent times that were about to engulf them, Poland, Europe and the world in the years that would follow. The boy, a brother for six-year-old Niusia, was born in Cracow on May 5th the following year. In September, the German Army invaded Poland, beginning a time in which millions would lose their parents and their grandparents, their brothers and their sisters, their own lives, in the name of a mythical ideal based on hatred and terror in equal measure. An ideal that was to fall on fertile ground in too many places, to be greeted by lethargy at worst, and by too little resistance, too late, at best.
Yet miraculously, and that is how those who know the story must best tell it, Ryszard, together with his sister, mother and father, all his numerous uncles and most of his aunts and cousins, together with his father's mother and father, survived this inferno to begin life again in the autumn of 1945.
Fast-forward fifty years. It is a hot, humid, summer day in New York City. The phone rings in the cool of a photographer's studio in Chelsea and the answering machine clicks on. It is the creative director of a top advertising agency. "We need Ryszard Horowitz's book" - (ad agency-speak for his portfolio) -"we're looking for someone who does surrealistic images." Later, when he listens to the message, the photographer smiles his characteristic, whimsical, slightly pained smile because, like it or not, that is how too many of his clients categorize him, and he, for one, doesn't like it. Mention Magritte and the smile turns to a grimace. "Anyone who does clouds, they say he is like Magritte", he will tell you. But if surrealists paint impossible scenes, Ryszard Horowitz is a surrealist whose brush is his camera, whose canvas is the silver oxide of a photographic negative enhanced by the most sophisticated digital hardware and software the world of computing has to offer, and whose palette is limited only by his dreams, his imagination and his creativity.
He does remember when the Russians came that day on January 27th, 1945. "A group of us children had been lined up and were going to be shot. Then an officer arrived on a motorcycle. I remember him getting off the motorbike and saying that the Russians were coming, were really close, and that all the German soldiers must leave at once. When the Russians arrived they had a film crew with them and they lined all of us kids up again and marched us between the barbed wire fence towards the camera. They also placed us next to the gallows, I suppose because it was a vivid background, and filmed us there. Then they took me to an orphanage in Cracow."
And so to the orphanage. No memories. A void.
There is an enigma in Ryszard's life which haunts him. He calls it his "Rosebud" in a reference to Orson Welles' masterpiece, "Citizen Kane" It will almost certainly never be solved. For years after the war in a glass-fronted cabinet near the door of his parents' apartment in Cracow there stood a tiny, beautifully hand-crafted pair of riding boots, perhaps the size to fit a three or four-year-old. Did these boots somehow play a part in his survival? Why did his mother keep them like some precious heirloom for so long? What was their significance in his already extraordinary tale of survival in those first six years of this life? And then some time in the mid 1950s they disappeared. He never thought to ask his mother or father about these boots while they were alive; now it is too late.
May in Cracow in the weeks following the end of the war in Europe; people are gradually reconstructing their shattered lives. Ryszard has been removed from the orphanage and taken in by a friend of the family, Tosia Liebling, who is raising him with her own daughter, Roma, and with a nephew who has been left with her, Roman. Roman, a Jew who was smuggled from the ghetto on the day before the infamous Aktion in March 1943 and who spent the remainder of the war hidden as a gentile; Roman, who will one day marry Sharon Tate and have to deal with fresh horrors and other demons. Roman Polanski , for it is he. Roman and Ryszard.
In Gdynia, just before his twentieth birthday in the spring of 1959, he boards the luxury liner, the "Batory" , bound for Halifax and Montreal. "I felt terribly mixed about leaving. I was tremendously ambitious and knew that I had to go to the United States if I wanted to amount to anything outside of Communist Europe, but I had grown up in this boiling pot of energy that was Cracow in the fifties, what with cabaret and jazz and so on; I had just had my first exhibition, and I was also madly in love with a beautiful girl who unfortunately just happened to be married".
If there was a spring in his step as he boarded the boat it was not so much the departure from Poland, or even the promise held by the United States, but the several hundred US dollars he had stashed in the false heel of his shoe made specially for him by a Cracow cobbler. "I was terrified he was going to denounce me and have me arrested at the border."
In 1963 Ryszard had been encouraged to go to weekly tutorials held at Avedon 's studio by the legendary art director and designer Alexey Brodovitch . After reviewing Horowitz's work, Brodovitch offered him a free place in the weekly class. His influence on Horowitz was eventually to stretch beyond the field of mere design. Brodovitch was a firm exponent of the notion that there need be no distinction between the creative and the commercial artist. He argued that commercial or editorial work -normally thought of in the most negative light as a money-making necessity - was just as acceptable as the pure art of unfettered self-expression. Brodovitch's seminars in Avedon's studio found no more willing adherent to the critique of this "damaging myth" than the cash-hungry Polish student. The lesson that one can have one's artistic cake and eat the commercial one too had already been absorbed by Avedon, himself a Brodovitch acolyte, and Horowitz was swimming in the same sea as these already established giants. It was heady stuff.
Three years later at a rather seedy hotel on New York's Upper West Side his luck changed. The European (in other words, attractive to women) and the American (shy and diffident) Ryszard Horowitz finally became one. In true 1970s style, the party is a Polynesian luau, a midwinter tropical feast laid out around the hotel's swimming pool and saunas. Guests wear bathing suits under their winter coats; wild times are had. The hostess is Karen Thorsen. At her party, two guests across the cliched crowded room. The woman has a story to tell almost as complex as that of the man. He is beguiled and fascinated by her, not only because of her looks (she has won a national beauty contest just a year earlier, which does not escape his notice), but because she seems somehow to mirror him in so many ways. She is an architecture student at Pratt Institute, where he studied advertising design and photography a decade before. She seems Latin American in look and in speech. She is to become the most important influence in the life and work of the photographer thenceforth.
The woman is Ania Bogusz . Everyone agrees that her influence on Ryszard has been profound. Not only does she become his confidante and closest friend in the alien climate of NewYork City, but at one time or another she has been his muse, his model, his agent, and most immediate collaborator. She has separately developed a full-time professional career for herself within an international organization. She has conceived and designed every space they have lived or worked in. His studio, their apartment, all simple, elegant and sophisticated, reflecting their joint style and taste.
If anyone understands the enigma of Ryszard Horowitz today, it is his wife Ania. "He had all the odds against him and yet he has created this incredible life for himself through his art. It stands to be judged on its own merits but I marvel at what he has created in spite of what he has experienced. Through his work he is able to make the leap to a fantastic world that is clean, graphically elegant, and totally unreal."
Now Ania and Ryszard have two sons, Daniel, born in 1978, and Emil, born in 1984 . It is hardly surprising, genes being genes, that their teachers comment on both boys' unusual imagination and spirit. "The only time I ever over-exposed a whole roll of film was while attempting to document Daniel's birth", says Ryszard. "One day, when he was about five or six, the same age I had been when I was in Auschwitz, I looked at Daniel, this fragile, small human being, and I suddenly realised, like never before, what must have happened to me in those early years. It was extraordinary, looking at my own child and recalling my own childhood."
And the future? "Where I am now is closest to where I began as a painter," Ryszard says, "where I have a blank canvas and I can do anything. I never had either the technique or the patience as a naturalistic painter to achieve what I can now achieve by combining photography with digital techniques. The complexity gives me the means to achieve my ideas, so I am finally able to use the medium to project my inner dreams and fantasies, all using the most communicative medium that there is. The paradox is that I am draw increasingly back to simple imagery again. When Jo Peter Witkin gave me his print recently I felt a jealousy. This was something he had photographed and produced in his own darkroom. I miss the control that comes from that solitary creative process."
Writer and film-maker, author of the BAFTA Award winning documentary Schindler (1983) and Oscar winning "AnnFrank"(1997)