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Perhaps better described as collisions rather than compositions, Elemérné Marsovszky’s photo-collages present a world cast from the fragments of an industrial age, picking up speed in the 20th Century. Mechanical offcuts and disembodied limbs are blended in dramatic combination, with a characteristic emphasis on boldly graphic design and humorous juxtaposition. Marsovszky appropriates skyscrapers, clocks, telephones and tunnels to construct a visual vernacular fit for the new century, thrown into surreal relief by the interjection of unsuspecting human subjects; a ballerina straddles the wreck of a crumpled car, whilst a woman makes flirtatious conversation beneath a halo of receding railway arches.
Untitled (Grock and man with huge lightbulb), 1930’s, one of a set of unique vintage collages held by the gallery, bears all the hallmarks of Marsovszky’s inimitable looking-glass vision. A pared-back slab of the original New School building is shrunk to land beside a giant lightbulb, whilst the shining crown of a crowing bald head echoes the bulb’s glass dome. Aligned precisely along a narrow block, at a angle reminiscent of Constructivist compositions, the varying depth of these sepia photographs are ironically exposed against the flat blue of the backdrop.
Little has been written about Marsovszky, who is also known by her married name, Ada Ackermann, and the pseudonym ‘Foto Ada’. Born in Hungary in 1895, her work as a pioneer of photo-collage was recently singled out for recognition by curator Fannie Escoulen at Paris Photo, 2018. Working from her studio in Budapest at the same time as fellow photo-collage enthusiast El Lissitzky in the Soviet Union, and Dada artists in German, Marsovszky’s prescient appraisal of modernity in all its striking and amusing conflicts illustrates a very contemporary sense of anticipation.
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