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Kertész’s images can be sober but never leaden or dour. He was in life a good-natured character, and that carried over into the work. Sometimes it tilts toward sentimentality, as in a picture of a small cloud hovering beside the Rockefeller Center — Oh, lonely, wandering cloud! But when the quietude, technical inventiveness, benevolence, and seriousness come together, they result in an image like Martinique, one of his last pictures. He and his wife were vacationing in a Martinique hotel where Kertész wanted to find some fresh connection between a pebbled glass balcony partition outside his room and his view of the sea’s horizon line. The image he made is low-key spooky: a shadow on the other side of the glass seems to be leaning toward the balcony railing this side of the glass; the rail’s flat fluorescent top triangulates with the horizon. With no apparent exertion or assertiveness, Kertész offers a meditation on mortality, on how in time we become shadows of ourselves, while the world wheels through its own changes: the tide ebbs, clouds blow by, and light paints itself on available surfaces.

André Kertész: Seven Decades
J. Paul Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
Through Sunday, April 13. For additional information, call 310-440-7300 or visit
getty.edu.

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