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Kati Horna (Hungarian/Mexican 1912-2000)
Kati Horna (Hungarian/Mexican 1912-2000)

Subida a la catedral, España

Kati Horna (Hungarian/Mexican 1912-2000)
Subida a la catedral, España
signed 'Kati Horna' and annotated '#21107 Exp. Oaxaca' (on the verso)
gelatin silver print, photomontage
Image size: 9¼ x 6¾ in. (23.5 x 17.1 cm.)
Paper size: 10 1/16 x 7 7/8 in. (25.5 x 20 cm.)
Executed in 1937.
Acquired from the artist by the present owner.
E. Billetter & J. Pierre, La Femme et le Surréalisme, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, 1987, p. 212 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, El surrealismo entre viejo y nuevo mundo, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, 1989, p. 214 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Women Surrealists in Mexico, Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art, 2003, p. 167, no. 114 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Los sentidos de las cosas: El mundo de Kati y José Horna, Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2003, p. 58 (illustrated).
Lausanne, Museé Cantonal des Beaux Arts, La Femme et le Surréalisme, November 21, 1987- February 28, 1988.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, El surrealismo entre viejo y nuevo mundo, March 6- April 22, 1990.
Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Women Surrealists in Mexico, July 19- September 7, 2003, no. 114. This exhibition later traveled to Osaka, Suntory Museum, September 13- October 19, 2003; Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum, November 1- December 21, 2003 and Kochi, The Museum of Art, January 4- February 22, 2004.
Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Los sentidos de las cosas: El mundo de Kati y José Horna, July 2003- April 2004.

Lot Essay

Although the photographs of Kati Horna were invariably seen in Surrealist exhibitions and reproduced in many publications during her lifetime, she discouraged those wishing to honor her with a major retrospective. Her "no" was so definite, that attempting to convince her otherwise was a no-win situation.

Horna's reply seems paradoxical to what it means to be a photographer. How could it be that after capturing a universe apart with her eyes, she had no interest in others seeing what only she had seen? Perhaps her motivation is understandable if one considers that the logic of Surrealist artists is no ordinary logic.

Born in Spain of Hungarian descent, she learned photography in Hungary in the workshop of Joszef Pecsi before taking photographs in Paris in 1933. Horna's work, laden with fantasy and feeling, sustains our attention by drawing us to wonder. She was a natural Surrealist, fascinated early on by the unspoken interaction among objects.
One of her better known works is of an egg that looks like Hitler orating to other eggs, coming alive as he falls off his egg holder and cracks. In 1937, she was offered a commission to make an make an album of images that spoke of the Spanish Civil War (17 July 1936-1 April 1939). During three months, in Valencia and Barcelona, she photographed harrowing, indelible images of the conflict of the republic. Her disquieting images blend a quiet pain with horror.

Horna's finest work, her portraits and Surrealist photographs, speak about the intuitive person that she was. In Barcelona, subida a la catedral, 1938, the right side of a young woman's sad face deludes the eye into believing that her skin is built with bricks, while her eye, appearing imprisoned behind a barred window, silently watches the stairs for the faithful climbing toward the cathedral. In one single photomontage, Horna captured the fear on the streets of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

She met her husband, José Horna, in Barcelona in 1938, and the couple arrived in the port of Veracruz in the fall of 1939. An indefatigable worker, in Mexico, she was eagerly sought after for her work, which appeared in all the major publications. The photographs that Horna took of Leonora Carrington's 1946 wedding to Chiki Weisz are probably her best known, as they have been reproduced often, in a multitude of publications referring to the well known artists in their inner circle. The protagonists present were Carrington and Weisz, of course; Gunther Gerzso; José Horna (Kati appears in only one photograph); Eduardo Lizarraga, Benjamin Perét and Remedios Varo; and Miriam Wolf. Although unassuming, these snapshots of the often silly group--at this time also tipsy--offer a private view of a world that only they shared.

In 1960, as a birthday gift to Leonora Carrington, Horna made her portrait collage by integrating the reproduction of a Renaissance portrait and a photograph she had taken of Carrington in 1943. (see Day Session, lot 140) The results suggest a noblewoman of fine bearing, looking inwardly. The Portrait of Remedios Varo (wearing a mask made by Leonora Carrington and Kati Horna), 1938, (see Day Session, lot 139) shows the group's playful attitude towards making art. Out of their art would come the legacy left by these Surrealist women that immigrated to Mexico, running from the horrors of World War II, which continued to grow. Each of them--except Kati Horna--has received proper acknowledgement for her contribution; now, it's her turn.

Salomon Grimberg, Dallas, Texas, March, 29, 2008.


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