For the Hungarian-born Mexican photographer Kati Horna (née Katalin Deutsch, 1912 –2000), the early 1960s was a period of great creative experimentation. In addition to her work as a press photographer, which kept her busy with commissions from numerous Mexican periodicals, she was an active participant in several collective artistic endeavors—most notably, Mathias Goeritz’s group “Los Hartos,” which staged strident actions denouncing what was perceived as an increasingly banal art scene; and the short-lived, experimental magazine S.nob, led by the prominent writer Salvador Elizondo. Two of Horna’s photographs featured in Christie’s online auction, In the Flesh: The Nude in Latin American Art, belong to the “Ode to Necrophilia” series created by her in 1962 specifically for publication in this magazine.
Born in Budapest to a prosperous Jewish family, Horna’s engagement with left-wing radicalism prompted her to move around Europe through the 1930s, spending time in Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, and Valencia before finally settling in Mexico City in late 1939. Having first learned the craft from the renowned Hungarian photographer József Pécsi, Horna was quick to seize some of the professional opportunities afforded to women by the rapid expansion of the illustrated press in the interwar period. During her time in Spain, she became involved with the anarchist fringe of that country’s civil war, lending her superb skills as a photographer and monteur to the production of a wide-range of propaganda materials.
b) Leonora (Ode to Nechrophilia series), signed 'Kati Horna' (on the verso, gelatin silver print, sheet 8 1/8 x 7 1/2 in. (20.6 x 19.1 cm), executed in Mexico City, circa 1962. Two in one lot.
Horna’s experiences of the war in Spain left a deep imprint in her later work. Some of her most personal series explore themes of disillusion, displacement, and loss, oftentimes with a refined sense of irony that can be traced back to the satirical, anti-fascist work of her early years in Europe. In “Ode to Necrophilia”—arguably the best known of the three series by Horna published in S.nob—erotic pleasure, suffering, and transience intertwine ritualistically as a mournful woman circles a deathbed in differing states of clothing, from fully covered to completely naked. Standing as fetish for the body of the deceased, a white mask carefully placed on top of a pillow becomes the recipient of the woman’s sorrow and desire
Despite its brief run, S.nob’s daring design, irreverent contents, and impressive roster of contributors has earned it a place as one of Latin America’s most remarkable literary periodicals of the postwar period. The magazine’s pages brought together an eclectic group of talented artists and writers, including Emilio García Riera, Juan García Ponce, Alejandro Jodorowski, Tomas Segovia, Alvaro Mutis, Alberto Gironella, Edward James, and José Horna. Of the several images taken during the shoot of “Ode to Necrophilia” only seven were eventually selected for publication in the magazine, including item “B” in this lot. While not published in S.nob, item “A” is an important work because it confirms that the model for the series was Horna’s close friend Leonora Carrington, who was also a contributor to the magazine.
Discover more works available in Christie’s online auction, In the Flesh: The Nude in Latin American Art, 16 November - 2 December 2015.
Main Image: a) Leonora (Ode to Nechrophilia series), signed 'Kati Horna' (on the verso), gelatin silver print, 7 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (20 x 20 cm.). Executed in Mexico City, circa 1962. Two in one lot.