Public Moments: Zoltán Jókay

Mr. Jókay has informed Pigtails in Paint that he does not wish his work to be presented here.  His admittedly hasty examination of this site has led to a misunderstanding about our purpose.  After some communication back and forth, he retracted his more outrageous claims and simply stated that he did not like our material and to please remove his work.  As an education and critical review site, we are not obligated to accede to Mr. Jókay’s wishes and no artist, academic or other public figure can reasonably expect to avoid scrutiny when it does not suit them; but given that he took the trouble to communicate with us and our desire to foster goodwill among artists, his images are being removed and this disclaimer added.  The work referred to can be easily found on his website, so I apologize for the necessity of visiting another site for the images.  This request strongly demonstrates the great need for a better educated public and greater tolerance for those who expose the hypocrisy of mainstream culture.  Anyone wanting more clarification or in-depth debate over this issue are invited to share their comments at the end of this post.  -Ron, Editor-in-Chief

This post was delayed almost two years because, at the time I discovered this artist and began to put his material together, WordPress rather perfunctorily shut this site down. Therefore, this post represents the final phase of my psychological recovery from that episode.

[Zoltán Jókay – Remembering #6 (c1990) and Zoltán Jókay – Growing Up #6 (c2000) removed at artist’s request]

Zoltán Jókay was born of Hungarian parents in Munich in 1960. In 1984 he studied communication design at the University in Essen and got his diploma in 1993. He has since received a number of grants and prizes for artistic photography.

[Zoltán Jókay – Remembering #4 (c1990) and Zoltán Jókay – Growing Up #11 (c2000) removed at artist’s request]

His work focuses on the aesthetic documentation of young people in public places. He does not shoot his subjects as a documentarian attempting to detach himself from events and letting the viewer make his own judgments. Instead, he seems to have a genuine liking for his subjects and conveys his feelings to us through his work. Though these images are public, they are also intimate, demonstrating the level of trust needed to capture these “moments of grace”, as one critic put it. Jókay acknowledges the full scope of participatory art and says that his work is comprised of three authors: himself, those being photographed and the viewer. So he is actively inviting us into the process as well, like some kind of psychic matchmaker.

[Zoltán Jókay – Remembering #10 (c1990) and Zoltán Jókay – Growing Up #19 (c2000) removed at artist’s request]

It is easy, when one does not consider the skill behind it to just dismiss these images as merely pleasant. But these images could not have been captured without a preexisting trust. I am reminded of the way Jock Sturges operates: he observes his environment until he notices a moment of sublime beauty and then tries to capture it. It may seem odd to compare these two artists because of the startling impact of Sturges’ nudes, but as far as method is concerned, they are sympathetic brothers under the skin. The shots are posed and yet they are also quite natural—not hiding personalities behind awkward body language. To accentuate Jókay’s feeling for these young people, he uses muted—even unfocused—backgrounds and is careful not to have any distracting stark elements in the image like sharp shadows or solid blue patches of sky.

[Zoltán Jókay – Growing Up #13 (c2000) and Zoltán Jókay – Growing Up #17 (c2000) removed at artist’s request]

Two series are of interest for this site: “Growing Up” and “Remembering”. Fran Lebowitz says that artists who deal exclusively with youthful subjects can only get worse over time (she was using F. Scott Fitzgerald as an example). Although this does not bode well for Pigtails in Paint as an artistic enterprise, I think it is essentially true. Sally Mann, Polixeni Papapetrou and Pere Formiguera are three artists that come immediately to mind who—in their personal development—went on to explore the subjects of aging and death. Jókay has done something similar and has progressed to an examination of the psychological states of illness in his work, especially that of dementia. You can see more from these two series and other projects on his website here.