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Positive-Negative (diptych with 2010:26.a), from the "50% Grey" series

  • Accession Number:
  • Artist:
    Thýn, Jirí
  • Date:
  • Medium:
    Gelatin silver print; Photogram
  • Dimensions:
    frame: 15 3/8 in x 11 3/4 in; image/paper: 14 1/2 in x 10 13/16 in
  • Credit Line:
    Museum purchase

About the Photographer

Thýn, Jirí

Czech, b. 1977

I try to perceive things in the widest possible context, not just as a sum of particulars. I look for symbols that inspire other questions, rather than responses, and act as guidelines to a better understanding of my own existence.
-Jirí Thýn

Jirí Thýn works directly with abstraction to question the limitations of photography. In his series “50% Grey” (2009), he disrupts the illusion of photography by unveiling its science and materials. In one part of the series, he constructs “negatives” out of layered glass sheets silk-screened with blocks of bright color. He then exposes black-and-white photographic paper using the color block negatives, a process that creates different shades of grey depending on exposure time but having no relationship to the colors, which are opaque. The work is always displayed as two parts, the stratified “negative” and its corresponding photogram, a presentation strategy that reveals the reduction of information that is photography—an image does not faithfully record the world but rather profoundly transforms it through materials and light. His presentation strategy of having two distinct elements make up one piece hints at the importance of process and, perhaps, reception, and alludes to the instability of the notion of the artwork in general.

In other works from the “50% Grey” series, called “Test Strips” (2008), Thýn dissects images into stripes of grey using the method photographers employ in the darkroom to gauge proper exposure time. His title, “50% Grey,” recalls the idea of the perfect negative and print pursued by practitioners such as Ansel Adams (American, 1902–84). One of the thrusts of Adams’s teachings about the negative is that although one ideally exposes for “middle grey,” each situation requires fine-tuning based on the conditions of the scene; there has to be room for intuition and experimentation. Thýn’s negatives and “Test Strips” undermine the possibility of technical perfection by positioning photography as both an act of revelation and obscuration. 

Jirí Thýn studied photography at the Prague Academy of Applied Arts and graduated in 2006. Additional studies include one year at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts studying under Vladimír Skrepl and Jiří Kovanda (2004), and at UIAH in Helsinki, Finland (2005). The artist is primarily a photographer, but also works with sculpture and installation. He often collaborates with artists Jan Haubelt and Adéla Svobodová as part of the group Ladvi. His exhibition history includes solo shows at the Josef Sudek Gallery, Prague, Hunt Kastner, Prague and the French Institute in Prague and group exhibitions at the Well Gallery in London, Kolonie Wedding in Berlin, and Jeleni Gallery in Prague, among others. Thýn was shortlisted for the 2011 Jindrich Chalupecky Award for young artists and will be included in an exhibition of the finalists’ work at the Dox Center for Contemporary Art in Prague in October 2011.