Marie Tomanova: Young American
Curated by Thomas Beachdel, PhD
Reflection by Thomas Beachdel
Assistant Professor, Humanities Department
On View June 28-August 10, 2018
As the culminating show of the Czech Center New York’s New Bohemia Exhibition series, Czech born artist Marie Tomanova’s debut solo show, Young American, does not directly problematize what it means to be an American today, but celebrates the freedom and identity of the idea of an “America” still rife with dreams and possibilities, hope and freedom. Her images, direct and without artifice, confront us with the power and beauty of people simply being, the young…just being. And in this just being is the essence of unity, love, and acceptance. It is a visualization of an America in which individuality is valued as uniqueness and not judged as lack of sameness.
Given the particularly fraught time in this country, indeed, globally, around issues regarding immigration and identity, the presentation of this exhibition is particularly important to me. It is a chance to contextualize and emphasize the increasingly important and powerful voice of youth culture that is in the process of vitally reshaping gender, society, culture, and perhaps igniting a much needed ideological revolution.
While Tomanova’s work is powerful in terms of the reverberation with the distant echo of August Sander’s Face of our Time, Malick Sidibé’s exuberant youth of Mali, or, perhaps more closely, with Nan Goldin’s intimacy, the most significant aspect for me, as a curator, is how the work communicates an essence of humanness to which we can all relate.
In addition to being able to share the experience of the exhibition with the community at Hostos, a particularly meaningful aspect has been not only the overwhelmingly positive response but also the extensive international media coverage, reflecting what one reviewer writes that the show, “…has tapped into something of a cultural zeitgeist.”
For a nice review of the show, please see: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamlehrer/2018/07/30/photographer-marie-tomanova-shoots-american-youth-to-examine-her-own-relationship-to-her-new-home/#6c6940884b73
Another piece of press that just came out as a result of the summer exhibition was released in the largest German news magazine, Der Spiegel (the equivalent to Time/Newsweek). In addition to a write up on the artist and her hopes and dreams coming to “America” as an immigrant, 19 of the youth are also briefly interviewed. This focus on the youth and their dreams is particularly nice. The title is also very funny. In case you don’t want to break out your German dictionaries, it is, “It stinks here, but I like it,” which was a quotation from one of the interviewed youth. http://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/job/new-york-junge-menschen-fotografiert-von-marie-tomanova-a-1221130.html