The contrast of black and white photographs against the pale white walls is what initially captures viewer’s attention as they enter the first room of the exhibition “In a Skirt – Sometimes” in Prague’s House of the Golden Ring. At a deeper look, the subject matter of each photo comes into question. From a shirtless man wearing a bra, to a couple kissing in the bedroom, to an aerial view between a woman’s legs of her scarcely covered genitalia, what exactly is the overarching theme of these photos called the “Secret Photo Album” by Veronika Bromova?
Before 1989, in Czechoslovakia, women were overshadowed by men on the art scene. And so, the exhibit “In a Skirt – Sometimes,” only displays works of contemporary female artists who created art immediately after 1989, in the post-communist times of the 90s. This exhibit begins on the third floor and chronologically moves backward, down to the first floor, evolving as the artworks of each year alter or advance due to the changing, modernizing times.
Veronika Bromova is one of the prominent artists displayed throughout this exhibit, and her earliest works in black and white photographs depict her own perception of the post-revolution period. Speaking to Bromova, at the exhibit, she explained that she comes from a family of artists, specifically her father, who also did black and white images before the time of digital technology. Her primary inspiration during the 1990s was due to the fall of communism. “Prague under communism had no advertisements,” Bromova said. “After the revolution, advertisements started to be everywhere, and some of my work is a reaction to that.” She uses the female body and the power of advertisements to make images of billboard-size, and to make photographs so people could witness this new perspective of post-communist art.
Standing in front of Bromova’s “Secret Photo Album” with the artist, I was able to get a better sense of what the artist was thinking when she took and displayed these photos for the rest of the world to see. Her main inspirations were her friends and family. Her sister was actually a common focus of most of her photography, as they enjoyed working and posing together, because they had done so since they were 13 years old (as models for the artist Jan Saudek).
Another predominant theme that pulls all of these photographs together is the eroticism that came out during this time. “The atmosphere during this time in the early 90’s was about the psychology of the people; it was a wilder time, a time about love, sex, and just joking around,” explained Bromova. Overall, these photos focus on her personal communication to herself. She would sit alone at home and communicate with herself and the erotic energy around her. “It’s called the “Secret Photo Album” because it’s my private life; I grew up in communism so I was used to hiding all of this before,” she explained.
A large photo beside “Secret Photo Album” is titled “Marie and Monkey”. Bromova explained that this one is of her and her classmate from high school. The photo was only intended as a gift to her friend’s boyfriend, as her friend loved him although she was just an innocent girl, and had never had a boyfriend before. As Bromova explains “I was acting like a funny, not so innocent monkey next to her to break the serious atmosphere between my friend and her boyfriend”. This photo follows her tradition of breaking past communistic views, and finally being able to present erotic or silly photographs to the world without being suppressed.
“In a Skirt – Sometimes,” curated by Pavlina Morganova, initially opened in February 2014 at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic; however, the new exhibition in the City Gallery of Prague is a different version, as they altered it to match the interior of the gallery, physically and emotionally.
No matter where and how this exhibition is portrayed, it strongly stands for itself, as the art of the 1990’s in the Czech Republic represents a time of new artistic expression. Czech female artists were finally being recognized, and it seems for the first time in Czech history, they were allowed to personalize their art. Veronika Bromova has subjected her personal life and history throughout her artwork, and it quite perfectly depicts the importance of the 1990’s, and also the significance of her career.