Sylvia Plachy
Through April 16, 2005
Reception and Booksigning:  Saturday, April 9, 6-8pm

2525 Michigan Ave., G-5 (Bergamot Station), Santa Monica, CA 90404
Contact: Hannah Sloan

310.264.8440, fax 310.264.8443
E-mail, <>
Web site, <>
Hours, Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-6pm

Sylvia Plachy, “Transylvanian Woods”, 2002.

I walked around dazed, touching walls and fences as I went. The textures on my fingertips calmed me.  My mind numb, but my senses awake, I looked hard, fixing everything in memory.  The front of a six-story apartment building at the corner had been torn away by Soviet tanks-floors gone, doors open and leading nowhere.  Pictures clung to walls and one chair leaned over the precipice. Dead men, I had seen just days before lying on the sidewalk and covered with lye, had been removed and put into mass graves.  Budapest was ominously quiet.  The Revolution was over, hope was crushed and repression was certain to follow.  My parents made the difficult decision to leave the country and warned me not to talk to anyone. I had one day to say my silent good-byes.

Photographer Sylvia Plachy’s work is often described as poetic, innately surreal, or as possessing the quality of dreams.  Over the last forty years, she has become an incisive photojournalist and artist; one who is capable of capturing the drama of everyday spectacle while being instinctually attuned to the lyricism of her subjects.  Underlying her rather whimsical intuition, however, is a tumultuous childhood legacy; the hard and fast reality of becoming an exile at the age of thirteen.  

It was December 1956 when Plachy first relinquished connection to the landscape of her youth.  Student-led revolts against a repressive Soviet occupation had in a matter of months transformed Hungary into the site for revolution led by independent political organizations and university student freedom fighters. Outbreaks of violence initiated by the Hungarian Secret Police escalated into clashes with the Soviet Army, who quickly extinguished all hope for liberation.  Thousands of innocent people were killed or imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands were forced to seek refuge in other parts of the world.

Sylvia was one of 40,000 Hungarians who would eventually make their way to the United States.  And in spite of the unfathomable circumstances that led to her leaving, she was immediately overcome by an insatiable longing to return to her lost home.  Eight years later, while a student studying art at the Pratt Institute, Plachy took her first opportunity to face the scars of her youth.  Armed with a Robin camera and a compulsion to remember, Plachy began the process of capturing on film the phantoms of a forgotten childhood. For decades after her initial homecoming, Plachy has returned to Eastern Europe, incessantly documenting her travels into the past.  Her images, like pieces of her family legacy are often elusive, tinged with the melancholy of loss and broken attachments. Others are possessed by her own hopeful imagination, mementos that dwell on the border between reality and a capricious impulse to recreate.  

Evidence of Plachy’s talent for visual recollection, the photographs on display in RoseGallery’s forthcoming exhibition offer a look into the process of recovering memory.  During numerous travels back to the Eastern European sites of her leanest years, Plachy has successfully rendered a portrait of the places, the people, and the impressions which she identified with while in exile from them.  

Many of the exhibition images are presented in Plachy’s latest book, Sylvia Plachy:  Self Portrait With Cows Going Home (Aperture, 2004), a remarkable addition to a previously heralded body of publications including Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry, Signs & Relics, and Sylvia Plachy’s Unguided Tour, inspired by the weekly, uncaptioned photographs by Plachy which graced the pages of New York’s Village Voice for eight years under the same title.  Plachy’s work has also appeared in the pages of The New Yorker, Time, Artforum, & New York Times Magazine, and it has been exhibited at venues throughout the United States and worldwide.  Recently, Plachy was the Distinguished Photographer Award recipient at the 2004 Women in Photography International Lucie Awards, held in New York City.  

Sylvia Plachy’s photographs will be on view at RoseGallery from 08 March to 16 April, 2005.  A RECEPTION FOR THE ARTIST & a booksigning will be held Saturday, 09 April, from 6-8.  The gallery is located in the Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Gallery G-5, Santa Monica, CA 90404.  Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10-6.  For more information please contact Hannah Sloan at 310.264.8440, <>.

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