INVASION 68 PRAGUE: Photographs by Josef Koudelka

In 1968 Josef Koudelka was thirty years old. He had committed himself to photography as a full-time career only recently, and had been chronicling the theater, and the lives of gypsies, but he had never photographed a news event. That all changed on the night of August 21, when Warsaw Pact tanks invaded the city of Prague, ending the short-lived political freedom in Czechoslovakia that came to be known as the Prague Spring. In the midst of the turmoil of the Soviet-led invasion, Koudelka took to the streets to document this critical moment.

The year 1968 was fraught with change, at times as violent as it was revolutionary. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the Tet Offensive, antiwar protests throughout the United States, U.S. athletes giving a Black Power salute at the Olympics, student riots on the streets of Paris and Mexico City, the brutal execution of a Vietcong prisoner—so many events of that year are iconically embedded in the cultural consciousness. Czechoslovakia too was undergoing radical changes. Koudelka’s documentation of the invasion that terminated his country’s recently achieved freedoms, and the remarkable resistance of the Czech people, is as riveting as the strength and courage it portrays.

On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the invasion, Aperture Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery jointly present two exhibitions of Koudelka’s remarkable work made during that one week, which will celebrate the publication of Invasion 68: Prague. The exhibition at Aperture Gallery will be co-produced with Magnum Photos, featuring large-scale, ink-jet prints of a selection of work from the related publication, and will include some of the seminal texts featured in the book as well. The exhibition at Pace/MacGill Gallery will incorporate this sensibility, and will also feature vintage and recent prints of some of Koudelka’s most iconic images from this work.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the publication of a stunning monograph entitled Invasion 68: Prague, photographs by Josef Koudelka. This new volume features nearly 250 searing images—most of them published here for the first time—personally selected by Koudelka from his extensive archive. Compelling texts by three Czech historians, primary source material, and a detailed chronology together provide a multi-layered and unparalleled look at the events of that extraordinary week in Prague, as well as the implications for the Czech people.

Koudelka’s photographs of the invasion were miraculously smuggled out of the country. A year after they reached New York, Magnum Photos distributed the images, but credited them to an unknown Czech photographer to avoid reprisals. The intensity and significance of the images earned the still-anonymous photographer the Robert Capa Award. Sixteen years would pass before Koudelka could safely acknowledge authorship.

Josef Koudelka (born in Moravia, Czech Republic, 1938) is the recipient of the Prix Nadar, Grand Prix National de la Photographie, Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson, and Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. Major exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; Hayward Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. In 2007, Aperture published his bestselling self-titled monograph. He is a member of Magnum Photos.

The exhibitions are in conjunction with Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka’s latest book, Invasion 68: Prague (Aperture, August 2008), which features almost 250 of his photographs of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Prague—most of which have never been seen before.

Opening Reception—Pace/MacGill Gallery:
Thursday, September 4, 4:00–6:00 p.m.

Exhibition on View—Pace/MacGill Gallery:
Thursday, September 4–Saturday, October 11

Following the exhibition at Aperture Gallery, the show will travel to the Katzen Arts Center at American University Museum, Washington D.C. from November 11–December 28, 2008.