Current Exhibitons

Jaroslav Vožniak (1933 Suchdol, Příbram – 2005, Praha)

8. 12. – 4. 3. 2018

A playful mysticist and dreamer, a person who completely transformed everything around him with incredible energy and the need to permanently create – this was Jaroslav Vožniak. One of his passions was to collect curiosities, antiques, and colourful magazines as well as discarded completely useless things. He enjoyed putting them together in order to create unexpected artefacts – bust of a plaster Venus with a k.k. commander helmet decorated with a flirtatious ostrich feather and a cabaret boa. Within the framework of his art was humour and exaggeration but also, to some extent, practical jokes or manifestation of opposition to the spirit of the time as well as conventions.


He entered the art scene in the difficult era of the 1950s when, while studying at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design and the Academy of Fine Arts, he became acquainted with the Šmidra’s circle (Bedřich Dlouhý, Karel Nepraš, Jan Koblasa, Rudolf Komorous), a group of practical jokers the mere organisation of which was a parody of the system of the executive authorities at the time. A playful student rebellion was also a part of staged happenings such as Malmuzherciáda (1954) and Slavnostní akademie ku vzpomínce Václava Svobody Plumlovského (Ceremony in Honour of the Memory of Václav Svoboda Plumlovský) (1960) in which they followed up on the Dadaistic cabarets, full of absurd gags, poetry reading and musical compositions of particular sounds, such as water splashing in a sink and moving a chair on the floor. An articulation of disagreement and the need of free artistic expression was, in all probability intentionally, rather more evident in these disappearing Dada gestures and events than in the creative output of the participants. Jaroslav Vožniak was invited to join the group in 1955 when he was taking and active part in individual events – he designed stage clothes for the Balet v Ledenburských zahradách (Ledebur Garden Ballet) (1955) or exhibited a series of portraits at the Výstava pro jeden večer na Střeleckém ostrově (Exhibition for One Evening on Střelecký Island) (1957).


In the 1960s Vožniak applied himself to the progressive tendency of abstract art and although he soon went back to representational painting, several references are still to be found in his creative output to abstraction, especially in the 1990s. In 1964, the curator Jan Kříž organised Vožniak’s first solo exhibition in Umělecká Beseda in Prague which was an overview of his creative output up to that time – an early series based on the theme of Dante’s Divine Comedy (1958 –1959), abstract works and, above all, his red assemblages (1963 – 1965). Already clearly apparent here was Vožniak’s sense of absurd grotesqueness and of a certain kind of oddity that still continued to be present in his works. He combined found objects of no use with antiques, regardless of their original purpose or value. By putting them together he was creating an entirely new content that he adapted to his specific perception of the world. In the 1960s he created numerous assemblages that he subsequently combined with smooth illusive painting, precise Indian ink drawing or collage. He is using individual fragments or snippets of reality that he mixes to produce a bizarre, surreal scene. Simultaneously he is fascinated by the colourful world of advertisements and films the iconography of which he exploits in large Indian ink drawings and subsequently also in the Icons (1967 – 1968) series that was commissioned by and produced for the Jablonec Jewellery national enterprise. The series of thirty portraits of popular film stars wearing a luxury fashion jewellery was rather well received and was also presented within the World exhibition in Montreal, Canada, in 1969.


In the 1970s, that is at the start of the so-called normalisation, Vožniak temporarily abandoned the objects-assemblages and fully focuses on large smooth illusion painting in which he returned to the legacy of Surrealism and Romantic Symbolism. The subject matter here was the permanent presence of disintegration that devours everything, without exception – matter as well as spirit. It was a kind of personal memento mori, a testimony of a man tried by the era. Simultaneously, however, he also developed his concluding concepts of abstract art that culminate in the Balls (1987 – 2005) series and drip paintings (1989 – 2005). On several occasions towards the end of his life he returned to the tendencies he was developing in the 1960s. Yet, thanks to his unflagging enthusiasm for creative process, their quality is still clearly evident.


Man With Burning Mane! Emil Filla and Surrealism 1931 –1939

28. 10. 2017 – 11. 2. 2018

The lifelong creative output of Jitka Svobodová could be described in several words – drawing, object, sensibility, quintessence, concentration, time… In the first half of the 1970s the artist decided to focus on drawing; through this medium, in two-dimensional as well as three-dimensional works, she dealt with questions related to both the act of creation and the process of learning. Emil Filla was decisive in establishing the acceptance of the three leading modern art movements in the Czech environment – Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. His relationship with the first two movements has been examined many times, yet the third remains quite unexplored. Filla made a significant contribution to Surrealism by providing the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia with an exhibition, publishing and organizational base with the Mánes Association of Fine Artists. Also, his work was freely inclined towards Surrealism; in the early nineteen thirties, it took a new direction, from monumental paintings of female nudes to mythological scenes inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. After his retrospective in 1932, he caught a second breath and retained his leading position in the Czech graphic art scene until his arrest in the autumn of 1939. His openminded approach to diverse artistic impulses from the broadest cultural areas affected not only his own work, but also the form of Volné směry (Free Currents) magazine, which he had the opportunity to manage for several years.


At the beginning of the nineteen thirties, Emil Filla became the only representative of the original generation of Osma (The Eight) group and the Fine Arts Group, who consistently promoted modern art and supported expressions by many artists who were a generation younger and expressed themselves differently than him. He represented a significant help to a group of young painters, sculptors, poets and theoreticians, many of whom were originally members of the Devětsil group, but since the early nineteen thirties, lacked a stronger shield of a group or organization. Thanks to him, many of those artists gained a long-term base in the Mánes Association of Fine Artists, where Filla gradually strengthened his managing position and had a significant influence over its publishing activities. Filla quickly recognized that Surrealism became a strong artistic movement and did not have to stand outside contemporary modern art, which was being defied by Surrealists, but that Surrealism can directly be its part.


The Skupina surrealistů v ČSR (Group of Czechoslovak Surrealists) was founded in 1934 and from the early nineteen thirties, Filla was friendly with its main protagonists, such as Vítězslav Nezval, Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen, Vincenc Makovský, Bohuslav Brouk, Konstantin Biebl and subsequently with Karel Teige, as well as with authors who claimed allegiance to or used elements of Surrealism, such as Alois Wachsman, František Janoušek, Vladimír Sychra or František Muzika. Thanks to Filla, the Mánes Association of Fine Artists took the Surrealist Club under its wing: Mánes hosted the club’s first exhibition in January 1935 in its main hall, and Filla provided the opportunity to include contributions in Volné směry (Free Currents) and publish works of Surrealist authors in the Mánes Association’s publications. In return, Surrealists considered him to be their predecessor in a radical effort to promote modern art, just as the Parisian Surrealists did with Picasso. Thanks to Surrealism, Filla opened up his imagination; abandoned the residues of synthetic and lyrical Cubism, intensified and agitated his expression and moved on to an interest in Classical myths.



outside and inside

November 25, 2017 – March 11, 2018

The lifelong creative output of Jitka Svobodová could be described in several words – drawing, object, sensibility, quintessence, concentration, time… In the first half of the 1970s the artist decided to focus on drawing; through this medium, in two-dimensional as well as three-dimensional works, she dealt with questions related to both the act of creation and the process of learning.

At the start of every drawing, there is a concentrated observation. And how the smallest detail and even the realisation that all external characteristics of the object or phenomenon can be overlooked. For this exploration, she chose seemingly the simplest motifs from the surrounding world – yet her drawings of chairs or tables are not drawings of real chairs and tables, they are not a transcription of reality. They are the essence of an object, they came into existence through the interconnection of its extrinsic and intrinsic existence.

Jitka Svobodová expresses herself in series’ or thematic sets in which she continuously contemplates the relationship between the detail and the whole, the three-dimensionality and the two-dimensionality of an object, the materialisation and the disappearance. The artist relies on a minimal means of expression, the drawing gesture itself is calm, restrained, but with strong inner dynamics. The possible variations of drawing are also spatial works that is the spatial drawing – wire objects accentuating the relationship between an object and the surrounding space. Jitka Svobodová never abandoned the direct connection with the theme; the content, no matter how changed, is always present. >

The exhibition of the most recent works of Jitka Svobodová in Museum Kampa sums up all important approaches of her existing creative output and shows the foundations of future developments. The series of Curtains came into existence thanks to a long-standing observation of striped curtains in a room of her flat, of the way they react to light, to wind, to their surroundings. Another group of exhibited works are Tables. Some time ago, Jitka Svobodová abandoned, as a limiting burden, the traditional perspective; the basic shape of the tables is built up in two dimensions and related to the pictorial surface itself. A new element in her creative output is the blending of three-dimensional and two-dimensional drawings. The individual components in her Dwelling series (2014) are made of bent wire. A wire does not allow for the lightness of a pencil line produced by hand – its weight and certain coarseness is, nevertheless, another possible way to express an a priori essence of the shape of an object. A new type of introduction of a physical object into the space of a drawing is represented by the threads and pins in the Chair (2017). Jitka Svobodová started as a painter of abstract landscapes and elements. After 1972 she abandoned this direction and focused mainly on the representation of objects. In recent years, however, she is, after a long time, returning to nature. Trees (2015) as well as Trees and Clouds (2015) represent a beautiful synthesis of her work, both thematic and formal.

Helena Musilová


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