Image from: httpwww.radio.czczrubrikaknihypoznamky-z-poslednich-let-zivota-jiriho-kolare
A lot has been said, written and shown of the work of Jiří Kolář, the pre-eminent Czechoslovak artist after WWII. By many he is regarded as an innovator of collages, which he worked on for most of his career. Like my one of my previous posts, this year is the centenary of his birth and this week I saw two shows both showing his work. The first more intimate exhibit is in Galerie Smečky, a great little company gallery which has shown some stellar stuff although at first one might be a bit put off by its environs.
Kolář’s work is well known as his can often be found at shows or bought in commercial galleries within decent financial range. He also often features in magazines or other media as his work has a highly modern and pop art quality to it. He is a kind of Czech version of Andy Warhol without the drugs, sex and glam inspiration. Just like Warhol but in his own way he worked with mass reproduced images, his specialty lay in the way he was able to shape and contort them in an interesting manner.
|A Czech soup can.|
Image from: httpwww.galerieart.czkolar_vystava_kolaze_2010.htm
The different collages techniques which he used were often based on everyday print both newspapers and advertising images. Kolář’s also took numerous reproduced historical paintings and gave them a “twist“. Many of the original images would be familiar to a generation of Czechoslovaks who grew up the(History of Art) Dějiny umění series by Pijoan. These are often presented as cartoons with a slight South Park like quality.
Image from: httpwww.galerieart.czjiri_kolar_vystava_2007_3.htm
To a young viewer many of his collages might seem as the work of photo-shop since they only seem distorted rather than completely changed. In some cases the added elements are so discreetly inserted one has hard time finding them. His ideas of a collage really makes one think as some of his works give the impression of being black and white photo of the abstract kind while his “rollages” hint at a kind of LSD inspired psychedelic optical illusion of the 60’s
Images of illusion
Image from: httpwww.eucebnice.czliteraturakolarkolar_baudelaire.jpg
Optical illusions are a particularly strong aspect of his collages as the eye is constantly made to search and examine what it is being shown, particularly good examples are his chiasmages, where tiny pieces of script are glues onto a base to created a kind of “wallpaper” but only on closer inspection does one realize that each collage is made of up a different type of script, be it Hebrew ,Hindi or Latin. As as complete opposite then comes a political newspaper collage from 1968 which is formed by placing whole newspapers on each other under a frame.
Another medium for a collage
Image from: httpwww.designmagazin.czumeni36539-kolaze-od-svankmajera-i-kolare-vystavuji-smecky.html
The second show at the Kampa Museum is much bigger given the close relationship Mr. and Mrs. Medek had with the artist. This friendship is greatly emphasized not only in this exhibit but in the entire museum where visitors are periodically confronted with images of the art patroness. The museum is also able to show other collage techniques he used such as textile collages which look like political banners or flags and his collage encrusted objects such as apples or other forms.
|Art outside the Kampa museum|
Both of the shows focus on slightly different parts of his oeuvre but together provide an alternative view of mass produced commercial images.