JAN KOTÍK 1916–2002
The exhibition was prepared by the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art of the National Gallery in Prague.
Author of the exhibition concept and curator: Iva Mladičová (ext.)
Architectonic solution: Zbyněk Baladrán
Graphic solution: Jiří Mědílek
Cooperation: Helena Musilová (National Gallery in Prague)
Exhibition assistant: Jana Šmídmajerová (National Gallery in Prague)
Accompanying programme: Department of Education, Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art
The exhibition runs from 17 October 2013 to 23 March 2014 on the 1st floor of the Trade Fair Palace.
Jan Kotík (1916-2002) was mainly a painter, having a lifelong interest in the essence of a work of art and its position in society and excelling in intellectual reflection. He would transform his initial approach to the painting surface, gradually arriving at numerous variations of painting objects. He simultaneously created prints, drawings and collages and was famed for his inventive interventions in the sphere of applied arts and industrial design. He also realized his potential in theory. His intellectual approach nonetheless made the whole of his oeuvre an alive, variable stream based on the method of transforming the givens. It speaks of the sedulous coining of free modern expression: during the war period, against the ideology of "degenerate art"; from 1948, against the cultural policy of Social Realism; and of the effort to see off Kotíkʼs challenge in European cultural context. The concept of the present retrospective reflects the main subjects of Kotíkʼs particular stages of creative development, as well as the remarkable range of media he employed and their interconnection. The chronological order of the exhibited works is combined with confrontations across various periods - since Kotík, from the 1970s, repeatedly returned to issues solved earlier. The structure of the exhibition is first and foremost conceived with regard to the artistʼs subject of exploring the various possibilities of painting. The structure of the exhibition is first and foremost conceived with regard to the artistʼs subject of exploring the various possibilities of painting.
He studied at the Prague School of Applied Arts between 1935 and 1941, graduating from the studio of Jaroslav Benda. His paintings at the turn of the 1930s and 1940s intensely reflected the subject of war.
Kotíkʼs early work departs from the post-surrealist and post-cubist aestheticism and is closely linked with his activities in the Group 42 [Skupina 42]. Noticeable chapter in his career is his work in the Centre of Folk and Art Production (1947-1953), where he coined his leftist ideas about the possibilities of transformative power of the fine arts. He frequently published in the magazine Form [Tvar] and was mainly interested in the field of glass, i.e. receiving an honorary diploma for his monumental three-dimensional spatial painted glass for the Expo 58 World Exhibition in Brussels. In the latter half of the 1950s, Kotík ranked among the outstanding Czech artists around who crystallized the tendencies of informal character. His orientation towards non-figurative expression was supported by encountering the Danish painter, sculptor and ceramist Asger Jorn in the Italian city of Alba in 1956. Kotíkʼs approach to artistic work emphasized the constructive aspect of expressive records.
In the first half of the 1960s, Kotík changed the arrangement of the painting surface in accordance with the influence of calligraphy, lettrist tendencies and Structuralism. His works became part of the presentation of the Czechoslovak pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1964). In 1969, Kotík received a scholarship from the state foundation Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst in West Berlin; after it finished, he decided not to return to Prague. In the 1970s, he Kotík strengthened the conceptual aspect of his works, creating transformative objects which subjectified the dimensions of space and time; many of them were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1976. The early 1980s saw Kotík returning to a more spontaneous painting expression. His works again became inhabited by figural forms which he called "pseudo-figures". The final period of Kotíkʼs artistic development proves his effort at complex grasping of the whole - he became involved in the subject of "events that are happening" (conditioned by the existence of polarities), which was supported by his long-term interest in the Tao Te Ching treatise; he perceived a work of art as an open process. In 1997, he received the Fred Thieler Award for painting.
Kotíkʼs artistic expression is specific for constant accentuating the object character of a work of art. He based the dynamics of his expression on the tension between the rational aspect and the sensorial qualities of his works. The artistic approach of Jan Kotík almost seamlessly fuses the dimension of a progressiveness of the form of a work of art, reflecting the most advanced scientific theories, and emphasizing its social dimension. Due to Kotíkʼs interest in the topical expressions of both European and American painting and his ability to specifically evaluate them in his own characteristic manner, his entire oeuvre received the dimension of a specific vivacity.
The retrospective exhibition, organized by the National Gallery in the Trade Fair Palace, will introduce the works by Jan Kotík from both state and private collections from the Czech Republic, Germany and New York. The works on loan from the Berlinische Galerie and the Berlin Akademie der Künste will be exhibited in the Czech Republic for the first time. The specific character of the exhibition concept is also based on organic incorporating of Kotíkʼs theoretical works to the presented development of his artistic oeuvre. The exhibition is arranged in the following sections: I. Painting as the Anthropological Invariable, II. Studio - Study - Laboratory, III. Composing the Painting Surface - Transforming the Figure - The Process of Decomposing, IV. Structure of the Painting Surface - Calligraphy, Grids, Boards, V. Material Character of a Work of Art - Aspects of Space and Time, VI. Tendency towards Synthesis - A Work of Art as an Open Process.
Jan Kotík - Biography
1916 Jan Kotík was born on 4 January in Turnov to the family of the painter Pravoslav Kotík.
1935 Was accepted to the Prague School of Arts and Crafts in Prague, to the studio of Professor Jaroslav Benda; graduated in 1941
1938 Became actively involved in the anti-Fascist resistance.
1942 Became member of Group 42 [Skupina 42] (and was part of it until it disbanded in 1948).
1945 Entered the Hollar Association of Czech Graphic Artists. Worked as a member of the secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (until 1946).
1946 Became part of the art department of the Umělecká Beseda art association and a member of the Association of Czechoslovak Fine Artists. Undertook a study trip to Paris and London.
1947 Held a solo exhibition in the Prague Aleš Hall of the Umělecká Beseda. Travelled to Geneva, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and London. Upon the invitation of the architect Jan Vaněk, he began working in the Centre for Folk and Artistic Production (until 1953).
1948 Visited Bucharest. Began cooperating with the magazine Form [Tvar] (until 1963, publishing a large amount of his texts there).
1949 Realized a working journey to the Netherlands. Began cooperating with the glassmaking factory in Škrdlovice.
1951 Was invited to the circle of artists around the art theoretician Karel Teige as an editor of two (later unpublished) anthologies Signs of the Zodiac.
1954 The Prague publishing house Orbis published his book Tradition and Culture of Czechoslovak Production.
1956 Accompanied by Pravoslav Rada, he travelled to the Italian Alba in connection with the First World Congress of Free Artists, and met the Danish painter, sculptor, ceramic artist and author Asger Jorn.
1957 The Prague Gallery of Czechoslovak Writers held his solo exhibition which unleashed a heated discussion about abstract artistic expression. Befriended the artist Vladimír Boudník. Co-founded the Group of Industrial Artists, affiliated to the Umělecká Beseda association (Bilance).
1958 On the occasion of the Expo 58 world exhibition, he visited Brussels where his painted glass object for display in the Czechoslovak pavilion was awarded an honorary diploma.
1960 Held another solo exhibition in the Prague Aleš Hall, while both the catalogue to and the reviews of the exhibition were banned by the authorities. The exhibition was reviewed in the press abroad by Pierre Restany and Dore Ashton.
1963 Visited Great Britain and France. The North-Bohemian Museum in Liberec organized a solo exhibition of his work.
1964 Exhibited in the Czechoslovak Pavilion at the 32nd Venice Biennale. Was elected a member of the presidium of the Association of Czechoslovak Fine Artists.
1966 Held a solo exhibition in the Prague Gallery of the Čapek Brothers and in Munich. Was invited to sojourn in the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Visited Tokyo.
1967 Realized a relief glass wall for Expo 67 in Montréal in cooperation with the glassmaker René Roubíček.
1968 Partook in activities supporting the so-called Prague Spring. The Prague exhibition hall Mánes organized his solo exhibition. Was selected by the Institute of Modern Art in Nuremberg and included in its documentation.
1969 His book Speaking to a Blank Wall alias On the Usefulness of Things was published in Prague. Received a one-year scholarship of the state foundation Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst in West Berlin, where he then settled permanently.
1972 Lectured at Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm.
1973 Received political asylum in the Federal Republic of Germany.
1974 His book Konsum oder Verbrauch was published in Hamburg. Passed a working sojourn in the Italian Olevano Romano. Visited Paris. Co-founded the art group Systhema (which existed until 1978).
1975 Held a solo exhibition in the Amerika-Haus in Berlin. Became a member of the Association of West-German Fine Artists (Deutscher Künstlerbund).
1976 In Czechoslovakia, was sentenced in absentio to three years in prison for unlawful residence abroad and was deprived of his state nationality. Exhibited at the 37th Venice Biennale.
1978 The Museum Bochum organized Kotíkʼs solo exhibition. He participated in site-specific installations in the Berlin Lützowstraße (as well as in the following year, 1979).
1980 In the early 1980s, Kotík met the Czech-born philosopher, writer and journalist Vilém Flusser. From autumn 1980 to spring 1981, he lived in Paris (Cité Internationale des Arts).
1982 Stayed in New York from February to March of the following year.
1984 The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in the American state of Buffalo presented a solo exhibition of his works.
1986 Held several solo exhibitions in Essen (Museum Folkwang and Galerie Christel Schüppenhauer) and West Berlin (Galerie Petersen, Galerie Marina Dinkler and Künstlerhaus Bethanien). The Knox publishing house, based in Cologne, published his philosophical treatise Incomplete Compass.
1989 Exhibited in the Flaxman Gallery in London. Visited Czechoslovakia.
1991 The House of Arts in Brno organized a solo exhibition of his works. He became an external worker for the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
1992 The National Gallery in Prague organized a retrospective of his work (re-run in the Berlin Staatliche Kunsthalle and in Bochum in 1993). Was elected a regular member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
1993 Participated in establishing the Institute of Art Culture with the University of J. E. Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem, where he also lectured until 1997.
1996 Held a solo exhibition in the National Gallery in Prague. Was awarded the Prize of the Institute of Art Culture with the University of J. E. Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem for his merits in developing the Institute.
1997 Received the Fred Thieler Award for painting, and the Berlin Martin-Gropius Bau organized a solo exhibition of his works.
1998 Held a solo exhibition in the Jiří Švestka Gallery in Prague.
2000 The Jiří Švestka Gallery published Kotíkʼs Czech translation of Laoziʼs Tao Te Ching.
2002 Jan Kotík died on 23 March in Berlin.
Media partners: Česká televize, Český rozhlas, Prague Events Calendar, Anopress IT, Rádio 1
Technology partner: Samsung
The Trade Fair Palace
Dukelských hrdinů 47
170 00 Prague 7
Basic - 100 CZK
Reduced - 50 CZK
The National Gallery in Prague prepared a special joint entrance ticket for the visitors of the Trade Fair Palace for the upcoming season 2013/2014. It admits to three exhibitions for the prize 200 CZK (reduced prize 100 CZK). The ticket is available at the ticket offices in the Trade Fair Palace from 20 September 2013 and is valid till 23 March 2014 for the following exhibitions:
"Karel Prager: Architect, Builder, Visionary" - from 20 September 2013 to 5 January 2014
"Jindřich Chalupecký Award: Final 2013" - from 27 September 2013 to 1 December 2013
"Jan Kotík (1916-2002)" - from 18 October 2013 to 23 March 2014
Basic - 200 CZK
Reduced - 100 CZK
Press release of 17 October 2013
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