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News > In Celebrating Print, Fantasies Triggered Our Imagination

In Celebrating Print, Fantasies Triggered Our Imagination

Katerina Kyselica 28 January, 2014

The recent exhibition at the BBLA Gallery presented phenomenal prints, all hand-pulled, by two generations of renowned Czech and Slovak printmakers. Their world of fantasy and imagination was presented in etchings and lithographs, traditional printmaking techniques that in hands of the masters revealed timeless qualities and beauty.

 

When I met New York print collector Marvin Bolotsky and learned about his vast collection of Central and Eastern European prints, I did not hesitate to offer a collaboration to exhibit Czech and Slovak prints at the BBLA Gallery. The two months of preparation gave me a wonderful opportunity to examine each and every one of the 58 works created by 27 artists. Being a printmaker myself, I was intrigued by the remarkable command of technique and diversity of narrative centered on human figure. The narratives present in all exhibited works told compelling stories, visual representations of events from the past or present (Czech Karel Demel’s Salome, Canadian-Czech James Janicek’s Isaac and Abraham, Czech Adolf Born’s Colombina or Czech Jan Hisek’s John’s Apparition). Many used humor, wit, irony, and puns in various ways, expressing notions about the absurdity of the world, politics and human nature.

 

Karel Demel, Salome, intaglio

Karel Demel, Salome, 1987, intaglio

 

Some works offered psychological self-examination, particularly attractive in surreal compositions questioning our understanding of the world. I certainly felt for the colorful lithographs from the 1970s (Morning, or One Problem, To Be Correctly Placed in the Space) by Slovak artist Vladimir Gazovic, phenomenal for the combination of color washes and ink-pen-like lines (known as scratch lithograph when lines are inscribed into the stone, then printed in a manner similar to intaglio). Gazovic’s imaginative world is composed of human beings often with inherent physical flows, animals and bizarre objects, in juxtaposed relationships questioning our understanding of reality.

 

Vladimir Gazovic, lithographs

 

Those familiar with the work of Czech illustrators and renowned authors of animated films Jiri Salamoun (Maxipes Fik) and Adolf Born (Mach a Sebestova) had a great chance to explore another dimension of their creative work – free, non commissioned art. Although both artists work in stone lithography, the most direct printmaking technique when artist draws with crayon or paints with ink directly on stone, Jiri Salamoun’s prints appear flat, more graphic, with a strong presence of black, which perfectly suits sarcasm of his narrative carrying an underlying message of political oppression (Public Secret and Act Demonstrative). Adolf Born’s lithographs, on the other hand, attract with soft texture and warm color palette of prevailing browns, providing his imagery with a sense of mystery and nostalgia (Hommage to Karel Zeman).

 

Jiri Salamoun, Public Secret, 1987, lithograph

 

An intriguing view into a fantastic world of elves, knights, angels and other captivating characters was offered in the etchings by Slovak artist Katarina Vavrova. A woman, gazing directly at the viewer, is central to her work as a silent, emotionless narrator of a surreal story unveiling around her. Vavrova uses a simple line etching technique, creating out of small lines textured dresses, hats, veils, textures and landscapes. After she prints an edition of the etching, she often hand-colors each print, thus creating unique monoprints instead of an edition of identical prints.

 

Katarina Vavrova, The World is Full of Elves I, 2000, intaglio

 

Despite the current association of Czech and Slovak printmaking with representational, figurative works, avant-garde with trends of abstraction has been inherent to development of the former Czechoslovak art, including printmaking, beginning early in the 20th century. The 1930s generation (Adriena Simotova, Alena Kucerova, Zdenek Sykora, Romana Rotterova, and others), represented in the exhibition by monumental prints of Nadezda Synecka (Shine of Cosmic Compassion), explored new approaches in art and printmaking in the 1960-70s Czechoslovakia.

 

Celebrating Print: Masters of Czech and Slovak Printmaking was first in the series of upcoming annual presentations of the art of Czech and Slovak printmaking that will explore other dimensions in printmaking, artistic approaches and experimental printmaking techniques. I was pleased to host two guided tours of this inaugural exhibition as well as a special night for members of The Print Club of New York and welcomed the public as well as fellow printmakers who were stunned by the excellence of the works and eager to learn about Central European printmaking.

 

To receive the exhibition essay, email Katerina Kyselica.

 

 


Katerina Kyselica is a Czech-American artist, printmaker and writer based in New York City. She writes for Czech media (MF Dnes, Grapheion, Arts&Antiques, Design Magazine) and the American Journal of the Print World. She is owner of KADS NY, art & design consulting practice. Contact Katerina.

 

 

 

 


Bohemian Benevolent & Literary AssociationHospodaThe National Czech and Slovak MuseumAmerican Friends of the Czech RepublicCzech CenterConsulate General