Opening: Thursday, January 13, 6:30pm-8:30pm.
NY/Prague 6 is a group exhibition opening at the Czech Center in NYC. Organized by independent curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud, this exhibition will present new work by both Prague and New York City-based artists whose practices range from installation and public art projects, to sculpture and painting, to photo-based work and performance. Participating artists are at different stages of their careers and represent a mix of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In the summer of 2010, Franklin Evans, Brendan Fernandes, Katie Holten, Robert Melee, David Scanavino and Xaviera Simmons were invited to produce projects while in residence at Chateau Trebesice in the Czech Republic. The artists were chosen based on the quality of their work, their ability to create work in a short time frame within the context of a new environment, and their interest in learning about the history and location of the site. Lopez-Chahoud worked closely with the artists to facilitate the realization of their projects. To continue fostering a cultural dialogue between the two cities, the NYC artists and the curator selected seven Prague artists to exhibit with them at the Czech Center in NYC: collaborative duo David Böhm & Jiří Franta, Ivars Gravlejs, Eva Kotatkova, Alena Kotzmannová, Alice Nikitinova, and Eugenio Percossi. The participating artists from Prague have also selected a group of Czech artists whose work will be on view in a video program for the duration of the exhibit.
NYC: Robert Melee, David Scanavino, Katie Holten, Xaviera Simmons, Brendan Fernandes, Franklin Evans
PRAHA: David Böhm, Jiří Franta, Ivars Gravlejs, Alena Kotzmannová, Eva Koťátková, Alice Nikitinová, Eugenio Percossi
Franklin Evans’s process-oriented painting installations offer measurements of architectural space, image materiality, and time. He presents a theatrical painting environment that collapses, accelerates and simultaneously extends its own archivality and the idea of the archival through viewer interaction and time's passage. In floornote2010, diaristic drawings and recorded thought from the recent past (2005-2010) are laminated and laid as tiles on the floor of the gallery. Through the audience's repeated walking over that floor, the temporary preservation of images and notes is disrupted through physical wear.
Brendan Fernandes’s work investigates the concept of authenticity as an ideological construct used by both dominant and subordinate cultures to their own ends. Definitions of “authenticity” shape cultural experience, and thus, the formation of identity. In his recent work, he explores the dilemmas and codes created by language through ethnicity and sub-culture; the artist specifically looks at how vernacular can be learned and then forgotten once removed from its place of origin.
Katie Holten’s work addresses the relationship between and among nature, social construction, and memory. The New York-based Irish artist directs our attention to physical and conceptual objects and phenomena that are often overlooked. At the root of Holten’s practice is a love of drawing. At Futura Gallery in Prague, she presented a drawing installation that manifested her deepening curiosity about the conditions by which specific natural materials (such as weeds, twigs, and stones) both emerge from and return to culture. She also painted the gallery walls Cosmic Turquoise, the “average” color of the universe incorrectly calculated by astrophysicists at Johns Hopkins University. The painted walls served as the “ground” on which the drawing installation took form.
Since the beginning of his career, Robert Melee has sought to relocate formal debates about Western art historical tradition to the psychological realm of the suburban home. For example, Melee’s Mobile is not your typical chandelier. It is an assortment of household items, craft, and kitsch – a clash of abstract beauty and the grotesque. In the video projection, This Is For You Backdrop, Melee compresses ten years of documented footage of encounters with lovers, friends, and family shot on at least three camera formats – color, black and white, and super-8 film – into a 20-minute loop.
In David Scanavino's work, the daily Czech newspaper Blesk is returned to pulp from its newsstand form. Text and image are processed back into ink and pigment by the artist's hand. He then uses these elements to create site-specific wall forms that mirror the original scale of the paper. Content is removed, but not erased. Scanavino made one work for each day of his residency for a total of twenty-two pieces. Installed next to each other, these works will create an archive of this specific moment.
Xaviera Simmons works in a range of media including photography, sculpture, installation, performance and sound. In this way, she constructs a visual language that incorporates the histories of portraiture, landscape, anthropology, and linguistics as they relate to art, science, theater, and text. At Futura Gallery, Simmons exhibited new photographic works that drew on the landscape of Trebesice as a site for a non-linear narrative, and a site-specific, text-based installation using the visual vernacular of everyday, hand-painted street signage as a new means to look at visual constructions of the poetic.
David Böhm and Jiří Franta - Both artists almost exclusively employ the technique of wall drawing and the mechanism of automatically flowing associations. Subjectivism is compensated by the presence of two artistic egos, the constant reflection of external impulses, and by the application of rational concepts. The artists are able to directly and almost instantly respond through a drawing which takes the form of a record and they develop it into a new form. This acceleration ability is not a final product as they integrate automatism into multi-layer structures. For example, during their first large exhibition entitled “It Is Not What It Could Be” (2006), which was held at the NoD experimental venue in Prague, the display changed on a daily basis depending on the events taking place at the gallery and the adjacent café, depicted in newspapers, as well as on the events personally experienced by the authors and on their current mood. After this rather intuitive concept, two more followed: the exhibition “Easy Givennes” (2008), held at the Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague, focused on dailies (MF Dnes and Blesk), which ultimately end up on the ground after use. At the Klenová Gallery in Klatovy, the authors responded to the content of the gallery itself (re-drawing its outputs from catalogues and other printed materials). This indication alone implies that the drawing of Franta and Böhm overlaps many areas – performativeness, conceptuality, institutional criticism, political commentary, self-reflection, the search for other possibilities for traditional media (drawings, pictures, photographs), etc. David Böhm and Jiří Franta met at Vladimír Skrepl’s studio of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and they have been displaying their work together since 2006. (from the text by Edith Jeřábková)
Ivars Gravlejs has an educational background in photography, to which most of his artistic activities are connected. His work focuses on “non-professional” visual communication and the relation between image and text. For instance, part of his practice is connected to the research and analysis of “vernacular photography” in the context of contemporary art, with projects conceived as mostly conceptual and connected to appropriation, manipulation, and interventions. A crucial measure is his critical attitude towards established things without the need to keep up appearances.
Eva Kotatkova's starting point for her work is her nearest environment: the basic, “naturally” structured communities like household, family or school with their mechanisms, rituals and schemes of mutual dependencies. Art provides her with an instrument for exploring these units, presenting them in new contexts and reﬂecting her own position within them. At the same time, her focus turns on the artistic process itself and its language: this implies permanent revisions of the classical ways of representation, artistic procedures, and techniques. Kotatkova works with everyday stories and situations, re-evaluating them, transforming them, locating them within new coordinates, given her personal experience and biography. She examines simple actions by making their performance more difﬁcult and extending their duration up to (or beyond) the limits of bearability. In this way, the artist tests her own physical dispositions, flexibility, and limits of ability to experience particular situations, spatial and personal relations. The outputs do not aim at unity in form and style, the drawings, objects, and actions interpenetrate and complement one another. She take things out of their natural environments and rearranges them into new wholes, transforming them into functionless mechanisms, hybrids, conglomerates of shapes, materials, and things with divergent memories. Particularly important is the installation. It determines the way of looking at things (often by means of equipment constructed for that purpose) or of moving about in the space, despite various obstacles set up for the body. The urge to involve the spectator into a new environment, with its own impenetrable order, to expose him/her to a new perceptual experience, leads to a permanent, perhaps rambling search for various forms of expression. The measure of their efﬁciency is the physical intensity and associative force of their impact on the spectator. However, an obsessive recording of things and situations by means of drawing remains the most intimate and direct way of expression for her.
Alena Kotzmannová usually photographs normal scenes, inconspicuously extracted from her environs. Even though many depicted situations and objects leave an unreal impression, we feel an immediate contact with the present world from them. Ordinary objects and environments in these photographs become metaphors of feelings and moods; they become a language of subjective prose. Kotzmannová's photographs differ from traditional photojournalism, but also from strictly conceptual photography of the 1970s that intentionally suppressed any pictorial aesthetic. Her work is more akin to a concept of art photography that was demonstrably derived – any of these disciplines can seem remote from one another – from contemporary sculpture. Though it is true that Kotzmannová does not arrange photographed situations, she approaches that which she is to photograph as if it were a sculptural installation, which, owing to its passing nature, must be immediately documented. Also present in her photographs is a narrative element: the record of the object or situation is the result of an action, and the action can be literarily captured and elaborated on. By translating it into words, however, the tension which the photographic image manages to hold would be lost. A properly described and analysed dream loses its power over a person. (© from the text by Tomáš Pospiszyl)
Recently working with everyday objects, whose meaning or function is not so important, Alice Nikitinova paints said objects life-sized and doesn't allow any perspective or illusion of space behind them. There lies what you see, sitting on the canvas surface, and nothing more. Images are built on certain geometrical principles, approaching abstraction, but the depiction of an easily recognizable object keeps it grounded. There is a tension between the common stuff, which is part of our daily routine, and the art stuff, which is meant to be a kind of festive object. However, without necessarily having to paint these objects, Nikitinova also collects readymades that attract one by their useless and dummy-like appearance, causing the boundary between creating and collecting to almost disappear; it's possible to admire beauty of a broom, standing in the corner, or of unrolled toilet paper that creates a long snow-white line. Nikitinova states, “I am a big fan of modernist art and trying to deal with it, but I understand that there are not so many ways left to be innovative. So instead of deconstructing a table in a cubistic way, I could just put it upside down. Trying to find some new ways of expression, conscious that it's not possible any more, I am doing things just a bit wrong and silly. I am putting things into disorder, but a strictly controlled one.”
Eugenio Percossi works on themes such as death and illusion, and feelings like depression and unease. “I know how insane this obstinacy is, still I know this is my destiny, at least til now. I do not think it right to stay trapped in an obsession (I too have my ways of escape); still, I believe that an artist´s role is to document his own research, or obsession, letting the viewer experience it, hopefully as a catharsis, however temporary, before returning to his own life.”
Omar Lopez-Chahoud earned MFAs from Yale University School of Art in New Haven, CT and the Royal Academy of Art in London. As an independent curator, his exhibitions include: “Never Never Land,” at the University Gallery, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tampa, FL; “Hash Brown Potatoes,” at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, NY; and a curatorial project in connection with “Crossing the Line,” at the Queens Museum of Art in Queens, NY. He is one of the founders of The Brewster Project, a program of site specific installations in the town of Brewster, NY (2001-2002). He has also curated exhibitions at Cuchifritos and Artists’ Space, both in NYC, and has written essays for several publications including the catalogues for Dynasty (2006) and Rewind/ReCast/Review (2005). Lopez-Chahoud has participated in curatorial panel discussions at Artists' Space; Art in General; P.S.1; The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. He was a guest critic at Art Omi in 2007.
Organized by: Czech Center New York, Futura