ART IN ISOLATION: ROMANTIC ADOLESCENCE OF JIŘÍ KOVANDA
12. May 2021
“The enthusiasm of not needing anything and still being able to do something was very liberating. And this freedom entranced me at the time,” the artist Jíří Kovanda remembers the period of his romantic, artistic adolescence. In his early performances, he was keen to break down stereotypical barriers to interpersonal relationships.
Marcel Duchamp's 1969 exhibition at the Špála Gallery and one of Olympic's secret concerts became inspirational for Kovanda. “I've always tried to make things that I believe should be comprehensible to people. Regardless of what regime they live in, their political, social circumstances,” says Kovanda, according to whom one can work as an author even in the midst of a not so normal situation and time.
Why Art in Isolation?
The artistic activity took a strong hit. Exhibitions began to get cancelled, various regulations affected direct interaction with colleagues, spectators, and the world stage. Questions about the meaning of art, an artist's mission, and boundaries of freedom emerged yet again. The testimonies of the artists who were creating their art during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia are an important memento of a time gone by and an inspiration for the search for meaningful answers in the present. With or without the crisis.
The stories of artists in the time of totality carry on. You can look forward, among other things, to the stories of Květa Pacovská, Kurt Gebauer, Tomáš Císařovský and others. You can watch each episode on social media and web platforms of the two associated institutions, Kunsthalle Praha & Post Bellum–Memory of Nations.
Jiří Kovanda (*1953) achieved a successful artistic career without formal training. He started off with lone events in the streets, inviting just his friends. Despite being apolitical, his existential action art was noticed by the Western art scene. He was a solitary artist in the 80s and 90s, and displaying his works was less important than exploring the mysteries of ordinary life. After 1989, he worked as a teacher at art colleges and thanks to his exhibition activities, he climbed to the top of the Czech Art Index.