curated by Jiří Ptáček
Private preview: 16. 04. 2014, Wednesday, 19.00 hod.
Exhibition lasts: 17. 04. – 31. 5. 2014
„Reintroduction of historical artistic idea leaves a depressing impression of a panoptical pseudopresence and it is close to a breach of taboo,“ writes Hans Belting in his book The End of Art History and he refers not only to a series of photographs by Cindy Sherman, but also to a whole set of connections between contemporary and previous art including obsolete models of art history. Paintings of Adam Štech evoke the impression of „panoptical pseudopresence. Apart from schemes of representation originated in pre-modern art his painting utilizes also a knowledge of a specific current of „Picasso-like painting“, which given its international and global reach has to be understood not only as an artistic style of an individual, but also as a widely shared and in its time dominant canon of modernist expression that incorporated in itself the ethos of permeation of the Western world by other cultures alongside certain conservativism. In a simplified mode I dare claim that every culture in the first half of the previous century that looked up to Western art (and its Parisian centre), shortly owned its own Picasso – author or authors in whose work Picaso`s legacy was at the same time replicated and adapted for the local conditions. In the Czech environment it was manifested in the work of Emil Filla. Slovak version of Picasso-like painting is found in works by Koloman Sokol. In connection with works by these two artists it is interesting to observe, that if we accepted Hans Belting`s contemplation about the end of art history models as such, we could draw a thick line and put these two artists away from any future dominance (without marking their work as outdated). However, the reality of art markets in our countries proves that the tendency to put the two artists to the centre of interpretation of artistic values for our present is still valid. We should not dismiss it because of a delayed art market and its reflection of artistic values. On the contrary, we should involve it in discussions about contradictions in the very core of our cultural identities as a potentially productive aspect.
Adam Štech oscillates between denial and fascination. His systematic exploitation of historical painting does not stem from the need to deconstract it, but from a certain frankenstein-like desire to (re)construct his body. It is possible Štech wants to stand his ground in competition with his predecessors (to put it right stand his ground with a conscious of their mastery), but he cannot simply paint like them. Explicit seams on his paintings, from a processual point of view logical outcomes of a use of collage as sketches, are constitutive elements which demonstrate inability to repeat concrete patterns in their completness, metaphorically put – scars visible after this body has been sewn.The process by which he recreates an ugly monster.
To be slightly imprisoned in interpretations of his work as deeply personal and based on experience, Štech`s Picasso-like and quasi cubist replications function not only as a vent of a distinctive painterly talent, but as well as an escape from among people popular decadent or „dark“ tendencies (I name these elements because Kristína Jarošová, a curator of the show Figura Obscura in Bratislava listed Štech`s work under these elements). Inspiration by Picasso could under these circumstances enable us to perceive his work from a distance, even in a kind of drastically humorous way, especially because like in the case of his predecessor this aggressivness of many of his figurative paintings was a crazy paly of a painter aware of his talent and distinctive status.
In 2008 a Czech conceptual artist and curator Václav Magid organised on the premises of the City Gallery of Prague an exhibition Contemporary Czech Cubism. Choosing works from many Czech artists showing at least basic cubistic features he presented them to the public like a confusing report about unexpected return of this -ism. Many viewers believed his mystification and parody. Insiders, on the other hand, had fun seeing their reactions. From a perspective of few years we can say that there is a return to remaining ideals and forms of modern art in the Czech Republic. In painting we account these ideals in terms of a renaissance of a vocabulary of avantgarde abstraction. To perceive Adam Štech as another neo-modernist artist would be too daring. The fact that he often chooses from an older artistic tradition suggests that he prefers post-modern freedom in the realm of which he can take, appropriate anything if he can stand it. As if this appendix proved his exceptionality on the Czech art scene. Adam Štech can face the past and beat it with his own artistic methods. He does not drop behind his examples and still he confronts us (and himself) with „an anxious impression“ of inappropriateness. Tension, emerging from his artistic skills and their use in seemingly derivative way, enables us to experience the essence (and rationally observe the background) of our relationship to a repetition that is acceptable, but not that much desired, or on the contrary, desired but not reflected that much.
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