Critics’ Picks

Luboš Plný, Untitled, 2012, ink, acrylic, and stamp on paper, 33 x 23''.

Prague

Luboš Plný

DOX Centre for Contemporary Art
Poupětova 1
December 14 - March 12

Model, janitor, railway electrician: If Luboš Plný’s myriad vocations exclude formal training in art, this sweeping exhibition confirms the artist’s prowess and the contemporary art world’s desire to embrace a practice it once considered “outsider.” Here, we see Plný mercilessly rive his body and psyche, amassing the effects of his self-criticism and physical depredation in collage, sculpture, and photography.

In two collages from 2012 and 2014 (both Untitled), Plný draws his brain as delicate dissections. Each slice bristles with detail. Often, labels refer to body parts as well as the maladies they may unleash. (The word “insomnia” is incised on the encephalon.) The works will fascinate and confuse viewers who know their science. For instance, Plný’s use of blues and reds evokes the circulation of blood, yet he applies the colors indiscriminately. As expressive graphics, his collages connect to Surrealist drawing; as rigorous analyses, they link to the Conceptualists’ obsession with systems. The works describe a netherworld of hovering shapes, twisted networks, and torrential vitality. They posit that the matter within us—the matter that is us—constitutes a world of functions and malfunctions.

Sex Toys and Love, both 2017, are more mechanical and brutal. Sex Toys, a sweeping wall installation, combines antlers, children’s toys, furniture, and other knobby elements into an unsettling circuit of suffering and pleasure. In Love, the assembled bits are raw and vaguely tribal; the vagina is reduced to a plastic tube, while beaded ropes hang from phalluses. Plný compels us to ask how well we know ourselves—and where such a search could even begin.