Jiri Georg Dokoupil

Galerie Schurr

Jiří Georg Dokoupil: the name almost seems a synonym for change. But the mutability of Dokoupil’s work reflects more than his fundamental skepticism toward the idea of stylistic consistency within an artist’s oeuvre. Moving from approach to approach sparks his imagination, and simultaneously clears the viewer’s head of remembered images. One has to look with a fresh eye, turning one’s attention to the picture at hand and not to developments within a personal style.

Successfully fulfilling this program, these six night pieces from the “Geschichten aus dem Jenseits des Universums” series (Stories from beyond the universe, 1984) are seductive masterpieces, both penetrating and enticingly reserved. The reserve comes of opposing strategies: affirmation and rejection, banality and the systematic overstatement of banality. With their suggestive, romantic blue backgrounds and their peepholelike views of a perspectival stage and a starry firmament beyond, these paintings pull out all the emotional stops. Dokoupil satisfies our desire for beauty with his sensual, saturated colors, and panders to our delight in the familiar with his art-historical iconography—stages, blowing curtains, vipers, vanitas metaphors. These beautiful illusions work their seductions even though we know better, and even though, or rather precisely because, Dokoupil suffuses his systematically constructed mood pieces with anecdotal irony, showing us that their apparent sophistication is itself just a cliché. In these scenes and fables, ranging in subject matter from the Fall to oral hygiene, the thoroughly banal plays the lead role in banally eroticized tableaux vivants. Here’s a sample: a glowing rubber pacifier, both light source and phallic/oral element in one, illuminates an upright cigarette between spread-eagle matches. If such simple directness strikes us as provocative rather than boring, it’s because Dokoupil plays with the paradox of urging an interpretation on us and simultaneously making the absurdity of that interpretation plain. We’re dealing with the image as image here, and not with content of a traditional sort.

Dokoupil wants to excite the viewer, to get under the viewer’s skin, to create a beauty that touches on both artistic consciousness and on the kernels of truth within kitsch. He has said that he wants to make “international icons,” “religious images”—like Hollywood films from the ’40s and ’50s, or like Michael Jackson’s Thriller record (1983). The musical image is appropriate, for Dokoupil has again remarked, “Everything that’s happened in music in the last two or three decades is flowing together, but there’s something more that comes through, something that ties it all together and intensifies it.” Dokoupil’s interest is what ties it all together.

Ingrid Rein

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.