New York

Anna Zemánková


A consistent source of formal and iconographic inspiration to academically trained, historically engaged artists throughout the twentieth century (from Paul Klee to Max Ernst to Julian Schnabel), talented autodidacts like Czech artist Anna Zemánková (1908–86) have too often been discussed using a pseudo-critical vocabulary (such as “compulsive visionaries,” coined by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992) that reads more like a diagnosis than an appraisal. Although the circumstances of this artist’s life might invite the former, the eighteen oil-pastel drawings that made up the show, marked by a uniquely lyrical language of biomorphic abstraction, demand nothing less than the latter.

Zemánková, a Prague housewife who suffered from chronic depression and who never pursued a formal art education, began making swirling, luminous drawings in 1960, at the age of fifty-two. She often drew

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