08.10.2020 - 17.04.2021
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
Special opening day: October 8, 4 pm–9 pm
Jiří Kovanda’s work is typified by several trademark aspects which manifest themselves continuously, from early actions and installations through postmodern drawings and paintings, collages, assemblages and objects of the 1990s to the current interventions, installations and performances: inconspicuousness, efforts at contact, humbleness, simplicity, spontaneity, sensitivity, humour and manipulation with ego.
The austere rendering of low-key, almost indiscernible installations and interventions is already apparent in Kovanda’s early actions in which he examined the most elementary possibilities of nonverbal communication. Back in the 1970s, the philosopher and art theorist Petr Rezek pointed out an interesting fact, saying that Kovanda’s actions signified, above all, a desire for contact. At the same time, they are set not to be fulfilled: they were often conceived so that they forced the artist to work with his natural shyness and to go beyond this mental barrier. The participants were placed in unknown situations outside the framework of art, or situations which through their non-diversion from normal behaviour remained invisible for viewers, and were only made visible by their subsequent documentation by means of photography and presentations in gallery contexts.
Photodocumentation was crucial in the next phase of Kovanda’s work in which his physical presence was gradually replaced by mere records of his activity. With installations intervening in private and public environments without the presence of viewers, photography presented the only possibility of recording the artist’s traces in the form of various objects of daily use and trivial materials installed completely inconspicuously in different places, both outdoors and indoors, also regarding the indiscernibility and ephemerality of these interventions. The artist already articulated his completely natural strategy of creating an unexpected context for an object and leaving a trace of his activity in his early works such as fallen leaves stuck to the ground with a sellotape, wooden wedges inserted between cobblestones and a pile of pine needles and nails in the forest, or interventions in interiors, for example, a flower pot hidden behind a pillar, a string tied around the same pillar two months later and a white string stretched across a room in Kovanda’s home.
Kovanda’s actions frequently involved banal situations, ordinary activities and mundane tasks that we do automatically, yet acted out in a shifted context. Likewise, in his installations and interventions the artist shifts ordinary, routinely used objects to a completely new, unexpected level by removing them from their original situation and taking away their primary utility function. Thanks to his work in the National Gallery depository Jiří Kovanda first started to use in his installations material related to installation practice in the everyday gallery run, for example strings, paper, glass and wooden wedges. He also employs things of daily use and household objects including foods in his current installations and interventions, along with objects typical of a particular place. Through them he makes a space more visible and defines its individual parts, and thus also slightly manipulatively determines how a particular space and its layout is perceived by viewers and sets a new manner of movement in this space. Jiří Kovanda’s installations are not rooted in an idea of a certain place suitable for or adjustable to a particular work; instead, he executes an idea and the preparation of a situation which is to make up the base of a new project, or of the employment of some of his older works, directly on the spot. This is also the case with the central installation Gold Ring which, perhaps most of all the works on display, prompts a reflection of values, in a metaphorical comparison of a string and a ring, an ordinary thing and an exceptional object. Everything has the same value, all depends on context and interpretation.
A virtual tour of Jiří Kovanda's exhibition - Ten minutes earlier can be found here.
 It was a provisional gallery space in Provaznická Street. The basement room of the Odeon publishers where Jan Mlčoch worked from 1978 was originally designed as an archive, and until Mlčoch’s resignation in 1980 was used by three Prague body artists (Karel Miler, Petr Štembera and Jan Mlčoch) as a meeting place. They staged there their own performances as well as those by their close friends, including Jiří Kovanda.
 In this respect, a key role in Kovanda’s art was played by Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition in the Václav Špála Gallery in 1969, prepared by the chief curator Jindřich Chalupecký in collaboration with the Milan art collector, gallery owner and art theorist Arturo Schwarz.
 In 1977 Karel Miler got Kovanda a job in the National Gallery in Prague; he was responsible for a depository housed in the Municipal Library. Kovanda worked there until 1995 when he became an assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, in a studio headed by Vladimír Skrepl.
 Not surprisingly, the artist’s installations tend to be confused with ordinary things accidentally left in a space, and as such must be carefully protected from the over-enthusiastic cleaning staff.
Fait Gallery MEM
Božetěchova Street 1 (enstrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
31/5 – 11/9/2014
Curator: Jiří Pátek
Ivan Pinkava is interested in categories and contents that are found at the very roots of Western civilization. The way we understand them and how we accept it´s different forms (that are reflected in our spiritual and material existence) form for him a mental interface, through which it is possible to reach the area where our consciousness is formed. The iconography of pictures and the way the author presents his own work, oscillates around the core of man with almost obsessive intensity. Despite this touching point it can not be said that Pinkava´s pictures are easy to understand for the audience. They do not shout their question: who are we? within the general discursus.
The author's thinking and work are intentionally out of this discursus, with the clear intention to avoid it´s coercive. They are being implemented deeper. Pinkava has never internally accepted the possibility of reducing the human society into a network of utilitarian relationships in the form the prophets of postmodernism have tried to import into the current discursus. All the feelings of emptiness, demons and anxiety that can be seen flashing through his photographs have their origin in the consciousness of being involved and connected to the power greater than each individual. This is not a position to which anyone can be put just by their own will, which gives even somehow a different meaning to practises that are based on such a position.
To emphasize this fact whilst talking about Ivan Pinkava has good reason. Sophisticated iconography full of references and quotations from key texts and works of art, from which we derive our identity as a civilization, would encourage to mark the author as a postmodern artist. For this, however, as has just been indicated, we lack more groundwork. In some way, this can also be seen in the collection of photographs called Remains, through which Pinkava, in 2012, reflected his last creative period. Next to the well known variations of depicting the body and physicality he also involved to a significant degree images of quite ordinary things. The connections that the animate and inanimate objects formed seem to re-confirm facts that those who know the artist's entire artwork must have guessed a long time ago.
Ivan Pinkava has always been trying to check fine distinctions, finding the breaking points and passages within which it is possible to receive qualitatively different things through identical categories. In the exhibition prepared for Fait Gallery dominate photographs from recent years, which, as a novelty, stimulate the audience to follow the presented art works without being laden with every day schemes. But what is perhaps more important is that they also encourage thoughts about where else Pinkava´s interest about the archeology of mentality of the Western man can go. Because the stylization, that he has chosen for some subjects of daily needs, comes to the very limits of conceptual communication. For the recipient ready to be guided by the label and then encrypt sophisticated coding, to which he is used to with the author of Pinkava´s intellectual level, must be the mechanism of being first dragged by the image area, and long after that the ordinary reading mechanisms start, a pleasant change. This change must also have the equivalent somewhere deep in the author's thinking.