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 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
22/3 – 16/5/2014
Opening: 20/3/2014 at 7pm
Curator: Jan Zálešák
The Fait Gallery invites you to a solo exhibition of last year's graduates from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts Jan Brož (*1988). The exhibiton installation presents a constricted dramaturgical unit, the most important parts are six large drawings, a neon object and an author's book. At the SSSSSS exhibition the political clashes with the poetic in a way, which is not very common today. What is missing is an explicit "political iconography", we will not find here the proven model of engagement, which leaves the gallery world to consequently return to "conquer" the necessary symbolic capital. The greater burden lies on the audience, who can not quite hold of the established clichés, the greater might be the synergistic effect of understanding of the author's message.
I want to start the closer introduction of Jan Brož’s exhibition SSSSSS a bit unusually: by residency stays. In the last two decades the artistic residency has become a routine part of artistic life. Since the adoption of the Bologna Declaration fifteen years ago the possibilities for exchanges during university studies have dramatically expanded. Even in the routine system, that - especially in the concept of the EU - most of all implicits support of tourism, there are exceptions when staying in a new environment significantly influences the students. One of the places that have long retained this ability to influence and move the young artists in their development, was the Cooper Union in New York, where the students from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts used to be sent. Jan Brož spent at Cooper Union nearly six months in the spring of 2012. At that time, the school had just entered a dramatic period when its leadership began to consider a move away from the 150-year-old declaration of its founder, industrialist Peter Cooper, that the school should be "free to all men and women". The fact that the school management had accepted the neoliberal logic seeing the studies as an investment in the future and introduced tuition fees, led to the activation of both students and a big part of teaching staff. It is surely significant that Barbora Kleinhamplová, who interned along with Jan Brož, after returning to Prague significantly profiled her activities leading into the organisation of the art scene and she is getting more and more involved in the area of engaged in journalism and organisational activities.
After returning from New York Jan was finishing work on a long-term project The Intruder (2011-2013), by which he completed the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts last year. Therefore the SSSSSS exhibition in Brno Gallery MEM is the first significant evaluation of almost two years of formative experience. The content of Brož‘s exhibition is substantively political. The author asks for the way in which individuals and communities are working within the structure of the world of late capitalism; a world that Jonathan Crary identifies by the well put three digits: 24/7.
Even though I point Brož’s work as "political" (and certainly I also could have used the adjective "conceptual"), it is also work that exclusively holds the autonomy of art, and artistic means of expression. In the longterm the dominant means of expression in Brož’s work is drawing. The author also uses his experience gained with graphics and graphic design that he gets through both the PhD study in studio 304 at the Prague School of Applied Arts and at work in the studio Parallel Practice. A substantial part of the exhibition is the artist's book of the same name, which in addition to reproductions of exhibited artwork also includes examples of the artist's older works and fragments of the "moodboard" that preceded the installation of the exhibition and also accompanied our discussions over the nature of the accompanying text.