58TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION
MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES
RALPH RUGOFF, CURATOR
CZECH & SLOVAK
Inaugurated on the occasion of the Czechoslovak participation at La Biennale Arte in 1926, the Czech and Slovak Pavilion in Giardini di Castello in Venice is a late work of one of the most progressive modernist architects of the last century, Otakar Novotný (1880 – 1959). Designed in the functionalist style, with an application of the classical architectural language, the building is based upon a construction of simple geometric forms, echoing the tradition of antiquity. Its location in the proximity to the national pavilions of France, Germany and Great Britain indicates a strong geopolitical inclination of Czechoslovakia as a newly founded state.
Stanislav Kolíbal was born in Orlová (former Czechoslovakia) in 1925, and currently lives and works in Prague. He studied graphic design at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, and stage design at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. His works have been included in major international exhibitions, for example Sculpture from 20 Nations, (Guggenheim, New York, 1967), Between Man and Matter (Metropolitan Art Gallery, Tokyo, 1970), Konstrukcja w procesie (Museum of Art, Łodż 1981), Transforming Chronologies (MoMA, New York 2006) and Other Primary Structures (Jewish Museum, New York, 2014), and in solo exhibitions at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Milan, 1983), the National Gallery Prague (1997, 2015) and Labil - Stabil (Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 2000). Nonetheless, Kolíbal’s oeuvre remains insufficiently represented, still waiting to be considered in a broader international context.
Artist’s studio, Prague, 2019
Stanislav Kolíbal is the pioneer of Czech avant-garde. His groundbreaking oeuvre which spans seven decades, critically renegotiates the vocabulary of the minimal art and Arte Povera. It focuses on the precarious interrelationship between perfection/insufficiency, stability/instability, unambiguity/ambiguity, or certainty/uncertainty. These basic categories – inseparably linked to one another in the artist’s sculptures, installations and drawings – represent for him the very essence of being. Kolíbal’s artistic work is unquestionably determined by the “most interesting times” he experienced in Czechoslovakia where he witnessed extremely challenging political developments since the early 1940s.
The exhibition Former Uncertain Indicated presents Kolíbal’s artistic work in a semi-retrospective way, including a site-specific intervention. It combines an exterior “spatial drawing” related to the modernist facade of the Czech and Slovak Pavilion and a large-scale “wall-drawing” inside of the building, both made for this occasion, with two historical bodies of work: a group of white sculptures from the 1960s and four conceptual wall-installations from the 1970s, made of found materials.
The exhibition title is derived from Stanislav Kolíbal’s mid-1970s conceptual installation on view in the Pavilion. Its poetic and ambiguous character is crucial for the understanding of the artist’s position regarding time, life and art.
Former Uncertain Indicated, 1976
Borderline Between Light and Dark, 1985