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Viktor Karlík: Signs and other work

  • Where: Montmartre Gallery
  • When: February 11, 2014, 19:00 – March 9, 2014, 12:00

Opening of an exhibition of art by Viktor Karlík.

The music group Ženy will perform.

The exhibition runs until 9.3.2014.

Viktor Karlík (born 1962, Prague) is a painter and graphic artist who also creates sculptures and objects. The roots of his art stretch back to the 1980s underground scene. In 1981 he graduated from a Prague secondary school specialising in graphic art. He was later employed at the depositary of the National Gallery in Prague’s collection of oriental art, including as a restorer. In 1985 he co-founded the samizdat magazine Jednou nohou (One Leg, later Revolver Revue), where he serves to this day as a graphic artist and editor. As well as free art and editorial work, he also devotes himself to book graphics. His most recent substantial retrospective, entitled Underground Work, took place at the West Bohemian Gallery in Pilsen in 2012.

The exhibition Signs and Other Work takes in serigraphy, linocut and a sculpture created by Viktor Karlík in the last eight years and frequently dedicated to literary figures who have been a source of inspiration to the artist; these include a portrait of a Libeň graphic artist and visionary (Tribute to Vladimír Boudník, 2009), quotations from the writings of Céline, Gombrowicz and Musil and a statement by Marcel Duchamp.

Though it could seem that Karlík’s current graphics have nothing in common with his early work, their backgrounds share a similar basis. As regards form, we can find in his serigraphy prototypes in expressionist woodcuts inspired by the medieval tradition, to which the artist has a close attachment. An archaic stroke, elementarisation of shape and the joke stemming from the intersection of textual and pictorial content are elements that have for a long time been appearing in his bronze sculptures, reliefs and objects and, in some cases, paintings.

The artist’s activities could be compared to a journey in cycles and between them, when in his work he constantly returns to, builds on and combines certain subjects. So, for instance, the motif of a dustbin, from which in 1990 he created a gold-coloured Pop Art object, appears as if accidentally on the body of the crazy poet in a piece entitled Magor ve městě (Magor in the City) (2011). Sprej (Spray) (2009) has a similar form, with the graphic work supplemented by a diary-style record connected with the Prague district of Smíchov; a personal testimony (in this case, thanks to a connection to the place the author has lived since birth) is linked to one of objective character (the object-spray was originally captured using a documentary approach).

The artist’s choice of figures to portray and quote can be regarded in the same way. Thanks to the artist’s systematic creative and journalistic work, many of them have not been long confined to the periphery but are written indelibly into Czech cultural history. As if Viktor Karlík had chiselled the Signs into stone. And the number of tombstones is increasing inexorably.

Marianna Placáková

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