It’s almost as if everything has already happened. Even art has ceased linear developement, its teleology forcing its practitioners to search for the new (quality, work, artist, medium). Freed from expectation, art returns to its past by way of its detailed reexamination. Individual returns to certain moments in art history not only scrutinize specific formal or thematic aspects, they reflect on the very condition of art after the end of its history. It is as if we have ceased to relate ourselves to history through an engaged or active stance, choosing to adopt a more detached view. This Flaneurian attitude leaves us with a different time in respect to both art history and its reception. Our almost archeological preoccupation with the past becomes ever more profound, drawing the viewer inside the abyss of a past future.
Usually we associate thinking about the end of art or its "post-history" with readymades, conceptual artworks or even new media. In fact the idea was from its inception (W.G.F. Hegel) to its pinnacle (Arthur Danto) closely interconnected with painting. While this medium has been broadly viewed as forming a self-enclosed conservative tradition in relation to postmedia art, we want to recontextualize it within the framework of an end of art.
Arthur Danto locates his version of an end of art within pop art and connecting it with his own iconic encounter with Brillo Boxes. The historical pinnacle of critical art consisted in reflecting the edge between an artwork and an ordinary object. According to Danto, after engaging this boundary art lost the possibility of any linear development and moved into a pluralistic "postnarrative" or "posthistorical" stage: "The postnarrative era offers an immense menu of artistic choices (...). Within the hospitable and elastic disjunction, certainly there is room for painting and even for abstract or monochrome painting.“
Let us notice that Danto is preoccupied specifically with the lasting possibility of monochromes and on a general level he tends to trace the end of art in painting reflecting popular and mass media. Both traits can be in a peculiar way attributed to Daniel Vlček. His creative method is based on using gramophone records unfolding its circular shape into a distinctive visual syntax. Hence we can see it as certain postcritical reassessment of the old mass medium. Music and its perception are reframed in a vicarious gesture of the re-aesthetisation of a form belonging to media’s past. A posthistory of the gramophone meets its counterpart in the field of painting.
Levi Van Veluw deals with the past and its aesthetic potential even more radically. In his latest series, TheCollapse of Cohesion, he resurrects the very process of an end. The force of an image is simultaneously reenacted as an elusive event and aesthetic timelessness. Abstract, yet intimate and dark interiors present temporal cohesion, childhood, imagination as well as labor or even a system of knowledge set in motion within a peculiar momentum.
Just as there is no brink of the collapse, so there is no end of art – there is just the everlasting process. And if there is or has been anything like an end of art, we have definitely passed such a moment.
Admission: 40 Kč full, 20 Kč reduced (students), free for seniors and art students
‘Pure soul’ means freeing oneself from the ordinary world, the perception of the universe by means of a calm, dispassionate view. What is calmness? What is dispassionateness? This is similar to when Straka extricates the building site from the logic of building, he changes the primary logic of ‘things’ and rebuilds the relationship between the subject and the world. The ultimate form of expression of this relationship is the ‘territory’ in which the subject begins a new existence – a change of reality into emptiness, and thus the creation of a perceptual field (viṣaya). It is precisely in this way that the frame of observation, which was newly expressed by Straka’s act of painting and by the object of depiction, changes the real state of everyday experience into an empty ‘site of experience’. In connection with this, rather than saying that painted art works are what is shown at Straka’s exhibition, it would be better to say that this approach to observing things is what is shown, together with the visual selection, which the painter has made with regard to the building site. It is clear that this ‘sphere of emptiness’ is far better suited to ‘looser or tighter, empty, and pale’ ink painting than is ‘conscientiously affirmative’ oil painting. It is probably also something that Straka, who is a Westerner but has lived and studied in China for a long time, has gained as his other harvest.
Vladimír Židlický (*1945 in Hodonín), studied at the Department of Photography of the Academy of Cinematic Arts in Prague from which he graduated in 1975. Since the 1960s, he has knowingly continued in the tradition of Czech imaginative art. He embarked on his career as an abstract painter, and subsequently, as a photographer, he has remained faithful to building his figural visions on a foundation embedded in the classic art disciplines. His experimentation involving drawing with light in the field of view, tampering with the negative emulsion, and toning, results in a disengagement of the photos on view here from the descriptiveness that is otherwise a standard attribute of the genre of nude photography.
The focus of the present exhibition at the same time harks back to historical photographic techniques. Notwithstanding his avowed penchant for creative innovation, Židlický harbours an equally determined affinity for the permeation of structures and suggestive power embodied by photography as a naturalistic medium. With this solo show drawing a balance-sheet of his photographic output, Prague is hosting once again, after a hiatus of two and a half decades, a highly individual figure of the European art scene.