Kvalitář / PRAHA (Czech Republic)
19.05.2017 – 14.07.2017

The motif of exhibiting or gazing at an art work in a gallery environment is one of the subjects that the art of the 20th century began to newly focus attention on. Igor Eškinja as well touches on it in his art, and during his studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice he has noticed the importance of the dialogue between an art installation and the space it occupies. At the Venice Biennale especially there are many opportunities for locating works in historic interiors, and this confirmed his notion that it is precisely the way art is presented that is contemporary art’s manifesto. The specific conditions and spatiality of a gallery or museum became the starting point for some of his later installations, which also incorporate various forms of critical art from history. This includes his site-specific installations in the front room of the Kvalitář Gallery, comprised of murals and pedestals. That is the dominant work of the exhibition called EXP (short for “exposed”) which is Eškinja’s first Czech solo show.
The installation as a whole can only be viewed from the street in front of the gallery, and when we look through the window from a certain angle, it creates the optical impression of being one entire integrated form. On the other hand, when the visitor enters the installation, it falls apart into fragments – the colorful murals and pedestals lose their practical functions and become independent objects.
The installation is reminiscent of some of the strategies of conceptually-oriented artists connected with institutional criticism. In 1970, for example, Michael Asher removed the entry doors to the gallery at Pomona College to remind people of its democratic function. A viewer’s visit should not be restricted by gallery hours, and Eškinja is similarly reacting to the glass display window of the Kvalitář Gallery, through which, metaphorically speaking, the gallery is now intervening in the public space and creating an installation that is accessible 24 hours a day to whomever is passing by. In this show, Eškinja is moving from work with documentation to an illustrative expression, as up to now he has presented this type of installation exclusively through photographs, including in cases when they were sold in the gallery (e.g., 34% GREEN, 2010; 28% BLUE, 2010; Special Effects for Common People, 2009; etc.). This resulted in a certain paradox, namely that Eškinja created an installation, photographed it, restored the installation space to its original state, and then exhibited just the photographs of the installation. At the Kvalitář Gallery he is using that approach to present his photos from the series Right Construction (2011), Laboratory (2010), and Made in Side (2007). By contrast, these works emphasize the materials from which the interventions captured on film have been created. Their cheapness and commonplaceness is not as important as the reassessment of their practical function. They depict, for example, an object made of the paper that is commonly used to form the backdrop in a photography studio in order to create a neutral atmosphere around the object being photographed (Right Construction), or pieces of cardboard arranged into postal boxes (Made in Side). The work from the Laboratory series captures the figures of anonymous visitors to a museum, cut out of paper set against the background of the photo and based on a photographic artwork. The figures are captured from the waist down, so we can only imagine what expression they had on their faces when looking at the exhibits, which we ourselves cannot see.

Curated by Monika Čejková

Courtesy of the artist and Kvalitář Gallery
Photocredit Zdeněk Porcal