Medium: Figure
Prague City Gallery at Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace / PRAHA (Czech Republic)
14.07.2017 – 08.10.2017

The exhibition loosely continues with the Prague City Gallery’s successful project Unsettled Figure. Expression in Czech Sculpture 1880–1914, which was acknowledged as “The Group Exhibition of the Year 2016”.

Medium: Figure is the curator’s selection of works by contemporary Czech and Slovak artists pursuing the subject of figure. The exhibition, however, is not limited to classical sculptural concept as the previous undertaking. Instead, it focuses on figure; a medium to which artists can relate themselves via various historical as well as personal references – from Greek canonical representation as the main point of departure to working with video, film and photography and finally, to installation and emptying corporeality.

The exhibition opens with a “dream about a sculpture” by Pavla Sceranková, a sculptor who based her work on a design originally created by her father, the academic sculptor Peter Sceranka. It is a non-existent Forbidden Statue (2011), an unrealized monument to paratroopers. An inconspicuous slide displays the artist captured in her childhood, perched on her father’s shoulders.

Artists act in the role of figurants in the videos screened in the first, darkened hall. It is Jiří Kovanda, Ján Mančuška, Pavla Sceranková and Eva Koťátková, the latter being represented by schoolchildren. The exhibition then gradually continues to more brightly lit halls, evolving from the work by Roman Štětina, who returns to the canonical Greek sculpture Doryphoros, to Radek Brousil and his gesture and the impact of the energy of a hand on amorphous forms and, finally, to the presentation by Martin Kohout who is discovering the third space of photography.

The iconic Greek hero, Charioteer (2017), is the subject of Anna Hulačová’s work, in which the artist fuses the contemporary morphology of digital print and “classical” sculptural processes. The hero Siri – the Apple-interface intelligent personal assistant of unclear gender – attracted the attention of Marie Tučková, a graduate from the Department of Photography at the Prague School of Arts, Architecture and Design. Tučková’s work is a candid testimony of the youngest generation about the present-day relations in the virtual world of internet (You Are Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, 2017). An earlier graduate from the same department, Jiří Thýn, is the author of the staged and somewhat disturbing, “faceless” photographs from the cycle Best Before (2003–2004) and the lightbox entitled In Search of a Monument (2016), which was exhibited at Manifesta 11. Lightbox as an object can also be found in the installation by Ján Mančuška, Body of Progress (2009), a work purchased two years ago by Prague City Gallery for its collections. It is a modernist reference to the medium of film, presenting human hand set into motion on the individual film frames.

A poetic duo of the photographers Johana Pošová and Barbora Fastrová plunge to the innermost of human heart in their Searching for the Heart of Gold (2017). Jan Boháč, the graduate from the studio of sculpture headed by Dominik Lang and Edith Jeřábková, reinstalled the Lady’s and Men’s Counters (2014) for the exhibition and situated a planar figure onto a showcase side that runs in parallel with the passageway below the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace. In this hall, Dominik Lang’s Girl with a Pigeon (2015) is already falling asleep. The real end of the exhibition, however, is a glass of water, inscribed The Amount of Water I’m Able to Hold in My Mouth without It Vanishing (2006) – a symbolical “message” from Ján Mančuška, accompanied by the photograph Silly Dreams Came from the Stomach (2017) by Valentýna Janů, the youngest artist closing the exhibition “Medium: Figure”. The exhibition gradates to a brightened finale.

The sculptor and also the architect of the exhibition, Dominik Lang, is presented by his Girls with a Pigeon (2015), who are “helping” with the installation works – sticking the captions, hanging a photograph on the wall… The little girls make the gallery traffic present and at the same time develop their own story. Their form was borrowed from Lang’s father, the sculptor Jiří Lang (1927– 1996), who had left the sculpture of the same name, dating to mid-1950s, abandoned in his studio.

Not just “little girls”, but also “a little boy” and his mother wander through the performance by a globally-renowned artist Roman Ondak, entitled Teaching to Walk (2002). The woman enters the gallery in order to teach his one-year old son to walk. The performance repeats every day and lasts for 30 minutes.

The exhibition runs simultaneously with various performances by young artists (Viktor Dedek, Roman Štětina, Marie Tučková, Barbora Fastrová + Johana Pošová), held in the framework of the accompanying programs.

Curated by Sandra Baborovská

Courtesy of the artists and Prague City Gallery