East Contemporary

Olomouc Museum of Art “Years of Disarray, Avant-gardes in Central Europe”

Olomouc, September 21, 2018 – January 27, 2019, Museum Umeni Olomouc, http://www.muo.cz/en/

The art museum in Olomouc (Czech Republic) prepared an international exhibition, which unifies avant-garde artists from Central and Eastern Europe.

Let´s commemorate on this occasion the Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowski and his concept of horizontal art history, in which the local roots of the Eastern avant-gardes would be recognized and it would not be considered from the French view only as mere inspiration or fakes of more famous French artists.

The Olomouc exhibition is original, because we find loans of modernist artworks from Hungary, Poland, Croatia and other countries of Eastern and Central Europe, Austria included. The visitor is welcomed by the well-known self-portrait by Bohumil Kubišta from Zlin, which is confronted with artists as Oskar Kokoschka, Peter Dobrović, Viktor Brauner or Lajos Tihanyi. What these artists have in common is that they all reacted with their original manner on the then actual Expressionist or Cubist tendencies.

A fascinating part of the exhibition are paintings by Hungarian fauves. When we admire their paintings, we must admit, that these artworks are not secondary in quality in comparison with paintings by Matisse or Cézanne, but that they have their autonomous esthetical value. We could say the same about the artworks of Czech artists: the Bathing by B. Kubišta, the Morning by Emil Filla, the Descent from the cross by Max Oppenheimer or the concert by Antonin Prochazka.

If we consider the originality of these artistic expressions, we must consent with the opinion that these paintings are not only formal „fakes“ of cubism by Picasso and Braque, but that we stand before personal expressions from the lives of artists, connected with their root with their local environment. We could emphasize this point of view if we speak about the oeuvre of Josef Čapek, who used the French cubist formal language only to express phenomena of modern life and its social problems.

Interesting are the comparisons of the colourful cubism of Prochazka with the paintings of the Hungarian artist Imre Sobotka. The painting by Prochazka could be also exposed with Juan Gris or Rober Delaunay, whose artworks are unfortunately absent in the show.

What I find a pity, that the paintings by S. Witkiewitz are not exhibited beside canvases by Josef Vachal. I would not doubt about the quality of both artists and if I am not wrong, it would be the first comparison of these original artists.

A very charmful and original „Léger drawing“ is the Garage by the Polish artist Henryk Streng from the year 1925, where we find even a nice quote of the French flag. In this part of the exhibition, we can also listen to the recordings of the Capek´s play RUR. This recording adds a new dimension to the exhibition.

One of the most beautiful parts of the exhibition is according to my point of view the Polish avantgarde (Strzeminski), which we find beside paintings by Styrsky and Toyen. The pleasant surprise in the end of the show are three gorgeous paintings by Frantisek Kupka, personally I was most touched by the Energic I (from a private collection). We find there also very interesting architectural compositions by Strzeminski and sculptures by K. Kobro. Abstract paintings by Frantisek Foltyn, who published his works beside Kupka in the revue Abstraction-Création, are present in the show. In the very end of the exhibition, we find sketches of color music by Miroslav Ponc, which are accompanied by interesting old music recordings.

The exhibition is innovative, because it does not deny the cultural striving of modernist artists to the Mekka of art in Paris, but it shows also the originality and national nuances of the artists, who refer also to other sources of their oeuvre, as to Central European German philosophy or to the Slavic constructive tendencies.

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