Andrew Kreps Gallery and Wallspace are pleased to present the first American solo show of Prague-based artist Jiří Kovanda. The joint exhibition will span both spaces, and will include historical work (Kreps) as well as new and site-specific pieces (Wallspace).
One of the most influential living artists in the Czech Republic, Jiří Kovanda is known for his discrete actions and installations begun in the late 70s. Some of these actions, enacted mostly for a close-knit group of artists and professionals at the time, and known to us primarily through photographic and text documents, were almost impossible to distinguish from real life: bumping into passers-by, waiting for the telephone to ring, attempting to meet girls in the street. Poetic as much as political, Kovanda’s gestures question the place of an individual in social space, and the possibility/impossibility of connection. Although working in the East, many of Kovanda’s works can be seen as loosely inspired by and having connections to such artists such as Chris Burden and Vito Acconci, but are wholly his own, inflected by the specific landscape of '70's and '80's Prague.
Kovanda’s contemporary oeuvre features, among others, familiar objects occasionally endowed with erotic morphology, and consumer goods, which the artist employs to a certain surreal effect, often derived from inappropriate combinations of materials. With his objects, the artist employs the principle of manipulated ready-mades: he works with a self-contained, often found material, to which he imparts slight changes. These simple combinations generate a deliberate minimal effect. In Fur Action, 1982, he put a plush cover at the end of a railing, in the spirit of the surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim; the Sugar Tower object from 1981, may be viewed as an ironical paraphrase of minimalist art, with its exclusivity shifted to the realm of everyday reality. In the 1990’s, Kovanda made a mark upon Czech art with his small hanging objects made of used pieces of furniture. For the show entitled I’m Not Against in the House of the Lords of Kunštát, Brno, in the Czech Republic, he produced objects solely from the material found in the gallery storeroom.
A highly influential figure among a younger generation of Eastern European artists (Roman Ondák, Ján Mančuška), Kovanda’s work has gone largely unseen in the West until recently, though its influence here is widely felt. By including historical and recent pieces, these exhibitions hope to bring forth the associations and ideas, visual echoes, intuitive links, both structural and formal, present in Kovanda’s work.