Saturday, June 02, 2007

Life Is a Dream, Part III

The big Jindřich Štyrský show opened on Wednesday, following a pretty well-attended opening reception Tuesday (I got in thanks to a benificent fellow blogger and we enjoyed bits of conversation in between observing his quite new son check out the scene).
In a related event, I got to hear French surrealist Annie Le Brun (friend of Toyen) talk about the Marquis de Sade. I was mildly nervous about that because I don't have much practice listening to French, but fortunately Le Brun spoke quite clearly and I didn't have to listen to the Czech simultaneous translation. To my disappointment, she said nothing whatsoever about Toyen and stuck to explicating Sade's significance as an atheist and philosopher of liberty/libertinism. While this may have been news to some members of the audience, it sounded like the standard surrealist line to me, although I may have missed some nuances. Still, it was worth going, even though I couldn't summon my spoken French into good enough order to say anything. (I would really like to know how truly multilingual people switch languages so readily. My knowledge of French is still better than my knowledge of Czech, but I would have thrown in lots of Czech words had I tried to speak French.)
Yesterday I returned to the Štyrský exhibition to examine it at more leisure. The majority of the work on display is not work I had seen in print, or at least not in color (some of it is probably in the 1938 Toyen and Štyrský monograph by Nezval and Teige). Consequently, I was surprised how devoted Štyrský was to pastel hues during Artificialism. Toyen's Artificialist palette was much more intense, and she went for thicker paint application as far as I can tell, although both artists explored texture extensively at various times.

On the whole, however, I am most drawn to Štyrský's collages, even though I like many of the paintings and drawings. The collages are just weird, whether their focus is anti-marital or anti-clerical. And in seeing some of them live, I saw details that had escaped my notice in reproduction. In certain instances, I have no idea how I failed to notice these details, but I can only say that sometimes I blithely miss exactly what you would most expect me to find.
Speaking of things that were missed, however, I really don't get why the large Štyrský monograph has not appeared yet. One would think that the publisher and the gallery would have been sure to have lots of copies on hand to sell at the opening. At least, that's what I would have done and I'm no marketing genius. Instead, visitors can get a printed copy of the wall text with some small-scale reproductions for 190Kč. This really doesn't strike me as a substitute for the 550-or-so page behemoth that will supposedly have around 800 reproductions. And, considering that I return to the US in less than three weeks, should we be placing bets that this monograph will not go on sale until sometime near the end of the summer, close to the end of the show? Argo's web site gives no indication of a projected launch date... Instead, it gives the impression that an entire Štyrský industry is going to (evidently very gradually) issue from its presses. Um, thanks for not publishing much of this during my rather lengthy stay in Prague. I guess I'll be begging people to mail me this stuff when it appears.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The problem with this, it should be said, is precisely that dreamworlds aren’t necessarily aesthetically satisfying. Surrealism, as an artistic movement, exhausted itself with surprising speed as it began to run up against the realization that The Land of Dreams is just Dullsville in disguise”

Christian Caryl in a rather critical review of Mirakami in the 3/1/07 NYRB

June 09, 2007 7:27 PM  

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