Václav Boštík / Altro Rome 77 / 59 + 1
Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář – Schönkirchovský palác presents newly-discovered extensive collection of Václav Boštík's drawings, which the artist completed during his stay in Rome in November 1977 and originally displayed on the premises of the experimental Gruppo Altro theatre.
Within the context of the oeuvre of the important Czech visual artist Václav Boštík (1913–2005), the rediscovery of this set of his drawings is considered to be very important. It has always been known that during his stay in Rome in the 1970s Boštík made many drawings, but the scope of this particular set is exceptional. The exhibition at Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář will present fifty-nine felt tip pen, pencil, and pastel drawings, which the public first had the opportunity to see as a complete set – just as is the case now, during the current exhibition – on the premises of the Altro Theatre Group in Rome in 1977. These drawings are not entirely typical for Boštík, but they may be considered to be a harbinger of the certainly definite style that subsequently permeated his later artworks.
“In Rome, Boštík developed a very radical, thoughtful approach to the linear division of space, which was extremely depersonalised and austere, but, at the same time, very aesthetically effective. He reached the boundary of his own painterly approach, where, almost like a scientist, he explored the options for expressiveness, which he took to the outer limits of their own communicative strength, freeing them of all psychologising aspects, in order to express their general validity. In fact, over the course of his long-term development, it was in 1977 that Boštík moved to a level of emphatic disengagement, which he achieved with a line drawn by a pencil, colour pastel crayon, or felt tip pen. He could not have been any more simpler and plain, and simultaneously general and comprehensive,” declares Karel Srp, who wrote the text for the exhibition catalogue.
Within the broader context, the exhibited set of drawings is a current reflection on the status of 1970s Czech art, during a period which was one of the most complex for those artists who, at that time, were not able to exhibit or present their works in any other way. Many of them could not earn a living with their art because of political reasons and, like Václav Boštík, resorted to working as restorers. According to Karel Srp, “What is important is that Boštík, even during the period of isolation that erupted at the beginning of the 1970s, when it was impossible to travel outside the country, was able to express himself at what was a completely European level, but remained himself, and developed principles that had already arisen before him in the 1940s. When you look at Italian magazines about the contemporary art of the second half of the 1970s, then it is obvious that Boštík was able to imminently communicate with the developments in art at that time.”
In addition to the set of drawings, the exhibition includes the 1977 oil painting Division, which Václav Boštík dedicated to the Italian artist Achille Perilli, with whom he maintained a long-term relationship. The two artists became close friends and exchanged their artworks as gifts. It was actually Pirelli who came up with the idea of collaborating with the Altro Theatre Group, of which the Italian artist was a member, with the aim to include otherwise isolated Czech artists in Western Europe. Prior to the Boštík’s exhibition, Stanislav Kolíbal was also a guest of this group in 1977. During their stays in Rome, both of the Czech artists made several works that they then exhibited. The painting Division (Členění) cumulatively captures Boštík’s artistic approaches, linking the formal codex with cosmogony and Christianity. In this work, Boštík works with two square fields, inconspicuously separated by a circle. Whilst the smaller square encompasses forty-nine points in rows of seven, radiating from the centre of the canvas, the larger one, exuding from the background, has edges each consisting of 17 points, referring back to a form of the Rubik's Cube that had long appealed to both of the artists. However, the painting is also outstanding because of the way it has been executed: Boštík used white, emphasised in the centre, to form a subtle circle, and a limpid grey that seemed to represent the background. Perilli thus received a unique work of art in which the visual experience passes from an inner balance to a transcendental experience, moving along that same boundary that Boštík also traced in his drawings for the Altro Group.
Václav Boštík is an exceptional personality within the history of Czech art of the second half of the twentieth century. Paradoxically, his timeless art first gained admirers in France, where he received several awards. It was not until the last few decades of his life that it became appreciated in the Czech Republic. The objective behind this exhibition is to present Václav Boštík – a member of the Umělecká beseda artists’ forum and one of the founding members of the UB 12 Group – to the Czech public as a ground-breaking personality.
An eponymous catalogue has been produced to accompany the exhibition. Graphically designed by Zdeněk Ziegler, this publication includes Karel Srp’s essay entitled “On Perfection”. The catalogue has been published in a print run of a hundred copies numbered from 1 to 100, and thirty author’s copies numbered from I to XXX.
Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář
Mikulandská 7, 110 00 Prague 1 – New Town, CZ
Tuesday to Sunday, from 1 pm to 6 pm