Jiří Kovanda | Lumír Hladík
On view: September 21, 2017 – December 11, 2017
Opening reception: September 21, 2017, 6-8 PM
Curated By Veronika Holcova / Matthew Kyba
Gallery 17/18, 251 Cooper Street, Ottawa
Monday ― Thursday: 9AM―4PM
and by appointment.
How do critical discourse and grand narratives become transferred over global distances to be understood between people? The cultural “Zeitgeist”, a propped up promise of fully encompassing universal modes of thought, usually fares as an enticing ideal that never fully matures. Yet even though thousands of kilometers separated them, artists Jiří Kovanda and Lumír Hladík, both absorbed these universal signals and conjoined via invisible forces of artistic determinism. Dedicated to critical commentary on the human condition, they have been connected yet apart for the better part of 40 years.
Living behind the former Czechoslovakian iron curtain, the artists first came together through subversive and philosophical art interventions that pushed back against state-mandated art. For these two artists, in their early days, to resist meant to survive. A few years later, Hladík travelled westwards to North America while Kovanda has continued his art practice in Europe, both nurturing unique approaches to parallel leitmotifs. Now, as established contemporary art forces, their polar-opposite practices only serve to highlight thematic transference that have kept them connected for so long.
Both Kovanda and Hladík urge the viewer to absorb art on an unprecedented level. At first, the exhibition’s practices can appear disparate; Kovanda’s ultra-subtle installation interventions matched with Hladík’s overt objects make for two seemingly disconnected extremes. Yet the foregrounding years of counter-culture dissonance involved within their histories signals the unifying roots from which they stem: curiosity, apprehension and doubt. Both artists keep attacking the world’s obviousness by scrutinizing its axioms, eroding its arbitrarity and redefining what all humanity takes for granted.
For the first time in Canada, both artists have been curated together to nuance Czech and Canadian history, culture, meta-thought and the persistent world malaise. The Polar Transference exhibit marks an historic convergence of past and present that showcases the importance of critical thought.
Matthew Kyba, Toronto, August 9, 2017