Artisans’ Art: The Pavel Zoubok Gallery Gets Hands on With Jirí Kolár and Joseph Cornell
Exhibition Review by Angel Baker for White Hot Magazine
The pairing of the two artists, Jirí Kolár and Joseph Cornell in the current exhibition at Pavel Zoubok Gallery is seamless. The small gallery’s sparsity creates an echo of space that allows each of the walls dedicated to Kolár and Cornell to mirror the tactile approach to the artisans’ enterprise of expression. Each piece in itself is loud, bold, and boisterous, clammering in its indivuality, but somehow the gallery regales a quiet solitude. The exhibition presents a posthumous look at two artists who worked, worlds apart, as young men in the labor industry in the early 1900s, earning meager livings to support themselves while their creativity intensified. Both worked fastidiously, like surreal industrialists, creating multi-disciplined collections that have since earned international acclaim.
KoláY, a Czech artist and poet whose experimental works emerged in Eastern Europe post World War II, capitalized on texture to create a monologue of shapes and sizes. Despite a pervasive and threatening political backdrop, Kolár was prolific in both his writings and his visual pieces. Animate objects come to life on crumpled paper, on cardboard, in sculpture, creating a lexicon of adversity where meaning and absence of meaning are one. Pieces like “A Horse’s Dream,” which propounds to show the inner psychological workings of an equine (shown below), and “Untitled Woman In Hat,” a painting crumpled to give the broken mirror effect, each transport traditional images of living beings into worlds of multiple realities, where the stationary is mobile, where the mute is emotive, where beauty is disfigured. His Chiasmage objects, like “Messenger Bottle” and “Bird Messenger,” are initially visually succinct, but subsume myriad elements at once. Creating his own canvas from thousands of tiny words in multiple languages on a stiff wavelike shoji screen, Kolár places simple objects, a bottle, a birdhouse, on the screen in irreverence to classical notions of collage, if any, as if to say that no object is without purpose and no discourse is above an aviary.
Cornell, who lived most of his life in New York City, is most well known for his shadow box assemblages but also experimented with a sort of filmic collage, splicing existing film to create a wholly different visual experience. Plenty of scholarly attention is paid to Cornell’s residential address, Utopia Parkway, but a slight scratch beneath the surface reveals his life was anything but utopian. Notably reclusive, Cornell found beauty in objects, broken, used, and traditionally misplaced. His works play with notions of travel, temporal and spacial, often focusing on birds, celestial beings and planets, perhaps to send the message that the here and now are simultaneously the past and future in an escapist measure to negotiate the desolation of the Great Depression. Pieces like“Celestial Navigation,” a mixed media box construction, and “The Storm That Never Came,” a collage, use constellations and winged creatures like birds and butterflies to narrate a visceral waiting without any sense of desperation. Rather, the whimsical combinations make light of the daunting contrast between the infinitesimal and the infinite galaxy.
Pavel Zoubok Gallery is located at 533 West 23rd Street. The Jirí Kolár and Joseph Cornell exhibition runs through May 26, 2007. For more information about the gallery and the exhibition, visit: www.pavelzoubok.com .
Angel Baker is a writer in Los Angeles.
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