The Heart of the City II
Opening: 8/2 2020
Curator: Richard Drury
Our human landscape is our unwitting biography, reflecting our tastes, our values, our aspirations, and even our fears, in visible, tangible form.
Peirce Lewis, Axioms for Reading the Landscape: Some Guides to the American Scene
The story of the 20th century is inextricably linked with the phenomenon of the city, which has become the most characteristic environment of modern man. The dynamic industrial development that took place in Europe, the United States and then globally led to the creation of the city as a ‘domain in its own right’ whose inhabitants now live in complete dependence on the system that has been established within it. Society and its interpersonal relationships have, as a consequence, changed radically: people have become physically and mentally remote from their age-old bond with nature and, instead, become a convinced or, on the contrary, disillusioned part of technological modernity.
Modern artists primarily understand man and the city as an inseparable psychological whole and thus, for them, the city represents a metaphor for the inner being of humanity. In 20th-century art, the city consequently comes across as an imaginary ‘screen’ on to which states of the urban psyche are projected: the insatiable desire for freedom on one hand and a feeling of crushing confinement, anonymity and repression on the other.
The exhibition project The Heart of the City is composed of two parts following on directly from each other. While the first part focused mainly on the two decades that came after the founding of democratic Czechoslovakia in 1918, this second part focuses on the period from the 1940s up to the beginning of the 21st century. Through the eyes of artists represented by drawings and prints in the GASK collection, it explores the theme of the city from both serious and humorous viewpoints. In the exhibited works, the urban context transforms into an all-embracing ‘human landscape’, a place of lively interaction and intoxicating experiences, though also one of existential solitude.
The exhibition features works by artists including František Hudeček, František Gross, Karel Souček, Jan Smetana, Jan Kotík, Karel Černý, Antonín Tomalík, Jan Koblasa, Jiří Balcar, Jiří John, Eduard Ovčáček, Jaroslava Bičovská, Ivan Komárek, Jakub Švéda and the internationally renowned Robert Rauschenberg. The selection is further enhanced with loaned works by Václav Bláha and Richard Konvička.