In bringing collage and assemblage works by the twentieth century master JOSEPH CORNELL (1903-1972) and Czech poet and collagist JIŘĺ KOLÁŘ together we are confronted with two distinct traditions, one rooted in the fantastical visions of American Surrealism during the 1930s and 1940s and the other in the more politically charged spheres of the Central European avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s, marked by social and cultural repression. Cornell’s world, both inside and outside of the box, is one drawn primarily from the imagination. The worldliness and wonder of his art concealed a reality that was often fraught with sadness and an inability to connect directly with the world beyond Utopia Parkway and nearby Manhattan. By contrast, Jiří Kolář’s life and work reflected economic and political struggle and years spent in exile from his native Prague. The myriad collage techniques that he pioneered over fifty years formed an alternative language at a time when the artist/poet saw those in power employing words as an instrument of oppression and misinformation. This progressively led him to a purely visual means of expression.
What both artists share is the articulation of a distinctly personal world through the respective creation of new visual strategies that extended the boundaries of what collage and assemblage could be and how they could be read. In this exhibition we find them exploring similar subjects and themes (travel, nature, astronomy, poetry and representations of women) from drastically different perspectives. The exhibition will include several Cornell box constructions, touching on different facets of the artist’s oeuvre; Sand Fountains, Celestial Navigations, Hotels, Dovecoats and Music Boxes, as well as important collages from the 1960s. It will also feature some twenty early works by Jiří Kolář, centering on the dominant themes of his innovative collage practice such as Rollage, Crumplage, IntercollageVisual Poems and Chiasmage.
These two intensely private artists each achieved international careers and have been the subjects of major museum exhibitions as well as numerous books and catalogues. While Cornell remains an icon of twentieth century art (with a current retrospective traveling from the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C. to the Peabody Essex Museum and SFMOMA), Jiří Kolář’s profile has unfortunately diminished in the decades since his exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1975 and 1978. However, Kolář’s work has continued to be exhibited across Europe, with a major retrospective at the Reina Sofia in Madrid in 1996. This exhibition at PAVEL ZOUBOK GALLERY marks the first appearance of Kolář’s work in New York in almost a decade and is the first to explore a dialogue between these two influential artists.