26/1–24/5 2024
Slavoj Kovařík 1923–2003 Fade Out

Stráž lidu – Slavoj Kovařík 1923—2003 Fade Out

In the spring of 1959, the artist Slavoj Kovařík (SK) exhibited the painting Quarry (Lom) in the shop display window of Olomouc’s House of Furniture [Dům nábytku] on Pavelčáková St. His grandson, graphic designer and conceptual artist Jakub Kovařík, borrowed it from the Olomouc Museum of Art in January 2024 to “stage” an installation a bit further down the road in Rub Gallery around Quarry and fragments of the story connected to it and its original installation.

Attention is dedicated to one painting and the cultural-political context in which it was not only created, but also how it was presented and critically reflected on, not however as an art history “case study”, which would have something to say about the return of the modernist means of expression into the cultural environment where the doctrine of socialist realism reverberated. It is rather as if JK in this look back has attempted to weave the threads of the relationships between a person and their belongings in order to capture something of the transformation of the human being (from flesh, blood, ideas, feelings, and actions) into their imagination. For what else is left of a person for us, when we can construe them solely from their preserved belongings, recordings, and memories? In one of the e-mails we have been exchanging for several years now about the exhibition’s direction, he wrote this: “Paintings are narratives and people are narratives. The ordinary is blended with the personal. What happens to the narrative when death enters the picture? This is what interests me, what happens to the world when a person leaves it? Where is the border between a person and their belongings? Between sensory perceptions and the imagination? Is death the immortalisation of a person? And why do we keep things in memory, shades of what was?”

One of the components of JK’s exhibition is a translation of a chapter from the text Approaching History, which he found on an old webpage of the University of Massachusetts when searching potential meanings of the word “inscenation”. The group of authors responsible was likely interested in the possibilities of understanding earlier epochs and cultures, when demands to understand the complex mental faculties of a person of a given age arise: “If you are a student of Tang China, are you, by that standard, literate in the culture you are studying? To understand a writer, you have to know what that writer knew. You have to educate yourself for success in a world long gone, a world in which your own success is limited to a spectator role: knowing what these people are talking about, or doing, or mistakenly attempting to do. We may call this process of substitutive acquaintance ‘inscenation’ – feeling yourself into the scene.”
We do not demand JK’s exhibition visitors to know the epoch that well, nor know what SK knew. Not even JK is capable of that. Nevertheless, he is attempting, via his installation, to construct an environment where it will be possible, via various historical materials and documents, to possibly glimpse at least a person’s shadow. Or perhaps a 3-dimensional fragment of them?
—Jiří Ptáček ml.

Jakub Kovařík (b. 1981) lives in Olomouc. He learned hand typesetting and spent several years in a printer’s shop as an apprentice bookbinder, typesetter, and printing plate copyist. He studied at the Palacký University Faculty of Education from 2006-2009 and in the Brno University of Technology Faculty of Fine Arts from 2009-2012. As a graphic artist, he has cooperated with diverse artists, curators, galleries, and publishing houses. He is also interested in artistic experiments with publishing formats on the border between the habits of a professional graphic artist, office work, and normcore. He was the publisher of the literary magazine Těžkoříct (Hardtosay, 2004-2008)and together with Aleš Čermák and Klára Doležálková had a hand in the magazine Materiál (2011-2012). With Dana Balážová, he publishes the zine Taťka (Dad), which in reaction to Lenka Vítková’s zine Mamka (Mum), combines poetry with texts on the border of literature – and beyond. He has exhibited in the Anne Frank Memorial Gallery in Brno (2013, with Lucie Kovaříková), in Vitrína Deniska in Olomouc (2015, with Balážová), and at the group exhibition “Kuna nese nanuk” in 8smička gallery in Humpolec (2019). In the bookshop of Brno’s Galerie TIC, he is presenting until the end of January 2024 the first of the exhibitions dedicated to Slavoj Kovařík. It arose from the unsorted archive of documents in the Olomouc painter’s estate.

Slavoj Kovařík, Quarry (Sandpit), 1958, oil on canvas, 100 × 130.5 cm, Museum of Art Olomouc, Photo: Zdenek Sodoma

Slavoj Kovařík (1923-2003) was a painter, graphic artist, stage designer, and occasional sculptor. From 1939-1941 he studied at the Art School in Zlín, and from 1945-1946 at the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague under Emil Filla. Due to financial and health reasons, he was not able to complete his studies. He lived in Olomouc from 1946 until his death. In 1949, he rejected the socialist realism direction in the Olomouc art scene and worked in isolation. From 1958-1963, he was a theoretician in the DOFO group of Olomouc photographers. From 1957, he worked as a stage designer in the Oldřich Stibor Theatre in Olomouc. From 1965-1978, he taught at the Palacký University Olomouc Department of Art Education. In 1968, he was supposed to take over the painting studio at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg after Jim Dine… which did not come to pass, due to the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in that year and its repercussions. In the 1970s, he again worked in forced isolation. Until 1989, he had only had six solo exhibitions. His works are included in collections in the Czech Republic, USA, Germany, Sweden, UK, France, and the Netherlands. He was preoccupied his entire life with cityscapes, community billboards, and rubbish heaps. He was first influenced by cubism, later by geometric and lyric abstraction, pop art, lettrism, and Czech Informel.

Concept Jakub Kovařík
Curator and text Jiří Ptáček
Light design Zbyněk Hanečka
Carpentry and installation David Kovařík
Translations David Koranda, Matthew Sweney
Animation Jonáš Bláha, Jan Štindl
Graphic design Jakub Kovařík, Jan Herynek

Slavoj Kovařík, Quarry (Sandpit), 1958, oil on canvas, 100 × 130.5 cm, Museum of Art Olomouc
Slavoj Kovařík, Drawings on paper, various formats, 1940s and 1950s, private collection

Jaroslav Juryšek, 1950s, Olomouc Museum of National History

Text sources
Radoslav Krbílek: “Art”, Guard of the People, Olomouc, 12 May 1959
Approaching History, Inscenation, 2006, www.umass.edu

Tomáš Bindr, Gabriela Blaťáková, Vlastimil Blaťák, Lukáš Blažek, Ladislav Daněk, David Kovařík, Josef Maliva, Denisa Mikolášková Šinkovská, Josef Podstata, Petra Ševců

An extension of the exhibition is an installation in the window of the CRo building in Pavelčákov 2 in Olomouc


Friday 15 March, 2-7 pm.
Film screening (a fragment of the amateur film “The Year was 1961” and an untitled portrait of Slavoj Kovařík from 2000), 5 p.m. guided tour of the exhibition

Friday 17 May, 6-24 pm.
Guided tour with the authors of the exhibition, the event is part of the Olomouc Museum Night 2024

Saturday 18 May, 2 pm.
Guided walk from the former House of Furniture in Pavelčákova Street (now the building of the Czech Radio Olomouc) to the Rub Gallery, the event is held as part of the Open Doors Day of the Czech Radio Olomouc

The exhibition is held in cooperation with the Museum of Art Olomouc and Czech Radio Olomouc.