In the spring of 1959, the artist Slavoj Kovařík exhibited the painting Quarry (Sandpit) [Lom (Pískoviště)] 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. In the first place, it is as if Jakub 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 the imagination. Because what else can we do, when we can construct them only from their preserved belongings, recordings, and memories? In one of the e-mails which we have been exchanging from time to time over several years now about the exhibition’s direction, he wrote this regarding his preoccupation: “Paintings are narratives and people are narratives. The ordinary and the personal are intertwined. 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? What is the border between a person and their belongings? Between sensory perceptions and the imagination? Is death the reification of a person? And why do we keep things in memory, shades of what was? We are merely scratching the surface – but where?”
—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 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 (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.
Exhibition concept: Jakub Kovařík
Exhibition curator: Jiří Ptáček ml.
Exhibition installation and architecture: Jakub Kovařík & family
Translation: David Koranda
LED Animation: Michael Maruška, Jonáš Bláha, Jan Štindl
Graphic design: Jakub Kovařík, Jan Herynek
Exhibition items: Olomouc Museum of Art and private collections, Olomouc
The exhibition is being held in cooperation with the Olomouc Museum of Art and Czech Radio Olomouc
Cooperation: Petra Ševců