Review: Vladimir Houdek, Michal Kalhous
Two galleries share a building and a taste for cutting-edge work
Posted: March 6, 2013
Michal Kalhous' photographs transform the everyday into art.
By Siegfried Mortkowitz
FOR THE POST
The Svit and Polansky galleries occupy the same building, one floor apart, overlooking a sprawling courtyard/parking lot near Arbesovo náměstí. Their owners, Michal Mánek and Filip Polanský, respectively, are friends, share similar tastes in cutting-edge contemporary art and are coordinating their opening hours and opening and closing dates for exhibitions, in the manner of big-name galleries in New York.
This suggests that young gallerists in Prague are getting more serious about contemporary art and are looking for ways to make it more accessible. (To find the galleries, look for the entrance to the courtyard at Štefánikova 43a, walk straight until you reach the T and turn right. The galleries will be directly in front of you.)
Vladimir Houdek at Polansky Gallery; Michal Kalhous at Svit Gallery Both shows end March 23. Štefánikova 43a, Prague 5-Smíchov. Both are open Wed.-Sat. 2-7 p.m.
While the Svit Gallery has been around for a few years, at a different address, the Polansky Gallery is new - and its current exhibition, presenting 10 new works by the winner of the prestigious Jindřich Chalupecký Award for 2012, Vladimír Houdek, suggests the gallery has intentions of becoming an important fixture on the Czech art scene.
All the pieces in the show date from 2012 and are formal variations of a large paper circle applied, collage-style, on a background of reduced color. The show is hung in such a way that the works grow gradually more complex as other shapes are superimposed on the circle, "appendages" are attached, and small splashes of vivid color are added.
This development forces the viewer to question the shifting depth of the works, the relationship between foreground and background, and how forms change perception. The first piece, an untitled work, is the simplest and also the most classically "beautiful," and could, at first viewing, be dismissed as merely decorative. But a closer look reveals astonishing depth created by six concentric-ring sections within the circle, which becomes almost three-dimensional against its background of the same blue-gray color.
A hexagon superimposed on the circle in Horizon adds new variants of depth, and a football-shaped form and two red "handles" bring breathtaking changes to the pictorial landscape in Ajar Voice.
The series ends with the monumental (280 x 180 cm) Veil of Horizon, dedicated to the Surrealist pioneer Max Ernst. Here, the circle has been given red "legs" and a red "proscenium," and a bomb-shaped form has been superimposed. The effect recalls Frank Stella's magnificent sculptural paintings, in which painted forms are literally thrust into the viewer's space.
This is an impressive, thought-provoking show by a young artist who appears to be intent on developing his vision without compromise.
If Houdek explores how form influences our perception of art, the photographs of Michal Kalhous, on show at the Svit Gallery, one floor up, investigate the primary medium of his art, light, but in its original function, as a catalyst, both chemical (on the surface of the film) and visual. Hence the show's title: "My Father Is a Star."
The show is small but full of large surprises, beginning with the first work on view (untitled, as are all the others), a large print of a quiche and a coffee cup on a table. Working on the print itself, Kalhous made the surface of the pie as luminous as a sun, and the edge of the white table on which it sits forms a bright, curved horizon against the dark background.
This is indeed, as the gallery's press release declares, a resolutely anti-digital approach, in which the chemical qualities of the film and the paper on which the image is printed are exploited for a very specific purpose: to use light and texture to transform the banal object into a sublime image.
In the next room, on the right-hand wall, a series of six apparently unrelated pictures have been placed together. Four rather mundane photographs are bracketed by two extraordinary works: a dark interior, perhaps of a barn, in which the light leaking through holes and gaps has an astonishing radiance; and a roiling sea with an extraordinary ray of light above it. Again, light is used to transform the everyday into something greater: art.
A similar juxtaposition between the dull and the luminous characterizes my favorite work in the show. In the background of this image, a lawn sprinkler's spray explodes with light like a flare, while much of the foreground is taken up by part of a fence, regular and dull.
This is a small but exciting show that makes me eager to see what Kalhous is up to next - and what the Polansky and Svit galleries will be showing in the future.
Siegfried Mortkowitz can be reached at email@example.com