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Běla Kolářová (accompanied by Tomáš Vaněk)

January 18-February 17 2012
curator: Marie Klimešová
Fotograf gallery, Školská 28, Prague

The exhibition in Prague´s Fotograf Gallery presented a set of works from the end of the 50´s and the beginning of the 60´s gathered into a single private collection. According to many, Běla Kolářová was above all the wife of a famous husband, the poet and artist Jiří Kolář. Jiří Kolář was one of many fugitives from the late socialist Czechoslovakia and even today he is more famous abroad than at home.

Běla Kolářová exhibited her works in the second half of the 60´s and she received well deserved attention from the public recently due to a retrospective in the National Gallery and especially because she took part in the Dokumenta XII in Kassel, 2007.

According to the curator Marie Klimešová´s statement during an interview for the Czech radio (Český rozhlas), the foundation for Kolářová´s work in photography in the 50´s and 60´s was for the following reason and was not just rare impulse: „...one day Běla Kolářová felt, much like Cartier Bresson, that everything has already been photographed and she actually gave up classical photography. She was looking for a new way and she found it in 1961 by creating artificial negatives with the most trivial fragments of everyday life that she found inside her home.” What Marie Klimešová calls an artificial negative is the creation of glass boards on which colours are poured or applied in another way  and this structure of art is then transferred to photographic paper using light and magnifiyng glass. In other instances Běla Kolářová used cellophane on which she placed different objects.

Thus it is not photography as it is generálly understood  – the interception of a moment of reality with a photoghraphic device. It is rather a photo - graph, something between graphic technique and luminal painting. The patterns formed on a dark background point indirectly and in one case through a name (V myšlenkách na Kandinského – In Kandinsky´s Thoughts, 1961) to the abstract painting of the first third of 20th century. Magnified copies of these artificial negatives form the very core of the Fotograf Gallery´s exhibition.

The curator and many of the press emphasize the author´s relationship to Dada and iconic figures such as Marcel Duchamp or Man Ray. It is of course a possible way of explanation which not only includes a rather ignored author into genealogic course of the “great” art, but also sets her free from the burden of having a famous husband. In an unrelenting way Běla Kolářová is presented without Jiří Kolář. It is a delicate irony of Kolář´s fate to be forgotten again, this time because of  his greatness in eclipsing his wife. In fact the photo – graph of Běla Kolářová can be interpreted not in opposition to Jiří´s work, as an “escape to a woman´s world”, but rather as an analogy of visual autonomy, conducted by Jiří Kolář in the case of a text dismantled into an ephemeral word, cut out and thrown into the world. “The way she treated things was luminously playful and referred to a methodological partiture," a sentence by co-exhibitor Tomáš Vaněk describing the basic principle of Běla Kolářová´s efforts which could also be fully applied to her husband.

Běla Kolářová reaches through photography to somewhere beyond reality – whether with rotating  discs or luminous columns, exhibited for the first time – she liberates photography from the singularity of its message because what we see on the photographs exhibited cannot be seen better elsewhere than on the photographic paper. She overcomes the classical limits of photography as a repeating of reality due to optics and the mechanical interception of light, and  so she sets out to seek specific possibilities of the language of art using non-classical methods and objects.

Tomáš Dvořák completes Kolářová´s artwork with the use of sound (a term for actions conceived for a certain place or situation). There is a two and a half hour loop of  the “sound” of a dishwasher, illustrating the exhibited works with noise. A relationship between the exhibited photographs and sound installations can be found in the fact that a pure light would leave a black negative and also silence carries no information. Only non-transparencies in the case of “artificial negatives” by Běla Kolářová and noises or bustles of the participation by Tomáš Vaněk fill the space of our attention and above all insecure common perception of photography on one side and a sound worthy of performing on the other.

April 1, 2012

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