Fotograf Magazine

Jan Nálevka

A New Definition of Progress

11 March – 8 April 2016


This trio of the artist’s works is based on his natural interest in the pre-war leftist avant-garde art movement with its, at that time, contemporary vision of a utopia in the near future and, no less importantly, on modern Functionalist architecture.

The inspiration for Nálevka’s Fragment (2015) may be found in the cycle of collages entitled The Sociological Fragments of Housing (1932) by the architect and theoretician Jirí Kroha. Nálevka is interested not only in social engineering and Kroha’s support of scientific functionalism and ideological solutions for the 1930s housing crisis, but also in the formal aspects of the aforementioned presentation based on montages of images combined with text. Nálevka photocopied a series of drawings published in the 1970s onto A3 format office paper and, using his typical original style adapted from standard grid paper, sketched over the images – this is the key moment in the creation of the work, based on the layering of important areas.

In his new collection of sketches – Form Follows the Norm (2016) – Nálevka deconstructs a network of squares, as defined by A4 format grid paper, in an attempt to interpret the consistent application of horizontals and verticals in architecture, and with the objective of producing a style that negates individuality and fosters collectivism (Oskar Schlemmer on Theo van Doesburg, 1922). In the artist’s own words, ‘The aim was to produce drawings morphologically on the boundary between architecture and an administrative form.’

In his last series of chronologically ordered video sequences, Nálevka takes the viewer back in time to the Czech pre-war avant-garde scene, surprisingly presented using the aesthetics of present-day advertising images. In the title of his installation – Through the use of automatic machines towards leisure time, towards a culture both material and spiritual, towards human self-improvement, health, tranquillity, peace, inner life and liberation in the freed, saved, renewed, and freshly created nature of renaturalised landscapes (2013) – Nálevka refers back to the diagram and associated text included as an appendix to the theoretical work of the Czech avant-garde architect Ladislav Žák, which was published under the title of The Inhabited Landscape (Prague,1947).

In closing, I should like to mention the subtitle from the introductory panel of Korha’s collage used for the exhibition, which nicely summarises the exhibiting artist – ‘an individual working with mind and hands’.

Jan Lesák