Jiří Slíva exhibition opens at the Jewish Museum

My Cup of Kafka marks the artists 71st birthday with drawings, prints and paintings

An exhibition of works by well-known Prague-based graphic artist and illustrator Jiří Slíva is being held at the Jewish Museum’s Robert Guttmann Gallery for his 71st birthday. The exhibit called My Cup of Kafka … will run between Feb. 22, 2018 and Jan. 27 2019.

It features drawings, color lithographs, etchings, pastels and oil paintings on the artist’s favorite themes such as Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, the Golem, Jewish customs and symbols, and biblical motifs, as well as other material inspired by the works of Jewish writers.

“Slíva’s humor is characterized by a desire to have fun, to be among people, and to disseminate ideas from the pure joy of life and its vagaries. His jesting playfulness is a spontaneous feature and a natural expression of humor that is borne of a deep-rooted need to clown around. Putting on a clown nose at the right moment can turn human conflict into a circus gag,” Czech art historian, essayist and writer Josef Kroutvor said.

“Slíva’s humor is irrational but not mystical. He is easy to understand. His humor is both humane and humanistic, a Praise of Folly for the present today,” he added.

Slíva has been preoccupied with Jewish humor and illustrating the works of Franz Kafka for many years. The Franz Kafka Publishing House published the book My Cup of Kafka, featuring artwork inspired by the writer, in December 2017. A selection of these works will be on display at the exhibition.

Also included are Slíva’s illustrations from books by Czech-Israeli writer Ruth Bondy, which are dedicated to the language, names and special idioms of Czech Jews.

There are also depictions of café society and scenes from everyday life, marked by absurd humor and a love of jazz, wine and dancing.

Slíva was born in Plzeň in July 1947 and has lived in Prague since 1966. After graduating from the University of Economics, Prague, he was employed for eight years at the Prague Institute of Philosophy and Sociology. His first drawing was published in 1972. He has worked as a freelance cartoonist, illustrator and graphic artist since 1979. He became a member of the Hollar Association of Czech Graphic Artists in 1993.

He has focused mainly on color lithography since 1981 and on etching and painting since 1994. To date, he has illustrated more than 180 books and has published 15 of his own books of cartoons in the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Switzerland and the United States.

His drawings have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, such as Die Zeit, Die Welt, Stern, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Playboy, and Le Monde Diplomatique.

He has also produced cartoons for the Czech weekly Euro since 1998. He has won many awards at international cartoon festivals and has served on juries at such events in Skopje, Legnica, Knokke and Antalya. He has had solo exhibitions in many cities across the world.

Since 1980 he has played guitar in Grafičanka, a band of Czech artists, and has released two CDs of his own songs.

The exhibition was curated by Jiří Slíva and Arno Pařík, and produced by the Jewish Museum in Prague with the financial support of the City of Prague.

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