Jan Merta’s Gallery Inside a Gallery

"Gallery" @ Municipal Library till 12. 3. 2017

While some artists hide under the surface of their works, Jan Merta (*1952) proposes a dialogue, shares his memories, emotions and invites the viewer to feel like an old friend. “Gallery” – Lukáš Jasanský and Martin Polák present Jan Merta is a site-specific exhibition composed of Merta’s older paintings as well as new canvases, drawings and sculptures. It takes place at the Prague City Gallery, specifically in the Municipal library, where it has been displayed for four months and will be ending on Sunday, March 12th.

At the beginning of the exhibition detective-like photos, taken by two of Merta’s close friends and contemporaries Jasanský and Polák, introduce us to places from Merta’s life – from his birth town in Šumperk all the way to his current atelier in Prague. Merta has worked with the two already at his previous exhibition named (with similar irony) “Exhibition” at Wannieck Gallery in 2009. The black-and-white photos are hung linearly in a funnel space sucking the viewer deeper into Merta’s world of paintings.

The exhibition is truly a “Gallery” inside a gallery; the typical space of the Municipal library has been effectively rebuilt by the curator Hana Larvová and Lenka Mertová, the artist’s wife and the mind behind the exhibition’s concept. Each room is dedicated to a different theme and even some open spaces have been enclosed to form more intimate mini-gallery rooms. The audience is continuously drawn further by the dynamic flow of the exhibition; installations stretch from room to room or even through walls, and the opening funnel or paintings link one topic to the next.

Jan Merta is among the Czech “New Painting” generation influenced by Postmodernism in the eighties, when he was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He has developed a distinctive plastic style characterized by flatness, vivid or pastel colours and coquetry with abstraction. His paintings are usually based on his experiences, memories or ideas, and invite the viewer to associate. In the “Gallery” you can thus find a de-saturated ghostly image of a little boy (Guide), or Rembrant’s Three Crucifixions transformed into an abstract painting of a waste dump (Spirit of a Waste Dump). His recent experimentation with ready-made sculptures are of similar spirit as his paintings – they relate to old masters (Goya’s Lamp) or form a series based on associations with a pinch of irony (11 Allegories).

Due to Merta’s relatable themes or use of classical techniques the artist is not as demanding or controversial as many contemporary artists, such as Juergen Teller currently exhibiting in the nearby Rudolfinum gallery. Through his more understandable artistic language we are able to identify with Merta as a young boy, exposed to pornographic graffiti images for the first time, or we can just smile at his illustrated fate of a woman or a man. Even though many of his paintings are on the verge of abstraction, he offers a helping hand to the viewer through captions and titles. In some cases such as On the Account of OÚNZ, he even tells us how far to stand from the painting explicitly marking the border to which the image remains understandable. Due to the vastness and variety of Merta’s “Gallery,” both a visitor un-kissed by contemporary art as well an enthusiast can enjoy the exhibition.

"Gallery" – Lukáš Jasanský and Martin Polák present Jan Merta
exhibition runs till 12. 3. 2017

Municipal Library, 2nd floor

Tue-Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Thu 10 a.m.–8. p.m.

120 CZK / 60 CZK

Note: The building is barrier-free (elevator).

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