Review: Acne

At the Rudolfinum, disturbing and confusing imagery dominates Richard Adam's collection of contemporary Czech painting

Akné/Acne - Contemporary Czech Painting from the Richard Adam Collection

Want to enter the mind of a Czech artist? Are you prepared for what lurks in the hidden realms of the subconscious of those who create indecipherable messages?

Richard Adam displays his private, handpicked collection of 24 Czech painters (1960 to 1980) at the regal Rudolfinum. The best known names include Jiří Černický, Ján Mančuška, Josef Bolf, Jan Šerých, Ivan Vosecký, and Jakub Špaňhel, while Petr Pastrňák's and Petr Písařík's paintings make up the majority of the exhibit. These are young and middle-generation artists whose work is mostly underrepresented in the media.

We begin with Černický's swirling psychedelic impression of the Kuwait Oil Effect, in pale pastels. Emerging from this groovy river of oil flies a giant bird, bathed in neon colors.

Continuing, you're confronted by more disturbing images. Bolf's An Elephant is an Elephant is a depiction of a puffy pastel animal sucking on an unknown object. His other paintings are also cluttered with pastel colored animals: elephants and pigs doing very un-animal like things. The postures and mannerisms convey behavior more human-like than animal. With its disturbing mutations of reality, Bolf's work borders on the absurd and confusing. Tasteless Mutations is another dark massacre of animals with twisted expressions.

Painting styles of earlier periods peek out in these contemporary scenes. Patricie Fexová's stiff "compact disc throwers" exemplify a modern approach to cubism. Angular bodies made up of straight hard lines display a distorted image of the human form.

Jiří Franta teases mainstream culture with Czech TV, a cartoonish image of a smiling television, while his Jesus Christ is a plain canvas featuring a smiley face with a clueless expression. Nearby a line of shoeless soldiers, with unnaturally pale faces and flesh colored bodies, stare out from white canvas.

Alice Nikitinová takes the viewer to outer space with her "conquest of the universe" series. Giant green monsters fly among skull-and-crossbone stars. Blanka Jakubčíková depicts her idea of Jesus's Brain in a chaotic mess of terrifying yellow faces. Jakub Hošek portrays a story line on a giant piece of cardboard. Sloppy, scrawled images of beer, churches, and blood effuse druggy bum art.

Adam's collection ranges from disturbingly grotesque to beautifully intriguing, with a touch of a '60s psychedelic influence. The messages are unclear, and therefore excellent topics for conversation.

Do you enjoy the things that confuse you? Do you like disturbing images and scary themes? Adam's collection awaits you...

Acne is at Galerie Rudolfinum, Alšovo nábřeží 12, Prague 1, until December 30th, 2006

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