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Prague Fantastic Realism

Prague City Gallery, Colloredo-Mansfeld palace
22. April 2016 - 4. September 2016
curators Jana Hlaváčková, Vojtěch Lahoda a Marie Rakušanová


At home, Jan Jedlička, Vladivoj Kotyza, and Mikuláš Rachlík, three friends who grew up in bourgeois families, refer to Josef Stalin as Vishittyonovich, while President Novotný resides in Castle Orlík and plays Mariáš. We find ourselves in the 1960s gazing upon an unknown and remarkable slice of the work of three young graphic artists, that is, Prague fantastic realism. Even though it might be considered a mere episode in Czech art history, it accurately, and unfortunately, reflects a significantly longer period of our history, which often produced such absurd situations that a real artist could not manage it within the bounds of Socialist Realism.
 
While viewing the exhibition, you will have the opportunity to listen to audio commentary by Marie Rakušanová, Jan Jedlička and Vladivoj Kotyza. And texts by Vojtěch Lahoda, Marie Rakušanová and Jitka Hlaváčková will provide you with historical, art historical, and philosophical insight. Jedlička, Kotyza and Rachlík admired the old masters, paged through the journal Hara-Kiri or strolled through ruins and waste dumps as if seeking out the remnants of old times. Of course, as Marie Rakušanová writes, “In their version, nostalgia is not a sentimental attachment to the past; it is not a manifestation of the ‘disease of the imagination,’ but rather of imaginative health. (…) It shifts the object of nostalgia not only along the temporal axis between past, present and future, but also deflects it in the direction of alternative realities and fictional times.”
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JITKA HLAVÁČKOVÁ is an art historian concentrating on modern and contemporary art. Since 2006 she has been the curator of the Prague City Gallery, where she has been managing a collection of photographs and new media since 2015. She received her Ph.D. in 2015 from the Institute of Art History at Prague’s Charles University on the subject of the concept of sound in the history of graphic art. She also concerns herself with art in the public space.

VOJTĚCH LAHODA is an art historian concentrating on the history and theory of modernism and the avant-garde in the Czech lands within a European context. From 1993 until 2001 and again beginning in 2012 he has been the director of the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Since 2000 he has been teaching at the Institute of Art History at Prague’s Charles University, and since 2007 has been a university professor in the field of the history and theory of art.

MARIE RAKUŠANOVÁ is a an art historian concentrating on Czech and German modern art and philosophy. From 2002 to 2009 she was curator of Prague’s City Gallery. Since 2005 she has been a technical assistant at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague. In 2011 she was named docent in the field of art history in the Faculty of Arts of Charles University of Prague.

 

Exhibition plan



Jan Jedlička

18. 10. 1944

Jan Jedlička was born in Prague in 1944. In 1960s he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He focuses on long-term projects of landscapes through various techniques – drawings, local pigments, photographs, prints and films. He lives and works in Zurich and Prague. 

 

Between Worlds
A mediator who makes things speak - artist Jan Jedlička turns seventy

On this day, painter and photographer Jan Jedlicka turns seventy years old. His art is nourished by an intellectual resourcefulness with a profundity that reaches far beyond what we assume to be the current issues of the day.

As in his life, so too in his art. Jan Jedlicka melds the strata of time and the cultural spaces of Europe in a way that effortlessly oversteps the boundaries we take so much for granted today. Jedlicka draws upon intellectual resources with a profundity that reaches far beyond what we assume to be the current issues of the day.

Born in Prague, he left his home city in 1969, shortly after graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts there.

The self-immolation of student activist Jan Palach and Jedlicka´s own imminent conscription into the Czechoslovakian army with the prospect of having to guard an internment camp for political dissidents were the key events that prompted him as a young man to lake this important step. He left for Switzerland, and soon settled in Zurich, the city where he still lives. Nevertheless, apart from personal loyalties, he has put down no real roots in the cultural climate of Switzerland. In an art scene permeated by tongue-in-cheek folksiness and would-be cosmopolitan airs, he-has remained an outsider. Behind the modesty and sincere friendliness of this man lies an almost palpable sense of marginalization that has become a way of life for him.

When Jedlicka emigrated, he was, in the best sense of the term, an academic artist, whose technical finesse was invested in the fantastical realism that had evolved seamlessly in Prague from the turn of the twentieth century right through to the postwar era.

It soon became evident to him that the aesthetic ideas he had honed in the cultural isolation of his homeland held little appeal in the west. „I was like an earthworm that has to grow anew following an amputation,“ says Jedlicka in hindsight. In recalibrating his approach, he discovered his affinities with Land Art and the notion of „preserving traces“ that had by then begun emerging in Europe and the USA. Jedlicka is fascinated by the constant transformation of phenomena that lakes place before our very eyes. A distrust of ideological slogans and superficial definitions of reality, such as those imparted under the socialist regime, had become second nature to him. And so a way of moving perceptively through space, taking precise note of things and transforming them into form, became the building blocks of his new art.

He found the ideal geographic terrain for this new approach in Italy. Since the late 1970s, Jedlicka has been a regular visitor to the Maremma – a distinctive coastal region in southern Tuscany. Here, he has discovered the ideal counterpart to his own artistic ideas. The Maremma lures him with its specific landscape forms and with the historical dimension that they so clearly echo. It is here that, over the years, he has created his major cycles of pigment drawings, paintings, photographs and films.

Concise Traces

The Maremma – the very name betrays its proximity to the sea – is an in-between realm, where land and water are no longer separate and distinct. The elements are constantly realigning. The unique character of this landscape was evident even to the people of Antiquity. Today, the region is sparsely populated, with a network of canals bearing witness to centuries of efforts to make the land arable. By controlling the flow of water, the soil has been drained to reclaim strips of arable land from the sea.

Taking Jan Jedlicka´s art as a guide means entering into an untouched landscape in which nature has completely absorbed all traces of human activity. It is the breadth of the sky stretching over the vast expanse of the land that appeals to Jedlicka´s imagination. The concise traces of his watercolor brushstrokes map an open terrain in which a landscape of almost indistinguishable elements takes shape. These are the traces of a realm in which objects have yet to find individuation. When we look at these works, we are reminded of prehistoric cave drawings, of musical structures and of sounds that surge momentarily, only to ebb away again. It is no coincidence that, a few years ago, András Schiff chose these works by Jedlicka to illustrate his interpretation of Beethoven´s piano sonatas.

Even in the main body of his work as a painter, Jedlicka´s approach is that of a neutral communicator whose personal experience of the landscape remains free of any subjective signature. He lets the landscape speak for itself, uninterrupted by the voice or notions of an author. The materials he uses, too, are always directly related to the phenomena themselves: the colours are won from the stones and the earth that the artist finds on his walks. He grinds them and filters them, procuring the most luminous of pigments. Then, in his studio, he mixes them with water and pours them directly onto the canvas. The resulting forms are somewhat distorted, in that they are not directly controlled by human hand, merging easily on the surface into a regular pattern. Here, too, he eschews all semblance of composition. In these sonorous, saturated patches of colour that radiate so subtly from within a darker ground, the very landscape itself seems to speak out with confidence in its own situation. It is barely possible to interpret or translate this into conventional linguistic or discursive structures.

For a long lime, Jedlicka regarded photography merely as an aid to the craft of drawing and painting. It was not until much later that he began to see it as a medium with an artistic syntax of its own. His exploration of the photographic image reaches an impressive climax in the expansive cycle Il Cerchio, dedicated to the Maremma, which was published in book form in 2008. Over a period of more than a year, the artist revisited the area every two months to capture the landscape as it altered with the seasons. Every day, from morning to evening, he would walk with his camera, documenting the changing vegetation and the changing light. What we find is a landscape in which nature retains its quiddity, casually negating any historical narrative. Humankind appears to have no place here, „It is a foreign place,“ recalls the photographer, „where you have to bring your own means of survival from outside.“ The photographs lend the quietude of this monotonous landscape an enduring formal structure. The camera focuses directly on the horizon, which divides the picture plane evenly in the middle. At the same time, the camera position remains close to the ground, so that the observer feels part of the luscious vegetation while the sky arches sublime above.

Nature embraces humankind in its constantly recurrent cycles and, in doing so, opens up a singular sensory perspective. The words of American landscape photographer Robert Adams come to mind, when he said of his colleague Timothy O´Sullivan – who had made several excursions into the then barely charted American West in the mid-nineteenth century, „The pictures themselves are human compositions, but they refer to a design that is independent of us.“

Living History

Nature transcends the vicissitudes of our days and times. Indifferently absorbing our civilizational efforts, it ploughs them all into the furrow of forgetfulness. It would not he going too far to interpret Jedlicka´s fascination with the close relationship between human history and landscape – as evidenced in his images of the Maremma – in terms of his own personal background.

Jedlicka is the son of a bourgeois family in Prague with a distinctly Bohemian identity and a clear affinity to the notion of a multi-ethnic Austrian stale.

The reality of this multicultural climate soon emerges in any encounter with Jedlicka. His forebears include doctors and lawyers, among them his great-grandfather Frantisek Zenisek (1849-1916), who was a painter and a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. On a visit to Janovice Castle, where Sidonie Nadherny von Borutin regularly played host to Rilke and Karl Kraus, there is a portrait of Kaiser Franz Josef, painted by Jedlicka´s great-grandfather. Both of them – the Kaiser and the artist – died in the same year. This brings us to another great-grand- father, Bedrich Jedlicka, who, in 1866, at the age of ten, was an eye-witness, along with some of his friends on a nearby hill, lo the Battle of Konig-gratz and was promptly escorted from the danger zone by his horrified father. Time and history have left no visible traces of these events or their context. But they continue to resonate in the consciousness of Jan Jedlicka and form an undercurrent in his art.
Heinz Liesbrock 
Translation Isabel Flett, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Feuilleton, 18. October 2014, Nr. 242.


 

 


 

 

 

 

Exhibitions

Books

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Vladivoj Kotyza

3. 11. 1943

30. 11. 1943       He was born in Prague into the family of the well-known doctor Prof. MUDr. František Kotyza.

1943 - 1949        Lives with his family in Havlíčkův Brod. From this period come determinative space and light impressions, which Kotyza mentions in connection with his work: the view from the choir of the illuminated church in Rajhrad, monumental views of the countryside from above from the castle of Lipnice, childhood games amidst the wreckage of military machinery on the old embankment of the Sázava River.

1949                    The Kotyza family moves to Plzen.

1950-61               Studies at the 11-year High School in Plzen. He is interested in Nature, especially botany, spends holidays with his family in an old mill on the River Mza and reads science fiction (Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles).

1961 - 1967         Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague: he attends in turn in the painting studios of professors Vojtěch Tittelbach, Arnošt Paderlík and Antonín Pelc; after conflicts with his teachers he finds sanctuary in the restoration studio of Bohumil Slánský (together with J. Jedlička). Trips with the studio to northern Bohemia (Jezeří, Osek, Židovice), excursions on his own to the Prague peripheries (“journeys to the very edge”).

1961 - 1963         Summer forestry brigade work in the Bohemian Forest with the pupils of the Forestry School in Plzen.

1966                     Exhibition in an empty apartment in Prague na Újezdě, together with J. Jedlička and M. Rachlík.

1967-68                Year of military service in Milovice.

1968                     Lives in Plzen, paints and supports himself mainly with graphic and restoration work (up to 1988).

70’s and 80’s         He paints “probable spaces”: pictures of fantasy landscapes, originating from primal feelings in the studio (Spaces, 1975; View, 1978; Deserted City, 1985). The main theme continues to be the intermingling of technical and natural landscapes.

1984                     Painted triptych entitled Awakening in the Faculty Hospital in Plzen.

1987 – 1990         Realistic pictures emerge of the vanishing cultural landscape of the Plzen district of Roudná, earmarked for demolition (Window, 1989; Fata Morgana, 1987; Cessation, 1987; Floods I-III, 1990).

1990 - 2010          He works mainly in the open air, capturing real, but increasingly abstracted images of Nature in the wild at specific, subjectively boundary moments.

1988–2005           Works as a lecturer at the Pedagogical Faculty of the West Bohemian University in Plzen.

2001                     Creates the wall paintings entitled "THEATRUM MUNDI", Proluka (vacant site) in the Křižík Orchards in Plzen

From 2005            Works as a lecturer in the Institute of Art and Design of the West Bohemian University in Plzen.

From 2010            Works exclusively on drawing in the open air: by means of linear drawing with a bamboo splint and Indian ink he records his own thoughts authentically in the context of surrounding Nature. 

Exhibitions

Books

Audio tracks






















Mikuláš Rachlík

7. 12. 1943

7. 12. 1943      Born in the Lesser Town of Prague. His father, František Rachlík, was a writer, dramatist and publicist.

1956-62           Studies at the Jan Neruda Gymnasium in Hellichova Street, acquaintance with Jan Jedlička, especially in the course of art activities led by professor Jaroslav Divíšek.

1961 - 1968     Studies in the studio of professor Karel Souček at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.

1962                Cycle of illustrations for his father’s book Ko Balty.

1964                First trip to Italy (Florence) with Dušan Kadlec.

1965                Second trip to Italy (Sicily) with Dušan Kadlec. Their late return leads to partial expulsion from the Academy - Rachlík and Kadlec continue to be students, but they can now work only from home.

1966                Exhibition in an empty apartment in Prague na Újezdě with J. Jedlička and V. Kotyza.

1967-68           Final work for the Academy of Fine Arts: a cycle of five pictures of dystopian landscapes entitled Polittico.

Sept. 1968       Departure into emigration in Italy. Two years in Florence are followed by six years in Milan. He also works in parallel in an abandoned rustic house in the maritime landscape of Grosseto in Tuscany (until 1988).

1976                Moves from Milan to Florence.

1977 – 1979    He is the author of a number of theatrical stage sets, chiefly in cooperation with director Franco Enriquez.

1979 - 1982     Numerous series of so-called Walls come into being, compiled from dozens of male heads, rendered in a more or less fragmentary manner. Following on from these, from 1984 there are photographic pictures entitled Progressions, capturing the ideological course of the coming-into-being of a picture in dozens of photographs presented alongside one another.

1982                Beginning of the extensive cycle entitled Peppo’s Fields, which later gave rise to series with natural themes: Forests, Elements, Universes, Horizons.

1988                He moves his creative activity to Prato, where he has a studio in a former factory in the centre of town.

1988- -1991    Cycle of monumental abstract spatial paintings entitled Gates.

1988                Triptych Agnes of Bohemia on the occasion of the sanctification of the Czech saint.

1994 - 2004     Realisation of the stained glass of the windows and doors in the Church of the Assumption in Prato.

1996 - 1998     Cycles of modular series of pastels entitled Tales of Man.

From 2000       Lives in Veiano in the Etruscan district close to Rome. Continues his stage design projects through cooperation with director and performer Ilaria Drago. Paints pictures of gardens.

 

Exhibitions

Books






















Jan Jedlička, Vladivoj Kotyza, Mikuláš Rachlík

Prague City Gallery, Colloredo-Mansfeld palace

April 22, 2016 - Sept. 4, 2016

We find ourselves in the 1960s gazing upon an unknown and remarkable slice of the work of three young graphic artists, that is, Prague fantastic realism. Even though it might be considered a mere episode in Czech art history, it accurately, and unfortunately, reflects a significantly longer period of our history, which ... more

PANORAMA I Visit
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Prague Fantastic Realism

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Banner

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Jan Jedlička

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Jan Jedlička en

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Vladivoj Kotyza

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Vladivoj Kotyza en

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Mikuláš Rachlík

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Mikuláš Rachlík en

PANORAMA II Visit
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Banner

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Jan Jedlička
Felipe Serrano in Hvězda game preserve, 1968

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Jan Jedlička
Rotraut Klein, 1968

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Jan Jedlička
Vatican City, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Felipe Serrano in the studio, 1964

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Jan Jedlička
Margita, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Liblice, 1966

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Jan Jedlička
Osek, 1966

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Jan Jedlička
Osek, 1966

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Jan Jedlička
Hluboká, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Hluboká, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Liblice, 1966

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Jan Jedlička
Jezeří, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Jezeří, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
View from Jezeří, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Jezeří, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Jezeří, 1965

PANORAMA III Visit
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Fragments of the past and dystopian visions

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Jan Jedlička
Cathedral Hill, 1966 - 1968

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Třebáň, 1963

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Tower, 1963

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Bathing, 1964

PANORAMA IV Visit
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Vladivoj Kotyza
Lumberjacks, 1963 - 1967

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Dobříš, 1964

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Rubbish Tip, 1964

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Lumberjacks, 1964

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Harry, noon is ending, the border is close, 1964 - 1967

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Troja Chateau, 1963

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Portrait of a Girl, 1963

PANORAMA V Visit
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Jan Jedlička
Rose Gerland, 1966 - 1968

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Jan Jedlička
Island Paradise, 1966 - 1968

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Jan Jedlička
Portrait of Felipe Serrano, 1964 - 1966

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Jan Jedlička
Nude, 1964

PANORAMA VI Visit
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Jan Jedlička
Secret, 1964

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Jan Jedlička
Me and all my friends, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Before Dawn, 1965

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Jan Jedlička
Monstrance, 1964

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Jan Jedlička
Scream, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Atomic War, 1962

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Vortex, 1967

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City III., 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City I., 1964

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City II., 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City - The Blind, 1993

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City - Tidings, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City - Games, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Wrecs, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Silent City - Congratulations, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
Dialogue with a Nymph, 1963

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Jan Jedlička
David and Saul, 1962

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Jan Jedlička
Pilgrim, 1962

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Jan Jedlička
Rose Gerland, 1966

PANORAMA VII Visit
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Banner

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Confusion of Language, 1965 - 1970

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Skittle Alley, 1965

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty VII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXIV., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XI., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXVI., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty III., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XVII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XIV., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XVIII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty IX., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXVIII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXIX. (Flood), 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Murder in Třebáň, 1963

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXI., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty IV., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XVI., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XXVII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XV., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XIX., 1960

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty VIII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty V., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty VI., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty II., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty XX., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Balty X., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
XXXVII., 1961

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Ditch (XXXV.)

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Mikuláš Rachlík
XXXVI., 1961

PANORAMA VIII Visit
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Banner

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Vladivoj Kotyza
I run to the edge of the city, 1964 - 1968

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of Plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of Plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Girl, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Object, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Objects, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Object, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Parts of plants, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Fabulous Creatures VI., 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Fabulous Creatures III., 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Fabulous Creatures IV., 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Objects, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Fabulous Creatures V., 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Fabulous Creatures II., 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Fabulous Creatures I., 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Objects, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Objects, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Object, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
We are travelling in time, 1967

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Object, 1966

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Vladivoj Kotyza
Objects, 1966

PANORAMA IX Visit
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Hara-Kiri

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Hara-Kiri Journal No.4/1964, Paris, 1964

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Situation +22, 1966

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Mikuláš Rachlík
Situation +21, 1966

PANORAMA X Visit
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Mikuláš Rachlík
Box, 1968

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Vladivoj Kotyza
After the War, 1985

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