" Katerina Stenclova at the Czech Center "

May 2002
page 156
written by David Ebony

   This recent exhibition offered U.S. art audiences a rare glimpse of the work of two of the Czech Republiďs bestknown and most respected postminimalists, Kateřina Stenclová and Michael Skoda. The show marks the American debut of these mid-career artists (both are in their early 40s), who háve shown exten-sively in Europe ověř the past decade. Comprising several recent smáli and medium-sized pieces by each artist, the exhibition gave only a hint of the powerful works that they háve produced. Nevertheless, the presentation managed to pack a considerable wallop in this modest exhibition space.
   Skoda typically shows large scale wood constructions and hardedge reliéf paintings in a palette restricted to black, white and gray acrylics. Here, he was represented by Triptych, a threepart, horizontál panel painting about 2 feet long, plus a group of 12 related works on páper. In Triptych, thick, black vertical and horizontál bands about an inch wide traverse an expanse of white and light gray. Encompassing a for-mal vocabulary that is part of a reductivist tradition ranging from Mondrian to LeWitt, Skoda's composi-tion hints at the bold dynamics of modernist architecture. Stenclová also works primarily on large surfaces. In 1999, she filled the cavernous atrium of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Prague with enormous shaped monochrome canvases in bright colors, and with hardedge compositions in similarly eyepopping hues.

   The intense colors and dense surfaces result from a paint mixture she devised using generous amounts of dry pigment. Overlapping panels in certain compositions allude to the fragmented planeš in paintings by the early 20th-century Czech pioneer abstractionist František Kupka, and some of her pieces bear comparison to paintings by Ellsworth Kelly.
   Of the fours works that Stenclová presented in New York, the most striking was Green Cycle, a grouping of four monochromes. Hung several inches apart in an irregular row, these 24 by 20 inch canvases ranged from forest green to turquoise and lime. The pristine surface of each panel is dis-rupted at the center by a "painterly incident," such as a gentle rubbing oř a whoosh of a single brushstroke. Unlike Skoda, whose work sug-gests architectonic precision, Stenclová evokes a phenome-nological realm bathed in ethereal light. Both artists, however, aim for a similar kind of ideal-ized spáče in which notions of pure painting and pure expression are very much at home.



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