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
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.
. . .