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NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

NoD SUMMER SUNSET

During the holiday months, you can look forward to the NoD SUMMER SUNSET at Bar NoD! Every Wednesday to Saturday we are preparing for you a party with a DJ and…

SCAMMERS ATTACK / Janek & Natálka & collective

Scamming is art. They have been with us since the beginning of mankind. They are all around us. And they are more and more of them. There´s no place you…

SCAMMERS ATTACK / Janek & Natálka & collective

Scamming is art. They have been with us since the beginning of mankind. They are all around us. And they are more and more of them. There´s no place you…

Tři Heteráni / Divadlo MASO

This performance is in Czech only!

Tři Heteráni / Divadlo MASO

This performance is in Czech only!

ČEKÁNÍ NA KOKOTA / Maso Krůtí

This performance is in Czech only!

ČEKÁNÍ NA KOKOTA / Maso Krůtí

This performance is in Czech only!

ČEKÁNÍ NA KOKOTA / Maso Krůtí

This performance is in Czech only!

JAK SE DĚLÁ DIVADLO / Divadlo MASO

This performace is in Czech only.

Vyprodáno

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

Vyprodáno

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

Vyprodáno

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

BIBLE 2 / Janek & Natálka a kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

BIBLE 2 / Janek & Natálka a kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

GRÁL! / StorytellingCZ & Divadlo NoD

UNDERGROUND COMEDY CLUB

This performance is in Czech only.

JAK SE DĚLÁ DIVADLO / Divadlo MASO

This performace is in Czech only.

Vyprodáno

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

Vyprodáno

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

Vyprodáno

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

UNDERGROUND COMEDY CLUB

This performance is in Czech only.

Tři Heteráni / Divadlo MASO

This performance is in Czech only!

Tři Heteráni / Divadlo MASO

This performance is in Czech only!

BIBLE 2 / Janek & Natálka a kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

BIBLE 2 / Janek & Natálka a kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

BIBLE 2 / Janek & Natálka a kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

THE LEGEND OF LUNETIC / Janek & Natálka & kol.

This performance is in Czech only!

JAK SE DĚLÁ DIVADLO / Divadlo MASO

This performace is in Czech only.

SCAMMERS ATTACK / Janek & Natálka & collective

Scamming is art. They have been with us since the beginning of mankind. They are all around us. And they are more and more of them. There´s no place you…

SCAMMERS ATTACK / Janek & Natálka & collective

Scamming is art. They have been with us since the beginning of mankind. They are all around us. And they are more and more of them. There´s no place you…

MABE FRATTI

Guatemalan, Mexico-based musician Mabe Fratti returns to Prague after three years with two new albums and a band. This sentence alone should be enough of an…

UNDERGROUND COMEDY CLUB

This performance is in Czech only.

GRÁL! / StorytellingCZ & Divadlo NoD

Tři Heteráni / Divadlo MASO

This performance is in Czech only!

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Martin Lukáč: BATTLEFIELD

Martin Lukáč
Battlefield
Curated by: Pavel Kubesa
Opening: 15. 2. 2023, 7pm

16.. 2. - 26. 3. 2023

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Lukáč’s Fighters
 

I.

„He who fights, can lose. He who doesn't fight, has already lost.“
— Bertolt Brecht

To make a change or not to make a change?

On the penultimate day of January 2023 – a date by which (typically neither chosen nor the choicest) representatives of the human race have managed, through the last four-and-a-half millennia, to launch 10 624 war battles recognized by official historiography – a New York art critic Jerry Saltz published another of his regular daily ‘tweets’:

- “Artists: If your art looks sort of like Abstract Expressionism you should think about changing your art.

This came to pass at the very moment that the nearby Albertina Modern was closing a large retrospective devoted to trans-Atlantic Abstract Expressionism and its links with its European variants: Art Informel and Tachisme. Apart from tracking the basic transformation of the traditional representational (mimetic) concept of picture as ‘a window on the world’ towards and into a formal, colorful and material ‘dialogical processual game’ between the artist and the space of the canvas, the exhibition Ways of Freedom: Jackson Pollock to Maria Lassnig conveyed as its semantic leitmotif the theme of freedom. The motif of liberation is not interpreted here solely in the sense of the liberating abstract and expressive gesture of the painter. Freedom played an essential part, too, in existentialist and geopolitical perspectives – in the former, abstraction was employed as an instrument of emancipated self-consciousness, while in the latter, it functioned as a subjective catalyst of the experience of the demoralized and haunting world of World War II. Abstract Expressionists thus brought not only an element of spontaneity, of the consciousness–subconsciousness boundary and of dialogue, but also a desire for transcendence. To some extent, the mythical was at stake: the myth of the artist as well as the ‘myth of the human’ which could bridge the omnipresent trauma of war.

Saltz’s present contribution to the discussion cannot be taken as ostentatious critique of Abstract Expressionism or as a summary declaration of displeasure at current manifestations of abstraction in painting. In his previous Abstract Manifesto (2011) published in New York Magazine, Saltz paraphrases the above-indicated basic premises and consequences of Abstract Expressionism. He argues, among other points, that “Abstraction is staggeringly radical, (…) disenchants, re-enchants, detoxifies, destabilizes, resists closure, slows perception, and increases our grasp of the world”, yet in the same breath adds a foresighted remark: “Abstraction teeters on making empty gestures while also making deep statements.” In his reference to a parade of “empty gestures”, Saltz anticipates the debate sparked a few years by the wildfire-like spread of the term “zombie formalism” (2014). Artists, curators and critics were questioning the emerging generation of young painters who were suddenly soaring in the market. Their painting conformed neatly to contemporary notions of ‘design interiors’ as, utterly devoid of the former political potential of Abstract Expressionism, it adopted merely the outward aesthetic forms of historical abstraction. In another point of his manifesto, Saltz had nonetheless still struck a conciliatory note:

(...) contemporary artists have not only begun to reexplore the possibilities of abstraction, they’re shedding much of the Greenbergian cant and academic-formalist dogma that attached themselves to it over the last 50 years. Abstraction is breaking free again.

As if only a little more than ten years ago, Saltz had still trusted that power of “freedom” which abstraction might perhaps yet retain. In his comment on his recent post, he sheds any conciliatory attitude for good. He accuses the outward imitation of Abstract Expressionism of manipulating the past, of detaching creation from its historical context, of copping out and hiding away in the comforting warmth of a home belonging to others: “Rather than wandering in your own desert, you opt for another person's Promised Land”, he adds. In the face of such ‘superficialization of painting’, Saltz simply issues a call to arms, asking us to get ready for a ‘fight’ – a fight to save abstraction, a fight for ‘abstraction renewed’: “Our job is to make our own work.

                  In Martin Lukáč’s art a similar conflict materializes – old against new, or empty against (as-yet un)fulfilled abstraction. Lukáč belongs to a distinctive generation of artists and painters who in the later 2010s ushered the subject of zombie formalism into the local context. They promptly adopted the economic practice and market mechanisms fitting an artist functioning as a ‘self-made man’, but at the same time had to continually provide their painting with credibility and justification. At that point, their painting was caught in the middle of a battlefield between the ever-competing phantoms of academism, trending poses, tendentious ‘hot philosophies’ and a quite normal need to work as an artist and establish themselves. And while somewhat altered and varied, it remains caught there to this day.

 

II.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

Between Zorro and Ninja

A painter who has long defined his signature style as “an antagonistic desire for a figurative outcome in abstract painting” has no other option anyway than to accept such a challenge to fight. In Martin Lukáč’s oeuvre, the fight is ‘a fight for a painting’, ‘a fight in a painting’, Martin Lukáč’s fight ‘for Martin Lukáč’.

Over the last seven years, one of the eponymous visual subject matters of Lukáč's work has been the iconic character Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, which for a time predetermined one of the thematic lines of his paintings. His treatment of the figurative drawing can oscillate between the neo-pop expression of Keith Haring and the ebullience of naive-primitive Basquiat-like neo-expressionism. In parallel, however, he intuitively developed a number of more formal, non-representational series bringing to play the basic compositional, color and gestural possibilities of contemporary painting. In the wake of Lukáč's continued interest in the medium of drawing, not only did abstract ‘Twombly-esque’ rhythmic spiral strokes enter his painting, but over time hints of figurative elements were derived from and reintroduced into them, resulting in series of sometimes more abstracted, sometimes more figurative still lifes.

In his last few series, and in the current series Battlefield (2023) especially, Lukáč arrives at a certain synthesis of expression. Throughout the ten-part painting series, he uses a mechanically reproduced background based on an enlarged sketch which, in two centrally rotated variants, formally frames the entire set. As he subsequently applies multiple painting layers whose character spans from ‘color-field painting’ to expressive gestures through to gentle transformations of a linear motif – a reduced profile portrait of a head -, Lukáč generates an array of visual resonances, juxtapositions and counterpoints between the various picture planes that radically unsettle the resulting pictorial (‘battle’) landscape. The relationships between different layers of the painting are characterized by their relative dynamics: sometimes a figurative motif subdued, ‘overpowered’ by the background or sweeping strokes, at other times it surges into the foreground and in turn dominates the other pictorial planes.

 The ‘dialectic of fight’ can also be found on the content level. The paintings’ central figure is a hybrid hero: half Ninja Turtle, half Zorro the Avenger, neither one nor the other: someone ‘in between’. Their indeterminate identity across the sum of the canvases reinforces the character as an evocation of the ideal of the skilled, tough fighter, champion of good and protector against evil. Their varying expressions, as conveyed by the use of rudimentary props (eye mask, cigar, sombrero) and shifts in position of basic facial features, bring an overt narrative element, perhaps even a minimalist storyline, to both the individual canvases and the series as a whole: the paintings can thus suggest a rhythmic cadence between the cycles of alternating defeats and victories.

There’s one more significant element to the Battlefield series: an autobiographical motif. Martin Lukáč has long been an amateur but regular practitioner of the art of Muay Thai, i.e., ‘Thai boxing’. The experience of combat sport and therein the demand for constant stepping out of both physical and mental comfort zones, the drill and the inner discipline necessary for overcoming regular fights may, on the production level, offer a certain privileging dispositional advantage which enables Lukáč to more reliably contest and conquer his position of a contemporary painter; on the level of signification, they may provide opportunities for his personal projections, empathy and self-identification with his own characters. In his own words, Lukáč claims that “Every painting, indeed perhaps every real work of art, is – must be – an autoportrait of its creator”. It is evident that Lukáč is not referring solely to a reflection of the author’s personality in specific subject matters, but also to an imprint of oneself (of one’s own conceptual grasp of painting) in a comprehensive formal-expressive concept. Individual paintings of Battlefield can therefore be read as fought-for portraits of Lukáč’s own victories and defeats, no matter whether purely imaginary, athletic or painterly. For from every movement between his lyric and epic pictoriality, from each ‘gap’ between Zorro and Ninja, a new Martin Lukáč rises again.

Pavel Kubesa