Confrontation I and II (Konfrontace I a II)
The rapid sequence of activities in the early 1960s gradually broke through on the Czech Informel and structuralist scene. At the beginning of this process stood the two non-public confrontations, prepared by artists of the youngest generation and held in their own studios. The exhibition Confrontation I took place in Jiří Valenta’s (1936–1991) studio in Libeň. Most of the exhibiting artists were recent graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, who invited amongst themselves the then practically unknown Vladimír Boudník (1924–1968). In his work of the late 1950s and early 60s, Boudník had developed “structural graphics,” which resonated with the paintings made by the circle of young artists. His works impressed them in that they had nothing in common with official art at that time, and in their rawness and the non-artistic means he used to create them. Unfortunately, no photographic documentation has been preserved from Confrontation I in Jiří Valenta’s studio. According to the recollections of contemporaries, the studio was a small attic room in an Art Nouveau-styled building at Na Palmovce street in Prague.
Confrontation II took place six months later in Aleš Veselý’s (1835–2015) studio at Kubelíkova Street in Prague. This studio consisted of a basement space with three rooms that the artists cleared for this occasion. As with the first exhibition, it took the form of a confrontation of recent works by the circle of artists, which is why the shown works were similar in composition to those in Confrontation I. Unlike Confrontation I, Confrontation II is documented, and views of the exhibition reveal a vaulted basement space, cleared to resemble a gallery with a few makeshift chairs. Paintings and a series of prints are hung on the walls. An installation was accompanied by the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen from a tape recorder. The raw works of the Czech Informel, with their color reduction, lacerated structure and existential meanings emphasized by aleatoric new music, became a symbol of defiance against the colorful officiality of communist posters and marching songs. Even though the term “underground” does not appear until the 1970s and is not used in connection with the Czech Informel, it could in many respects be applied to the Confrontation II basement exhibition.
Pavlína Morganová – Terezie Nekvindová – Dagmar Svatošová, Výstava jako médium. České umění 1957−1999, AVU, Prague 2020, pp. 300-315.
Mahulena Nešlehová, “Odvrácená tvář modernismu,” in: Marie Judlová (ed.), Ohniska znovuzrození: České umění 1956‒1963, exh. cat., GHMP, Prague, 1994. 157‒209.
František Šmejkal, České imaginativní umění, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, 1996.
Piotr Piotrowski, Totalitarianism and Modernism: The ‘Thaw‘ and Informel Painting in Central Europe, 1955-1965, Artium Quaestiones, Vol. X, Poznań, 2000. 119−174.
Date: 16 March 1960 and 30 October 1960
Participants: Vladimír Boudník, Čestmír Janošek, Jan Koblasa, Antonín Málek, Zbyšek Sion, Antonín Tomalík, Jiří Valenta, Aleš Veselý
Zdeněk Beran (Confrontation I)
Václav Křížek, Karel Kuklík, Jiří Putta (Confrontation II)
Location: Studio of Jiří Valenta and Studio of Aleš Veselý, Prague