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The exhibition “Beyond the Edge of Glass” in the Dancing House Gallery presents ten glass artists of two generations. The first generation are artists who started to use glass as an original sculptural material and moved it into the fine art. This golden generation was educated in the studios of such Professors as Josef Kaplický or Stanislav Libenský at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. They promoted glass as an art and secured a strong position of the Czech glass art in the whole world.

“Beyond the Edge of Glass“ presents the works of ten glass artists from two generations. The first of these includes artists who laid the foundations for the development of Czech glass as a distinct sculptural medium in the fine arts. The artists of this golden generation, a majority of whom emerged from the atelier of Josef Kaplicky and Stanislav Libensky at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, managed to raise glass as a material for the applied arts to the fine arts and assert its fine art use throughout the world. With their works, five of the authors – Marian Karel, Vladimíra Klumparová, Vladimír Kopecký, Dana Zámečníková and Jiřina Žertová demonstrate not only the colorful variability of their sculptural approach to glass but also the complexity of thought with which they mingled with other arts such as painting, design, graphic arts and architecture. In their creations, we can find many artistic interventions which contributed to famous constructions not only in the Czech Republic but also, for example, in Japan or the United States.

The purpose the exhibition “Beyond the Limits of Glass“ is to contrast the works of these authors with those of the youngest generation of glass artists. The upcoming young generation of glass artists continues the tradition of their professors, they approach glass in a very innovative manner, exploring its potential in combination with untraditional materials. These authors are graduates, and in some cases, still students of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague under Rony Plesl, the School of Art and Design of J.E. Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem under Ilja Bilek and the Thomas Bata University in Zlín under Petr Stanciky. Their works, juxtaposed with those of the older generation, resonate sharply and indicate to the viewer just how far contemporary Czech art glass has come in the nearly sixty years since its phenomenal success at EXPO 58 in Brussels.

The golden generation of Czech glass artists, thanks to the centuries long evolution of this art in our country, were able to connect with tradition. Of course, this was a tradition which consisted of proven artistic techniques used within the applied arts. As a result of fortunate circumstance, a quirk of history and an odd decision of the regime at that time to give free rein and support to glass artists on a large scale, as opposed to other artists, glass art became fertile ground supporting those wishing to make journeys into unexplored artistic areas. However, important innovations might never have happened had these talented people not found support for their ability and creativity. They subsequently steered Czech glass art in new directions which brought these artists to fame the world over. The famous trio, who gave this evolution significant momentum, were Josef Kaplický, René Roubíček and Stanislav Libenský.

Josef Kaplický was a luminary professor at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague and head of the Atelier of Monumental Painting and Glass. He was as much a man of First Republic elegance and conviction as an exceptional art theorist and comprehensively learned artist. He lead his students, whether in painting, sculpture, drawing or glass work to personal expression in artistic manifestations and strove to develop their individual qualities. It was precisely his atelier that produced such artists as Adriena Šimotová, Jiří John, Václav Cigler, Vladimír Kopecký, Jiřina Žertová and many more. Kaplický raised a generation of artists (not just glass artists) which was heard throughout the evolution of art in the Czech Republic, especially during the sixties when these artists became famous as individuals.

René Roubíček was one of those who elevated glass to the fine arts, showing its potential as a material despite its centuries of use in only the applied arts. The optical and material properties of glass as a sculptural medium were first introduced at the famous international exhibition EXPO 58 in Brussels where Roubíček exhibited his massive object “Glass – Mass – Shape – Expression“ which indelibly entered into the history of Czech and global glass art. Thus he steered the art in Czechoslovakia onto a path quickly followed by the graduates of Josef Kaplicky’s atelier.

The third prominent artist is Stanislav Libenský, who, with his wife Jaroslava Brychtova, developed the technology of glass sculpture to a level that had previously only been attained with the media used in the fine arts, establishing glass as its own independent artistic medium. Libenský subsequently worked as a professor at the glass atelier of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague and, like Josef Kaplický, taught an entire generation of glass artists who, in the following decades managed to become world famous. These five artists presented in the exhibition “Beyond the Limits of Glass“ are among this golden generation of Czech glass artists. They had the opportunity to work with glass as a new medium of expression in the fine arts and to explore where its limits lie. For this reason, their approaches are extremely different. This is similar to how, for example, Vladimír Kopecký positioned himself in two artistic extremes. These artists set out into unexplored territory in which they found their expression. In a similar manner, the new generation of glass artists is seeking its direction. There is but this one difference – the limits of their field have already been explored therefore they must set off in different directions to explore different approaches and concepts. Still, the evolution of this field in our country over the previous sixty years has been fascinating.

The expression, which symbolizes the entire young generation of Czech glass artists who follow the older generation, is courage. Courage and enthusiasm in pushing their traditional field’s limits. Courage to use the cutting edge alternatives available in contemporary materials which, through their tradition show, unlike in other artistic fields a media, a not insignificant technological and financial burden. The works of these young authors rest upon what the older generation built. These experiences, however, take full advantage of present day approaches and speak an artistic language that freely borrows vocabulary from much of the contemporary world.

Thus they suggest to us echoes of contemporary reality (Lukáš Novák). Others express themselves in performative medium (Zuzana Kubelková), or push beyond the physical properties of their materials (Luba Bakičová, Jiří Liška). Other works border on kineticism (Vendulka Prchalová), or literally grow from themselves (Zuzana Kubelková). Perhaps this is why these works affect human senses so much more directly. They wager on the humor, dramatism and surprise of the viewer. In today’s rapid world of virtual technologies, when we are forced to differentiate among a large amount of visual content, these works are also “rapid.“ With some exaggeration, it is possible to say that to understand these works one requires less time than to understand those of the older authors. Those works force us to ruminate longer. This is as it should be. Creative art reflects the era in which it is made.
The present is no exception.
Ján Gajdušek

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