Like a moth to a flame, Prague’s tourists are drawn to bright colours and odd shapes combined with David Černý’s name. Through DSC Gallery’s full-wall windows, they see enough to realise that his weird-looking art-objects are worth posting on Instagram and Snapchat. They enter the gallery, take a few selfies, rush though the rooms – a few more minutes and they are vanished into thin air, while Černý’s newest works are left misunderstood.
In November, new works created over the past three years by the internationally famous and notorious Czech artist David Černý were exhibited for a show entitled “Black Hole” at the private gallery DSC, located near the Old Town Square.
Three rooms and eight installations are all that the “Black Hole” had to offer.
A portrait of the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking produced with polymeric materials was beside portraits of the “father of the atomic bomb” J. Robsert Oppenheimer, the inventor of German and American missiles Wernher von Braun, and the Skull, which seems to represent us, ordinary people. This series of works is dedicated to the human mind.
One can spend a long time examining the portraits’ contents. They are filled with various types of weaponry, especially the Skull with its guns, rifles and shotguns. A grenade with three foetuses and a pig with a saluting Nazi in its belly are within Hawking’s portrait, to nail down the political context of the series.
A non-political but still controversial sports theme dominated the second room of the exhibit. There were nineteen pairs of electric-powered flesh-coloured life-sized legs in running shorts and black boots fixed to walls, imitating running movements. These were a homage to Emil Zatopek, the legendary Czech Gold-winning long-distance runner, at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Since Zatopek was the main symbol of the Czech Olympic Committee for the Rio Games, the installation was previously displayed at this summer’s Olympic fan zone in Prague. As a typical David Cerny twist, the twentieth pair of black-flesh-coloured legs seems to be a recent addition, echoing the triumph of a Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in Rio.
The squeaking sound of running plastic legs merges into a lulling cacophony together with the deafening loudness of propellers attached to horses’ bodies in the back room of the exhibit. Černý’s Horse Power I and II – although there is no visible difference between them – represent the automatisation and the robotisation of the world.
David Černý’s installations, although simple looking, always have deeper layers of meaning. However, with the lack of descriptions and clarifications at the DSC, there was nothing left for visitors to do, but to take pictures of unusual things, then post them on social media. This is no motivation enough for Černý: “I hate when I have to comment my work, it is better for people to see it for themselves,” he said in press release.
While Black Hole is over, Prague inhabitants will be able to evaluate Černý’s art next year: the artist will not only publish a comprehensive monograph but will also have an extensive exhibition at the National Gallery.
This is another surprise, since there was quite a scandal between Černý and Milan Knizak, former director of the National Gallery. In 2000, Černý refused to accept the Jindřich Chalupecký art prize in the Gallery as long as Knizak was its head, and in 2011, he called Knizak “a puffed up crippled prick” in a TV documentary, for which the Prague High Court ruled a compensation verdict three times, most recently on February 23, 2016.
Photo Courtesy of DSC Gallery