I TRY TO WORK WITH BEAUTY

They say that her grandmother was named Mrs. Beneš. And so it happened that Barbara came to us for the first time in 1979 and then three years ago had the exhibition “Diaogue Prague-Los Angeles” at Lidovy Dum. Indeed, today, I think it is true that she would have found her way to us anyhow.

 

Recently she introduced herself with two solo exhibitions in Prague at Galerie Prasna Brana (“The Powder Tower”) and immediatley after at Galerie Behemot. Up the narrow, winding flight of stairs we climb into the center of a gothic space, where rusted scaffolding pipes from the construction outside rest together forming a pyramid of tiny, clear delicate symbolic messages. Some of their surfaces are marred, one discovers, hanging there, with solar symbols and information from Chumash astronomical rituals, the race that originally inhabited the Los Angeles area, along with other symbols from Indian, Greek and Roman origins. At the lower part of the pyramid are hidden signs of modern American consumerist culture and mass-production, like Disneyland and Mickey Mouse. On the spiral moving down from above however, there remains inside some empty glass slides, reflecting clear plays of light and shadow.

 

Hide, wood and fabric were used in the pictures and maps that we noticed on the side walls. Drawings of the Indian meeting the White man, or of maize--the symbol of civilization-- gleam from fragments of silkscreen prints. We also meet some subtle signals from either herbals, or derivations of insects, alchemical, or animistic cults. Such maps are also symbolic maps of our consciousness.

 

She trys to express a typical feminine sensiblility of beauty and aesthetic; perhaps as a way of also hanging on to the transparent fragility that is so female. The piece called “Blood Wedding”, on a painted panel, particularly supports this fine fragility via the enjoyment of herbs. The dried herbs are confronted by a kitsch quotation of a picture from the last century.

 

At Galerie Behemot, there was also a hanging mobil of travel postcards, which have their own symbols and signs. Not all of them relate to the present time, some are historicizing. So the cultural -historical formation called Bohemia corresponds often to alchemy or garlic, which doesn’t do justice to our onions or slivovice. The authoress feels however, the need to be immersed in historical memory. And yet she has created work in a long historical era of visual language, full of meanings, signs and symbols, and in today’s deconstructive situation, this social conscience is perhaps once again confrontational and the cutting edge of the spiral.

 

She walks on a large mystical path. Her partner is the historical spirit-place, folklore, symbols, as well as vegetation in it’s natural habitat. A rich region of visual language, formed by history, is possibly accountable for disentegrating entirely an almost inexhaustable enemy.

 

Semiotics now today is not a favorite subject for the youngest generation. They more or less ask themselves about interpretation, like investigators. I wonder if the very systematicization that this branch established in our senses has connected to the mind a ‘catch 22’?

 

Appropriation art developed in America, where its members appropriate different originals to make perfect copies, whereby they claim the highest value to be emptiness. So Mike Bidlo works with Picasso, de Chirico, and Pollock, while Sherrie Levine with Duchamp, and others even with Schnabel. Some American institutions for art education even stopped lectures on art history. In a certain sense this is nothing new. For emptiness of content, platitudes, superficiality, and triviality is universally accepted in images. Media culture affirmed stress on Andy Warhol and after him a whole generation of hyperrealism. Now however, the situation is changing because marketing and a defeated modern culture are causing the ironizing of art’s past altogether, as if vultures were devouring the dead era of mankind. From the standpoint of postmodern thinking, an ultra radicalism is understandable. But perhaps the truth in the lower layers of consciousness and memory of multicultural American society, is the constant struggle to identify through the intermediate minority thougths of her fundamental origins and there to look for her roots, leading other young people to great respect. Barbara, as well, perhaps appropriates certain universal symbols and universal inscriptions, but they have the value of intellectual discovery and depth. She quotes Beckett, when he says that ‘spiritual development exists only in the deep sense’. So she starts to work with marks and symbols of human history’s universal truth, she tries to check a standard of beauty. Occasionaly it is the need of confrontation that is somehow on the road to kitsch, cliche, and reproduction. In this way, she is more interested in the principles of Durer as researcher, as deep thinker and simultaneous inventor of “low art” picture reproductions. Consequently, the unusual appropriator established picture devices. Semiotics itself becomes for us alchemy. Universality is strictly checked within the context of genia loci, with continuing imagination and stylising of every part to which it is related. So semiotics is regenerating as a cultural reflex, reitereating each of these parts. This artist feels she must confront this regeneration. Her faith in Nietszche is not insubstantial. He celebrates, via the artist, the strength of psychic transmutatuion and compares it to the Dureresque knight, who “the more he loses hope, the more he longs for truth”. (Birth of Tragedy-Truth of Self). Truth lies in finding one’s identity. Barbara also appropriates and dramatizes these questions. She opposes as such the passivity of mass produced and consumed pictures of life, and their false sense of beauty and convention. This postmodern world is perhaps decadent in it’s frequent quotation of symbols from the past, but her world is also active in it’s fear of beauty.Vlasta Ciháková-Noshiro, Ateliér Magazine Prague 13/1992, CzechoslovakiaI'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.