Sunday, October 2, 2011


Ladislav Sutnar (1897-1976), a Czech-American artist coined the term "Joy-Art" to describe a series of nudes he called "Venuses". In the late sixties, the 65 years old artist, well-known graphic designer, returned to painting (he studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and was a painter). This Summer, the exhibition at the Rudolfinum in Prague displayed his nudes for the first time.

Sutnar fled the Nazis who had invaded his country and stayed in New York City at the occasion of the World's Fair in 1939. By the time these works were produced, he had assimilated the American culture and condensed its spirit (the artist's vision of it) in these paintings. His commercial designs were influenced by the Bauhaus, De Stijl and Russian Constructivism and he applied minimalism to technology, freeing space to maximize the process of information. The deconstruction of his paintings shows simple shapes juxtaposed to build the subject. They influenced Tom Wesselman's nude paintings.

Lining the walls of four palatial rooms, the giant canvasses are awakening the dark walls. The voluptuous, round curves of the subjects, the pink, lime, red white and blue Americana colors, the exuberant sexuality of the nudes represent another side of Sutnar with his concept of new art for the 21st century: punchy, aggressive, joyous, carefree, vibrant.
The exhibition is pleasant to go through and does not require great intellectual insight or emotional input. The Venuses are flashy, superficial, decorative and represent an advertisement for the Western culture Sutnar embraced. They are in stark contrast with the works from his peers who stayed in East Europe which can be seen at the Kampa Museum across the river.
Colors, shapes, Pop art, "Joy-Art".

Photographs by the author:

"Venus/ All the Way to USA" Ladislav Sutnar, 1968

"Venus/In a Petite Boutique" Ladislav Sutnar, 1968

"Venus/ In Orbit/ On the Top of the World" Ladislav Sutnar, 1967

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