Younger artists showcased at Hunky Dory
All may quite satisfactory, but some of the works remain puzzling
Posted: August 28, 2013
The now somewhat outdated phrase "hunky dory," American slang for "fine" or "quite satisfactory," has been around since 1866, according to the dictionary. It was fashionable once upon a time, even enough so to be the title of an experimental David Bowie album 1971, though it's gone a bit out of style since.
Nevertheless, Hunky Dory is the name given to the exhibition that opened Aug. 21 at Karlín Studios, one of two venues in Prague run by the Futura Center for Contemporary Art. The show features works by artists born in the 1980s and 90s. So maybe it's making a comeback.
When: Runs to Sept. 15, Wed.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.
Where: Karlín Studios, Futura Center for Contemporary Art, Křížíkova 34, Prague 8
Tickets: Free admission
Whether the exhibition lives up to its name may be in the eye of the beholder.
Contemporary art fanatics may have a field day engrossing themselves in the sometimes esoteric pieces on display. For the casual consumer of art, the converted former factory itself acts as a canvas of everyday life that is worth seeing, though the artworks might leave some feeling puzzled. Perhaps that is the point.
For example, what should we make of the large video projection of a man hanging from the ceiling bars in what looks like a Prague metro train? Or the huge smiley face on the wall, with painted black eyes and a hammock for a mouth? Or how about the video of a women dancing with a seemingly alive potted plant? What meaning can we derive from the metal sculpture of a knight in armor, riddled with arrows?
What perhaps all can grasp is that the show captures a slice of today's young art scene.
"The show features the works of artists of the youngest generation - though rather young, they are already established on particular art scenes," Katarína Slaninová, one of the curators told The Prague Post.
"In a broader sense we can call the show a 'generation show,'" she added.
The generational theme of Hunky Dory fits well to Karlín Studios, the former ČKD motorcycle factory that has become a place for young artists to rent studio space and display their work. The same day as the Hunky Dory vernisage, another exhibition for the small k.art.on gallery, stationed more permanently in Karlín Studios, was also being unveiled. The exhibition featured a work called Součástky (Parts) by young artist Libuše Vendlová, a dress with moving parts made entirely from black paper, modeled by the artist, which she said represents different parts of her psyche. Several other exhibitions can also be viewed at the venue.
A booklet available at the Hunky Dory exhibition offers short blurbs about each of the young artists, explaining the background of their style and artistic philosophy. However, other than the title further information about the 21 pieces, ranging from videos to mixed-media installations and sculptures to photographs, is not given.
The curatorial statement may help shed some light. It states that the works in the exhibition are essentially a "fresh and playful" fusion of opposed worlds: "the real and virtual world, the intellectual and ordinary world."
"It is the ordinary and everyday life they elevate to a subject worthy of serious interest of art, thus blurring borders between art and life," Slaninová said.
The exhibition attempts to capture whimsical scenes from life, encouraging us perhaps to laugh at the absurdity or simply to become captured in a mundane moment.
"[The artists] take as their basic inspiration particularities of daily life. Drawing attention of the viewer to the banalities, often ugliness of the banal, obsessions with tedious things and activities is a key aspect of their art practices," Slaninová said.
The curators had originally intended to only feature Czech and Slovak artists but eventually
broadened their scope to other nationalities.
"I believe, that in this way we created a more concrete image of current art practices, showing that they are similar in different European countries as well as in the US," Slaninová said.
The aura of the exhibition is one of young experimentation. Here is a stunning platform--the gaping open space of an abandoned factory--brought back to life. The place is undoubtedly hip, and just as good a place to spend a pensive evening as anywhere else.
One visitor at the vernisage sat on the floor, legs crossed, smoking a cigarette and staring at a projection showing a looped video of a girl jumping into what looked like a river, which turned out to be just a large photo laid over a swimming pool. Perhaps the bizarreness of such an image is just what some people need be inspired.
Jennifer Day can be reached at