The argument could be made that Salt Lake multi-media artist Lenka Konopasek stands astride two contrasting, major approaches to art, with one foot firmly in each, all the while subscribing to neither. Born and raised amid the European postwar experiment with figurative abstraction—Bohemia is one of the places where Cubism still carries weight—she has spent half her life in Utah, where the American taste for pictorial realism reached an apotheosis. Yet she draws on her Czech roots as much for the rich tradition of decorative ornament as she does for the skeletal structure the mind intuits beneath the visible surface. And her pictorial elements draw on compelling real-world narratives, frequently disasters such as floods, tornados, and explosions, but presented in ways that deny viewers a specious, easy empathy. Of her rodeo paintings, she has written:
I am more interested in images of cowboys falling than in their glorious eight seconds on top. The poses the camera catches are puppet-like, disjointed and comical; not those of a strong man in charge of his destiny. The body becomes vulnerable and breakable. The rider’s fall represents a moment of open possibilities, full of disbelief and unreality.
If there are no easy heroes on horseback, in the disasters there are no easy victims. The artist asks viewers to explore her subjects with an open mind, as she does, and to see the presence of paradoxical qualities that too often we ignore in order to react in ways we’ve been taught to find appropriate. Soft focus on luminous gestures inform us it isn’t about a man on a horse or New Orleans under water; it’s about the terrible, sublime world in which we living creatures dwell. Konopasek studied art in Prague, Frankfurt, Utah, and Maine, and despite her prolific, full-time career, teaches at both the U of U and Westminster. Her pronouncements about her art, like the example above, favor clarity over mystification, so her Art Talk tonight at the Salt Lake Art Center, where she is Artist in Residence, promises to shed light on her work, even as her current installation project sheds natural daylight on a room in the Center that has seen only artificial light for decades.
Lenka Konopasek Art Talk
Salt Lake Art Center
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Read Geof Wichert’s article on Lenka Konopasek in this month’s edition of 15 Bytes.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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