Jan Kotík (1916-2002) was a Czech painter, graphic artist, translator and pedagogue.
Representation in collections: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Czech Museum of Fine Arts, Prague; Gallery of the Capital City of Prague, Prague; Gallery of Modern Art in Hradec Králové; Gallery of Modern Art in Roudnice nad Labem; Gallery of Fine Arts, Karlovy Vary; Gallery of Fine Arts in Cheb; Gallery of Fine Arts in Olomouc; Gallery of Fine Arts in Ostrava; Konstradet, Stockholm; Regional Gallery of Fine Arts in Zlín; Moravian Gallery in Brno; Museum Bochum, Bochum; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna; Olomouc Museum of Art; National Gallery in Prague; National Museum, Stockholm; Regional Gallery in Liberec; Vysočina Regional Gallery in Jihlava; North Bohemian Gallery of Fine Arts in Litoměřice; East Bohemian Gallery in Pardubice; West Bohemian Gallery in Pilsen
Jan Kotík occupies a special place among many Czech artists who ended up in exile after 1968. Member of Group 42, a staunch communist, promoter of modern artistic trends, criticized at home, world-renowned.
Kotík's credo was not to stagnate, to develop further, to respond to current world artistic expressions. He called it a process of simultaneous change. This is evidenced by his work, which began as a cubist and ended with complete abstraction.
Jan Kotík was the son of the famous painter Pravoslav Kotík (1889-1970). His cubist and later abstract paintings certainly influenced Jan. Jan studied at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague and began working in the second half of the 1930s. His first paintings are postcubist. In addition, he reported the influence of Paul Klee and Kandinsky. During the war, he became a member of Group 42, associated with the phenomenon of urban civilization and the experience of war.
Immediately after the war, he joined the Hollar Association, the Union of Czechoslovak Fine Artists, Umělecká beseda and also the Communist Party. He even worked in the party apparatus for less than a year, but he did not enjoy it and so he returned to work. His sources of inspiration were Picasso and also Soviet artists. In artistic expression, he gradually began to move towards non-figurative art. In 1948, during discussions on socialist realism, similarly to Jiří Kolář, for example, he opposed him, but he remained faithful to his left-wing thinking. In the period 1947-1953 he worked at the Center of Art and Folk Art (ÚLUV). He could not exhibit his avant-garde paintings, so he devoted himself to applied art, especially glass products. He was the author of stained glass for the Czechoslovak pavilion at the EXPO 1958 exhibition and in collaboration with René Roubíček again for EXPO 1967.
As a communist, Kotík was able to travel in the 1950s and 1960s and bring new stimuli from abroad to isolated Czechoslovakia (tachism, letrism, calligraphy), which he tried to convey further and also transformed into his work. At the end of the 1950s, he definitively abandoned Cubism, reducing the figure to a sign. Some critics and artists perceived it with some contempt, blaming it for the lack of authenticity. It didn't seem to bother Kotík in any way, he continued to create, moving towards abstraction and more expressive shapes. Painting is no longer enough for him, he begins to create three-dimensional works. In 1969, Jak Kotík received an annual scholarship from the West Berlin DAAD Foundation.
Although he was still a member of the Communist Party and left-wing thinking did not leave him, he did not return to Czechoslovakia. The regime repaid him by sentencing him to 3 years in prison in the 1970s for illegally leaving the republic. At the age of 53, Kotík begins a new life in the free world. It's not easy, but thanks to the scholarship, he manages to overcome the initial pitfalls. He is artistically moving towards conceptualism. For the production of his objects he uses wood, strings, fabric, a simple angle painting. It suppresses classical painting. Some of his works were exhibited at the Venice Biennale 1976.
In the 1980s, Kotík returned to expressive painting and even to the figure. However, it is not a figure in the true sense of the word, but rather a shape or outline resembling a figure. The author himself calls it a pseudo-figure. He produces these figures in both two and three-dimensional designs. He breaks the picture, paints divided canvases.
The ones on the wall do not hang completely vertically, they touch and make the viewer unsure whether he is looking at the image or the object. Kotík's expressive abstractions attracted attention and in the 1990s he was already a well-established artist in Berlin. He won the Fred Thieler Prize for Painting and became a member of the German Academy of Arts.
He received some satisfaction after the Velvet Revolution. He returns to Czechoslovakia, but not permanently. He exhibits here, teaching externally at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts. In 1992, the National Gallery organized a large retrospective exhibition for him. Jan Kotík died in Berlin in 2002. He did not receive a very warm welcome in his homeland, he was criticized for over-accepting foreign influences. In contrast, in Germany, where he was exposed to "free competition", he became a respected author.