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CG: Communist-Era Crafts On Display at Czech Center NY Thru 9/15

July 18, 2011 - by NYC News Desk

Communist-Era-Crafts-On-Display-at-Czech-Center-NY-20010101

The Czech Center New York presents 250 objects from the Home Art collection, on loan from Domácí um?ní o.s. in Prague, Czech Republic. This exhibition was organized by the Czech Center New York and curated by Pablo de Sax.

Home Art is a uniquely Czech folk art that appeared during the second half of the twentieth century as a reaction to the social and economic constraints of the Communist era. The collection is comprised of everyday objects-both utilitarian and purely decorative-crafted by people who had no artistic ambitions beyond creating items for their own use and enjoyment. These artifacts decorated the interiors of housing projects, countryside cottages, offices and workrooms, pubs, and even military dormitories. Artistry, craftsmanship, and an exuberant aesthetic are apparent throughout the exhibition, in counterpoint to the stark realities of the day.

Pavla Niklova, Czech Center Director, calls the exhibition "important because it is the first time Americans have the opportunity to look into the lives of Czechs during the years of Communist state control and see in a tangible way a kind of vital, fun, and freeform expression. In this way the Home Art pieces are more than just peculiar or quirky creations-they represent a folk art that flourished in response to repression."

Home Art, especially during the late 1950s and throughout the ‘60s, was influenced by the atomic style as well as by mid-century modern design. Crafters also commonly drew on illustrations from popular children's books and on Disney and other cartoons for inspiration. The materials they used were, as with most forms of folk art, what was at hand; bottle caps, discarded plastics, salvaged bits of sheet metal and wire, wood, and pieces of broken objects are all typical.

While bursts of Home Art activity still occurred during the 1970s and into the beginning of the ‘80s, it reached its peak during the 1960s. By the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, this modern folk art all but disappeared.

What these Home Art pieces may lack in formal artistic import they more than Make Up For in sheer creativity and whimsy. It is in this light that they are best appreciated-as important historical and social testimony from a bygone era.

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