Thursday, April 01, 1993

SEM ZPRACEK: RECENT PAINTINGS: Tergiversations & Apostasy: Never P-Ending Journey To San Francisco
by Jakub Kalousek

In light of the fact that the artist, Sem Zpracek, cannot be here, I feel obliged to open this exhibit for him. Based on my limited interaction with the artist, I would like here to lay out some prehensile perspective for a viewer to grasp the inner mechanics of Zpracek's vision. The narrative of this introduction is essentially an extrapolation of a few late-night telephone conversations with the artist and his relatives.

Zpracek was born in 1951, in a village of Mala Kysna, a little bucolic hamlet in the largely-devastated northeastern Moravia, a region that Zpracek calls "prujmykraj" , that is "landustry" or "industscape." Zpracek attended Lev Mining Institute, specializing in subterranean engineering. After a multitude of brief stints in various governmental organizations he finally resorted in 1985 to full time painting with occasional side consulting jobs. The majority of the pieces here have been made for this show during the last year and have been inspired by environment of Zpracek's native Polomy as well as by his experience in the heavy industries.

Zpracek’s paintings embrace the world, but half of it is Zpracek's own inner world exclusively. Zpracek sums up his stylistic enunciation in such paronomasia as: Vytaha Prazdna which loosely translates as Vacant Flaunting. According to some critics, the perspicuous pillage of surrounding environment in Polomy Region can be readily traced to the manner in which Zpracek wields his brush and pen and attacks various surfaces, whether it be paper, canvas, or sand and coal. He notes: "Ironically I was trained to think on the surface and to work underground, now I think underground and work on the surface."

For Zpracek, the concept of Vytaha Prazdna (Vacant Flaunting) also points to an old Moravian paradox from the times of forests’ plethora: "When a tree falls down in a forest, if no one is there to hear it, does it make sound?" To Zpracek, a contemporary equivalent to this epistemological snag would sound like: "If an Elevator falls in a shaft, and no one is in it, can it hurt anyone?"

It needs to be further noted that the metaphysical nature of Vytahu Prazdnoty for "vytahu" manifests more than an amphibious nature as denoting two distinct meanings: First, it can refer to a "flaunter" in a fourth-out-of-seven degrees of Czech grammatical declensions; second, it denotes an "elevator" in the second degree of grammatical declension. The infinite number of associative, or rather dissociative permutations rises if we realize that while both denotations of the word "vytahu," i.e. elevator/flaunter indicate movement upward, the meaning of the word "declension" denotes the opposite, downward motion.

Zpracek’s most illustrative work resonating this paradox is perhaps Elevator Moment, in which the figures are unrecognizable and unidentifiable, further forcefully removed from our empathy by Zpracek's vehemently unforgiving and disfranchising treatment of line. But there are other works here that employ this central concern of Zpracek's. Lost Girl With A Remote Control Dune Buggie offers a sparcity, gnarlyness and cruelty in depiction that can be conceived and expressed only by a soul that can embrace these discordant states, wallow in them, digest them and spit them out with elegance.

Zpracek's treatment of line and color is reductionist in other more eclectic work such as Some People Think Everything Must Be Framed. In other works, tonal scarcity of color mixed with cacophony of lines such as in Exchange Of Business Cards or Purse Snare gives a viewer a reminiscence of the hypothesized chromacity on frescoes of Greek temples and yet gleam with a savory magazine design and blithe festooning of Moravian brides.

In other works displayed here Zpracek exhibits total abandonment of the discourse between line and hue. But this is, in my view, due to Zpracek's predilections to collaborate with anonymous artists and to adopt into his studio found, unfinished or otherwise disfranchised paintings. Zpracek's robust silhouette treatment would certainly cause a deep stylistic chasm in paintings such as Too Shy To Say What's Wrong With Him or Rarefaction. The width of Zpracek's scope of the medium extends with Rarefaction to an ultimate and unforgiving conceptual locus. The representational aspect is visibly made invisible, supplanted by the perspicuous vacancy of using seemingly random marks in unexpected places, and thus the pictographical literacy of self-description becomes the form, content and meaning. This is Zpracek's first solo exhibit abroad.