I have seen exhibits of the embroidered works by self-taught artist Anna Zemánková, but was unfamiliar with her body of drawings, so I’m glad I saw the lovely exhibit of her pastels from the 1960’s and 70’s at the Cavin Morris Gallery in Chelsea.
This show of about a dozen works features mainly large pastels and oil pastels on paper (approx. 2ft x 3ft), but also a group of smaller ones, all with with Zemánková’s singular biological and organic motifs.
Born in Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic) in 1908, Zemánková drew as a child, but despite showing talent, she was discouraged from pursuing a career as an artist. Instead she worked as a dental technician; after she married, she stopped working and raised four children.
It wasn’t until Zemánková was in her 50’s that she returned to art, when her son Bohumil, a sculptor, made her a table and gave her art supplies, as a way of helping Zemánková cope with her depression. She would create fantastical, imaginary plants and flowers in the early hours of the morning, while listening to classical music. I could sit in her “gardens” for hours. Having been featured in the Venice Biennale in 2013, I’m sure we’ll see more of her work.
Cavin Morris is also featuring the work of another Czech artist, Luboš Plný (b. 1961), who began studying medical and psychiatric texts as a way of understanding the diagnosis of schizophrenia simplex he had been given during his military service. Plný has created collaged, intricate hand-drawn illustrations of the body, layering skin, muscle, bone, veins, cells, one over the other, creating anatomical images that are simultaneously very dense, yet clear, as if you’re looking at someone through a very, very powerful microscope, sometimes from the inside out.
Often you’ll find faces in his works, which have been cut out from magazines and then painted over, mask-like, as well as random body parts floating in the background. Plný’s work is in the current Venice Biennale.
Be sure to see these shows before they close on July 29th.
Cavin Morris is located at 210 Eleventh Avenue, Suite 201.