Ivan Pinkava / Stripped off Ornament
curated by Silvia Van Espen
30 May – 16 August 2013

“And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments from Mount Horeb onward.” Exodus 33, 6

The black and white photography of Ivan Pinkava is located somewhere in the crossover between portrait, nude and still life. “What aims does the author pursue with his practice? Firstly, he decomposes the conventional thinking and perception into a steady notion of an object, its museum-like description (…), its static enclosure (…). From seemingly obvious, measurable and thus knowable world, which cannot take us by surprise anymore, the author creates an allegory again. Carrying the burden of banality and everydayness he recreates the purpose of secret (…).” / Petr Vaňous in: Ivan Pinkava, “Remains”, Arbor vitae, 2012. p.6./

The exhibition “Stripped-off Ornament” features all aspects of Ivan Pinkava`s work: human figure in the triptych Foucaults Pendulum, portrait in Relevation, still-life in Vanitas. The focus of the show is placed on author`s latest photograph Stripped-off Ornament. In general art works represent processes and testimonies evoking our feelings. Some of them penetrate so deep that they manage to mine what we secretly hide in our deepest selves. Thematically, the work of Ivan Pinkava reaches even further and references the mythical or Christian heritage that has shaped our society ever since and still forms its, more or less, firm basis. In connection with a symbolic interpretation of the photograph Stripped-off Ornament we come across few references. The first one originates in the Bible, the book of Exodus, verse 33, 6: “So the Israelites stripped off (i.e. took off, removed) their ornaments”. It is a culmination of the first parable about humans being unfaithful to God. It describes how God through Moses speaks to the people and unveils his intention to lead them to the Promised Land and protect them on their journey there. However, he says, that because they were not faithful to him, he will not be with them, only some distance away. When the people heard the words, they began to “strip off the ornaments”. It is a symbol of sadness, grief and repentance.
The second reference, the author openly admits, is a book by a French philosopher and art theoretician Georges Didi-Huberman “Ninfa moderna: essaie sur le drapé tombé” (2002, Editions Gallimard, in Czech the book was published by Agite/Fra). In this sense Stripped-off Ornament of Ivan Pinkava can be read in the context of the development of drapery in the history of art. Due to gravity force the straight line of the representational background of the photograph is layering on the ground. Thus its form is being decomposed and deconstructed. We can perceive it as a description of a “trash” aspect, decline and decadence of contemporary society, to which refers also its visual rendition of the city. By this Ivan Pinkava addresses also current state and course of events in the field of contemporary photography. (e.g. Alain Fleischer and his series “Contacts”).

In 1986 Ivan Pinkava graduated from the department of art photography at the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Since 1988 he has regularly exhibited abroad, e.g. in Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, the USA, Israel, Mexico etc. The most comprehensive solo show of Ivan Pinkava up to now was realized in 2004 at the Rudolfinum in Prague. In 2012 his biggest monographic exhibition abroad, entitled “Remains”, took place at the American University Museum at the Katzen Center, Washington, D. C. The photographs of Ivan Pinkava have been included in many books and catalogues, e.g. in a German encyclopaedia comprising world-known photographers entitled “1900 bis Heute”. The author`s monography “The Dynasties” was awarded the Most Beautiful Czech Art Publication in 1994, the book “Memento mori” received the award for the Most Beautiful Foreign Art Publication in the USA in 2001, the book “Heroes” was awarded the Most Beautiful Czech Book 2004 and his latest book “Remains” earned him the first prize of the Union of Polygraphic businessmen in the competition “the Most Beautiful Book 2012”. From 2005 until 2007 he was a lecturer at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague where he was a head of the studio of Photography. Occasionally, he has been a pedagogue of art workshops in the Czech Republic and abroad, e.g. in France and the USA. The work of Ivan Pinkava is part of public and private collections around the world. Currently, his work is presented also at the exhibition “The Intimate Circle in the Contemporary Czech Photography at the City Gallery Prague (14 May – 18 August 2013).