INFLUENCES & AFFINITIES
THE WORK OF GERALD JOHNSON & LADISLAV CZERNEK
including a special exhibit of works by ILYA
October 14-November 5, 2000
Opening Reception October 14th, 4-6 P.M.
While Picasso & Braque were working closely around 1911 at the climax of Analytical Cubism, Kandinsky started non-representational composition in 1910, and a Russian Cubist, Kasimir Malevich made the transition from abstract to non-objective geometrical painting and gave his new theory the title "Suprematism" - which aimed to create the ultimate work of art by use of the rectangle, the circle, the triangle and the cross (1918). Around the same time, Piet Mondrian was involved with another theory, "Neo-plasticism," which reduced the composition of painting to only line & color. Painting herein must be as flat as the surface it is painted on, and only pure primary colors (red. yellow. blue) must be used.
Neo-plasticism was connected with the development of contemporary architectural style and has influenced furniture design, typography and the decorative arts. Painters, architects, designers & theorists published a magazine called "De Stijl" (1917-28). Another abstract, non-objective movement around 1918 was LeCorbusier1s, which pursued "Purism." The forms of Purism were to be a mechanical clarity, reflecting "The Age of the Machine."
De Stijl ideas were incorporated into the "International Style" in architecture which contributed to the ideas of the Austro-Germanic industrial architects & theorists, the Russian Suprematists and Constructivists. In 1919 a German, Walter Gropius, set up a school, Bauhaus,: to teach architecture, painting & crafts emphasizing maximum efficiency and 20th Century Functionalism.
Bolotowsky, born in Russia was a follower of this movement.
As a direct descendant of the early Modernist movements, Ilya
Bolotowsky emigrated to America from Russia at the age of 16
in 1923. Gerald Johnson met Bolotowsky in 1970 and began an
extended working relationship with him.
Gerald Johnson1s work derives from the Modernist Bauhaus Movement at the beginning of the 20th Century: The historical line derives through his relationship with Bolotowsky, the touchstone to that great modern intellectual groundswell in the arts.
Here is Gerald Johnson1s relationship to Bolotwsky on his own words:
"Ilya Bolotowsy was a bridge to the past and to the future, creating brilliant & powerful paintings from the 19301s to 1981. He worked in interesting and exciting art movements participating in the vanguard of abstract art, from Biomorphic Abstraction to Neo-plasticism. Bolotowsy was most impressed by Mondrian1s Principles of Primary Color, Line & Structure. He created work for the WPA/Federal Art Project in 1936 for the WILLIAMSBURG HOUSING PROJECT in Brooklyn.
"Bolotowsky was a Renaissance man, a painter, teacher, sculptor, printmaker, writer, filmmaker & lecturer. During World War II, Ilya was stationed in Alaska. He was a translator for Russian pilots there, and wrote an English/Russian dictionary. Bolotowsy was very interested in the Eskimo people and their culture. He collected Eskimo sculpture. Ilya taught art at many colleges & universities in his life. He was the Acting Head of the art department at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and taught drawing & painting there in Josef Albers1 absence.
"I grew up in Western South Dakota close to the Black Hills, the Pine Ridge Reservation, and the indigenous people that inhabited that landscape and sky.
"When Ilya and I met at Chiron Press in 1970, we produced many silk screen editions. At this time I also became his studio assistant.
"Emphasizing the horizontal & vertical, I was making "step paintings" in 1971. In 1974 I began making sand paintings on the floor. The sand painting I did in 1975 encouraged me to start weaving a rug. I felt the influence of the colors and the geometric patterns used by the native peoples, and Bolotowsy had a connection with the colors & geometry of Mondrian.
"Ilya was a great teacher. His approach to sharing the creative progress was an important learning experience. While we worked together he would always talk about the artists (many from the American abstract artists group), art history & politics. He talked about the ability to maintain the picture plane1s tension, and to achieve depth without using a diagonal, through the interplay of color.
"Mondrian was a model for us both.
"Ilya inspired my personal sense of harmony, balance, color & structure, and opened me up to my own style, helping me to define my own path.
"He was a role model for the working habits of the artist in the attainment of their artistic expression through dedication & perseverance.
"Presently i continue working with Andy Bolotowsky (Ilya1s
son) caring for Ilya1s work."
Gerald A. Johnson, July 2000.
Ladislav Czernek, a native of Czechoslovakia, is a sculptor and cabinetmaker. His work also reflect the basic tenants of Bauhaus...that purist simplicity of design reduced to "form follows function," and emphasizing the vertical & horizontal.
Ladislav, a native of Czechoslovakia, is a sculptor and cabinetmaker. He has run his own woodworking business "Epoché Studios" for ten years out of Williamsburg Brooklyn. Czernek uses his sculptural background (a B.S. degree in sculpture from the Maryland Institute of the Arts) to interpret the complex demands of contemporary design. In his work, he loves playing with the simplicity of integral joinery, paring his furniture down to his equivalent of "Czech peasant furniture" while at the same time exploring the beauty of meticulous joinery and solid woods: among them mahogany, white oak, poplar and the engineered lumber "Paralam". Each piece makes a sculptural statement while at the same time showing its foundation in expert woodworking. He also has a yen for dual-purpose pieces - a chair which folds into a table, one which folds into a bench, a shelving unit which has unique and artful arrangement options and a fiberglass screen with mahogany shelves which doubles as a shelving unit.
Yuko Nii, the Founder & Artistic Director of the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, noted the link between the works of Gerald Johnson and the early Modernist. She also recognized the close relationship of the work of Gerald Johnson & Ladislav Czernek. When Yuko decided to five them a "two man show" in October of this year, she introduced Ladislav & Gerald, They immediately recognized their own affinities and began to plan an integrated show of their arts. The result will be on exhibit at the Center.