Czech Avant-Garde: Reflections on European Art and Photography, 1922 - 1940 demonstrates the brilliance of Czech graphic design, illustration, photography, and photomontage in the period between the wars. Comprised of approximately 800 books and journals from the collection of Zdenek Primus, the exhibition highlights the work of several recognized masters of Czech book design, including Karel Teige, Jindrich Styrsky, Toyen, Ladislav Sutnar, Vit Obrtel, Zdenek Rossmann, and Frantisek Muzika. Most of the artists represented in the collection were members of the avant-garde artist's union (Devetsil) from 1928 to 1931, or participated in the Surrealist Group from 1931 to 1938.
The Primus Collection is the largest of its kind in the world, encompassing the complete works of Czech avant-garde book production. Following the design of the collection, the exhibition is divided into four sections: "Constructivist Design;" "Picture Poems of Poetism;" "Isms and the Book;" and "Photography and Photomontage."
The "Constructivist Design" section is based on the elementary forms of the circle, square, rectangle, straight line, diagonal, and arc. Sources of the work in this section also included related movements such as Suprematism, Neoplasticism, Elementarism, and Functionalism, the latter of which grew out of Constructivism in the 1930s. With constructivist elements, and using orthogonal forms, photographs, and typography as structural elements, works in the category of "Picture Poems of Poetism" use free association to create visual poems. "Isms and the Book" includes works that attempted to adhere to the tenets of then-current "isms," for example Purism, Artificialism, Lyrical Abstraction, and Surrealism. "Photography and Photomontage" were integrated into Czech book design by 1922, and predominated in the 1930s.
Czech Avant-Garde represents a major and under-recognized contribution to 20th-century art, giving insight into many important aspects of artistic production in Europe between the wars.
Czech Avant-Garde has been curated by Zdenek Primus. We are grateful for his generous loans to the exhibition, which is being circulated by Curatorial Assistance, Los Angeles. The Williamson Gallery presentation of Czech Avant-Garde has been made possible in part by a grant from The Virgina Steele Scott Foundation.