Illustration drawn from photos of retro-models by Carlo Mollino
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To correspond with HOME gallery's first anniversary, Veronikas Bromová and Drahotová will be hosting an exhibition of recent works on paper by Pierre Daguin - along with a selection of photographs, several "anti-personnel bombs,'' an installation entitled the "Children of Marcos" and the White Book (a book of collage about terrorism).

Pierre Daguin: The Frank's Wild Years

Among Daguin's previous shows in Prague were his participation in the First Biannual Festival Foto Praha-Kolin in 1998.

Daguin's contribution, "Around the World,'' comprised an extensive series of juxtaposed photographic images: half self-portraits of Daguin himself, adopting various holiday, travel or expeditionary personae; the other half being images that may well have been culled from soft porn and fashion magazines (in fact they are pictures of retro-models by Carlo Mollino, a famous architect and designer, which were discovered after his death).

For his return show in Prague, entitled ''The Frank's Wild Years,'' (obviously a play on the Tom Waits album Franks' Wild Years), Pierre Daguin will be exhibiting a series of faux-naif renderings of images culled from erotic magazines. Unlike Daguin's previous work, these renderings take the form of line drawings, ink sketches, paintings and stylised outlines colored-in with felt-tip markers like the images in a child's picture book.

The effect ranges from echoes of Egon Schiele and Hans Bellmer, to the softcore punk aesthetics of Sonic Youth.

Daguin's use of color is at once lush and toxic, vibrantly contrasted and indeterminate. Surfaces are color-saturated or sparse, expressionistic or linear, or both. Figures are highlighted or placed under erasure, some having been entirely blacked out.

The effect produced is that the more "explicit" the image, the less "pornographic" it becomes-its mimetic quality dissolving into composition, the eye foundering upon the self-exposed quality of a highly "posed" technic.

When: December 17-January 30
Where: HOME Gallery
Web: www.daquinpierre.com


The Jindřich Chalupecký Award 2003

The exhibition of shortlisted works for the 2003 Chalupecký Prize at FUTURA can best be summed up with two words: Krištof Kintera.

Among this year's finalists - a list which also includes Ján Mančuška, Michaela Thelenová, Jan Šerých, Michal Pěchouček and Krištof Kintera has presented anything like a credible claim to the Czech Repulic's premier award for contemporary art - an award which has gained increasing notoriety in recent years due more to the quality of the successive scandals surrounding it than to the quality of the competition.

The only artist to approach Kintera in this year's competition would arguably be Šerých, whose minimalist text-based canvases, such as "GOOO YEAA" (or "GOOD YEAR,'' depending upon how you read the black lineated textual figures set against plain white) were the only pieces at the Futura opening to elicit any substantial interest, other than Kintera's animated shopping bag, previously exhibited at the Prague Biennale, and two sculptural biomorphic figures composed of enamelled potatoes.

Michaela Thelenová's photo series, comprised of juxtapositions of topographical file images and the artist's own work textured compositions echoing the topographies of their opposite numbers, involving liquids, raw meat, textiles, etc. - is interesting enough visually, but ultimately unoriginal in conception.

But the least accomplished of all the work on show - and there appears to be a broad consensus on this among those who saw the show before the announcement of this year's winner - were the three conventional figure paintings and sole video installation by Michal Pěchouček. Should we have been surprised, then, to hear the judges come down in favor of Pěchouček?

Watching former president Vaclav Havel present the award in the presence of Prague's art world cognoscenti and representatives of the local press agencies, I began to wonder why so much stock is put in such prizes as this. Prizes exist the world over, and they always have, in one form or another. But at the same time they have always embodied a certain authority or power of legitimacy.

While, this in itself is taken as a given, how is it that the extremely speculative (or compromised) nature of this enterprise remains veiled when brought within the context of contemporary art? The very notion of the "contemporary" would seem to invalidate any such enterprise from the outset, rendering it as little more than either a token gesture of paternalistic acknowledgement, or a rather more cynical and indeed suspicious gesture of bestowing an official value upon the names of individual artists in which the commerce in "contemporary art" can forthwith declare its interest at a protected premium.

While little about this year's Chalupecký Prize has equalled the sort of scandal and polemic of previous years, the decision of the judges to award the prize to an artist best known as a technically and formally conventional figure painter will inevitably raise questions about the "state of the art,'' not only in Prague but further afield as well.

One should not forget that while the prize itself is an entirely domestic affair, the panel of judges is drawn from the United States, Britain, Germany and Slovakia. And when British and American galleries begin to hype the "new painting,'' as they have again recently, then we must also wonder what interests are involved here, and do they really have anything to do with painting per se? My belief is that they do not.

There is no evidence in the work of Pěchouček, as the "man of the hour," that the idea of painting has in any way been thought through to new conclusions, or that it in any way engages with an idea of the contemporary other than in the dressing of subject matter. C'est la vie.

When: Through January 4
Where: Futura Gallery