literature

Zdeněk Sýkora fotografem 1937–1945

Zdeněk Sýkora fotografem (Zdeněk Sýkora, Photographer)

1937–1945

The book focuses on an as yet unexplored chapter in the work of artist Zdeněk Sýkora (1920–2011), a world-renowned exponent of Neo-Constructivism and the painter of Structures and Lines: his remarkable photographs from the period of the Nazi occupation. The significance of these photographs has been uncovered only recently, as Sýkora neglected the maintenance of his early work and even self-critically destroyed most of the Surrealism-influenced paintings he made during the war. Fortunately, a selection of his photographs escaped this fate. Through research in the Lenka and Zdeněk Sýkora Archive, Regional Museum in Louny, State Regional Archive in Louny and other private collections and estates, enough original materials and information have been gathered to reconstruct a photographic preface to Sýkora’s painting career.   

From his very beginnings Zdeněk Sýkora was fascinated with landscape and nature themes. Jaromír Funke, who exhibited an extensive series of photographs of Louny and its surroundings in which he applied the principles of New Objectivity, provided Sýkora with direction in contemplating contemporary approaches. Sýkora processed and developed the model Funke set out in photographs dealing with the subject of his hometown and went on to enjoy success in the Louny Club of Amateur Photographers (he won a competition and participated in an exhibition in 1942 and figured significantly in the club’s 1943 photo album). He also responded to stimuli from alternative culture, especially Surrealism, a movement subscribed to by a local community of young people around Kamil Linhart and under the intellectual leadership of librarian Jaroslav Janík. Zdeněk Sýkora contributed photographs to his contemporaries’ original books, especially working with Linhart on a unique poetography book titled Někam jít (Going Somewhere), which is a primary example of the genre. In it, Sýkora masterfully applied photomontage (layering two negatives over each other into an enlarger and exposing them at the same time), a technique he had earlier used to create photo compositions to accompany poems by Czech and international poets ranging from Vladimír Holan to the Comte de Lautréamont. Sýkora’s photographs of abandoned Baroque sculptures and broken pieces, which he and Vladislav Mirvald arranged into various revived configurations, represents another original set of works.

Zdeněk Sýkora fotografem is divided into two sections. The first analyses and interprets Sýkora’s early photography in the context of the period, while the second section provides a detailed biography from the time of his birth up until 1945, when he started to study painting. It is based on the artist’s own memoirs and supplemented by thorough research of the sources, capturing the circumstances under which this exceptional artist came into being. 

Zdeněk Sýkora fotografem 1937–1945

Texts: Lenka Bydžovská, Lenka Sýkorová
Catalogue design: Zdeněk Ziegler
Size 235 x 235 mm, 150 pages
Published by Galerie umění Karlovy Vary a Ústav dějin umění Akademie věd České republiky, 2016
ISBN 978-80-87420-63-8