I love visiting the exhibitions at the Kooperativa Gallery in Prague’s Karlín district. Kooperativa, an insurance company with headquarters in Vienna, created spaces for a café and gallery in its Prague office building during 2012, when it moved there. The exhibitions are free and very intriguing.
I went to an exhibition of Ladislav Janouch’s passionate sculptures in April of 2023. Previously, I had been enthralled by an exhibition showcasing Czech Impressionist art. The works by Janouch certainly did not disappoint.
Born during 1944 in Prague, Janouch has created not only expressive sculptures but also drawings and sketches. After graduating from the Academy of Decorative Arts in Prague during 1973, he has devoted much of his time to sculpture, participating in 25 individual exhibitions. He studied in Italy on a scholarship during 1980. The materials he has utilized include wood, stone, marble, bronze and metal.
Janouch’s works focus on the human figure. Janouch’s poignant sculptures include mothers with their children, female nudes, mythological figures, athletes and busts of famous Czech personalities. The figures are in various positions – some seated, some standing, some lying down. He takes on mythological themes with his creations of Prometheus and Icarus, for example. Sports enthusiasts will take special notice of the discus thrower captured perfectly in motion. I could almost see the athlete’s twisting torso moving because the work is so vivid.
He has sculpted many busts, including those of professors. His busts reveal not only facial features but also character traits in an emphatic way. Each bust tells a different tale. My favorite, though, is that of the late singer, songwriter and poet Karel Kryl, whose music I listen to often. Kryl’s songs, made up of poignant poetry, protest against the Communist regime.
Kryl emigrated to Germany in September of 1969, during the strict Communist period of Normalization. After the Prague Spring invasion during August of 1968, the Communists had begun their Normalization era of rigid rules. I remember where I was when I heard Kryl unexpectedly had died of a heart attack on March 3,1994 at the age of 49. A waiter in the Na Rybárně Restaurant near Václav Havel’s embankment apartment had told me, and I had shared his sorrow. Kryl had only been in Prague two days before his sudden death; he passed away in Munich. Kryl died shortly after I had discovered his music. I bought all his cassettes and listened to them religiously, scrutinizing the Czech language in poetic form, too. I could feel Kryl’s penchant for protest and devotion to democracy in the face of his bust.
Ladislav Janouch also created busts of his father and grandfather, who had played roles in the Czech literary world. His father, Jaroslav Janouch, had been a writer, editor and translator. His grandfather had made a name for himself as a writer of humorous stories in numerous magazines and six books. (Two were published posthumously.) He had used the pseudonym Jaroslav Choltický. Ladislav’s son is a sculptor, too. In 2020 Ladislav exhibited his works alongside his son’s creations in Kadaň.
I was very glad to familiarize myself with Janouch’s sculptures. I liked the expressiveness in his human forms. His renditions of athletes gave me the most joy. The tender relationship between mother and child was another meaningful feature. I also was especially moved by the busts as each face told a unique story.
Tracy A. Burns is a writer, editor and proofreader.