T E X T S . . .

Josef Hlaváček (text about Kurt Gebauer)

It is not easy to find the roots of Kurt Gebauer's plastic imagination - its sovereign self-evidence dispels all attempts at finding seeming resemblances. School could not have had a very strong impact on the artist's development. We ought to realize that he graduated a year after Soviet invasion and it took almost ten years before he could display his works in public for the first time (in 1978) and therefore it is clear that it was the absurdity of the years of the so-called normalization process that had the strongest influence on the artist. The absurdity became easier to cope with due to his experience of the atmosphere in arts in the 1960's when New Figuration acquired a more appalling and astounding character with echoes of Informal Art and the soft breeze of the close Fluxus movement. Perhaps it was here from where the clutch of bitter sarcasm appeared, occasionally even cruelty, which may sometimes be found hidden behind the seemingly carefree humour of his sculptures. It would be wrong and misleading to see Gebauer's dwarfs, dogs, floating busts and hovering clumsy nudes as indifferent jokes. The place of Gebauer's sculptures is somewhere on the boundary between banality and absurdity, comedy and tragedy. The Neo-Dada movement offers a good starting point with its technique of stuffed sculptures and resin hardened textile surfaces. The sculptor has not got fixed to this common means - he can get along well with stones at the seaside or rocks in a quarry the same as with hop-plant. The result its the same and you may always feel the artist's genuine signature - his link with the grotesque, which he enriches with specific features. When he exhibited his work in the theatre in Nerudova street he was thirty-seven and his imaginary world was mature. The Swimmers could already hover in the tops of trees, strange and ridiculous nudes without faces, anonymously turning like the hanged and the little girl On a Swing with her eyes wide open boisterously flies into unknown space without being aware of its danger. Finally, let us mention the model sculpture Libuše (characteristic of Gebauer's entire work) together with a pattern, which may be regarded as a metaphor of the sculptor's work. He speaks ironically about the uselessness of his sculpture which by doubling reality aims at both expanding reality and endowing it with meaning. On the other hand, the pattern is supposed to show the commonplaceness of every individual, a prefab, struggling hard (e.g.
through creative work) to become a prototype - the polarity of the incomparable is, in fact, also the essence of the grotesque. Kurt Gebauer's sculptures displayed at important exhibitions and gatherings of unofficial artists gradually proved the confidence of sculptural expression and significance - ranging from his participation in the exhibition at Prague's Lesser Town backyards in 1981 to Chmelnice in 1983 and, finally, to the official exhibition The Middle-aged in 1989 where he presented his unforgettable review of his earlier sculpture On a Swing in the sculpture entitled Alenka (Alice) - a girl with a beaming face absurdly stiffened in her (at that time still) hopeful run. In 1988 Kurt Gebauer took part in the exhibition Forum '88, which became a manifestation of the unofficial art of the middle-aged and the older generation. At that time Gebauer's Correct Side of the Slaughterhouse explicitly overstepped the bounds of tragicomedy and with a gesture of protest erected a satirical monument to the régime which soon came to an end.
Gebauer's activity reaches far beyond the above-mentioned field; let us mention, for example, his membership in the group 12/15 and his unique project of a children's playground in Ostrava. Here again we may see his characteristic contribution to contemporary sculptural expression.

Josef Hlaváček, June 1991