Jan Kalab - Bent Horizons



20 September – 8 November 2019


Diagram of forces (biomorphic) Kaláb

A little over a century ago, the biologist and mathematician D’Arcy W. Thompson wrote that “the shape of an object is a diagram of forces” (On Growth and Form, 1917), of internal and external forces acting on the object in itself modeling its form, the nucleus that allows the thing – the animal, said Thompson – to survive in the outside world, “because it is formed both from the outside and from the inside.” It seems like a good point of view to approach the paintings of the Czech Jan Kaláb (1978) and, especially, some of the most recent works that he shows for the first time in Valencia.

Kaláb, trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, he was the founder of the DSK Crew in the 1990s, when graffiti began to break onto the streets and trains of the newly created Czech Republic, developing the classic career of writer under the tag of “Cakes” to later, and during a stay in New York, incorporate the third-dimension in his urban paintings by sculpting abstract and huge letters that he installed on the walls — at that stage he signed as “Point”. Since 2007 he combines the performance of interventions and murals with painting on canvas, insisting on geometrizing forms influenced by his compatriot František Kupka, pioneer of abstraction, ranging from the stratification of overlapping planes and straight lines to the most subtle curves and dynamic orphic, with which he underlines an amorphous and bright echo like drops of an irised liquid.

This work with the form can be simple and obsessive in the variations, but it is always very elegant and fine with Kaláb, insisting on the game between the chromatic depth, the time of contemplation and the movement of the accomplice eye of the spectator that must travel from different points of view of each piece, letting itself be dragged between the layers to immerse itself inside its color fields.

The circle (or the circular form) is perhaps the most complex form, which by its organic character underlines both the inside and the outside, exemplifying that diagram of Thompson’s forces. His circular paintings, both in 2D and 3D pieces, are structured on a careful construction of shaped canvas supports that condition while “collecting” the painting towards the edges and which sometimes are graciously articulated in sets of two or three pieces of different sizes.

The name of the colors used or terms such as gradient, jellyfish, void, cloud, planet, eye … appear in the titles of his works and direct the meaning of the painted towards the natural, the liquid, assuming an optical dynamism that reinforce the choice of the tones, their gradients, and the composition, the diagrammatic structure of these paintings constructed as non-Cartesian biomorphic forms – on their surface but also three-dimensionally – that seem to draw the evolutionary result of the internal and external forces that have modeled its support and its plastic core.

Ricardo Forriols
Universitat Politècnica de València