Bĕla Kolářová

1923Terezín, Czech Republic | 2010Prague, Czech Republic

Czech visual artist.

Bĕla Kolářova, in collaboration with her husband Jiri Kolář, created an experimental body of work articulated around language and form, the structure of objects, and geometry. Marked by Dadaist irony and by Constructivism, her work took on a variety of incarnations and made use of mediums as diverse as photography, assemblage, installation, and drawing. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, she explored the possibilities within traditional photographic processes by creating artificial negatives, using only a darkroom instead of a regular camera and letting the light capture the images of objects that she glued onto the sensitive surface of photographic paper. She was quick to dismiss the idea of objectively depicting reality. She rather sought expression in a more direct manner, inventing new techniques and basing her work on careful observation of objects, which she diverted from their primary functions. In the mid-1960s, she began to create her first assemblages, in which she applied objects from women’s everyday lives directly onto the canvas: Hair series (1964); Lipstick Sampler (1965); Sharp Circle (1967). Later, her work became increasingly radical, with a greater focus on abstraction and structure, as illustrated by the dissolution of the concentric elements in Untitled (1968–1972). In her picture Variations: Two Triangles (1968), she deconstructed and assembled repeating shapes to create an informal ensemble reminiscent of lyrical Expressionism.

B. Kolářova was one of Czechoslovakia’s most prominent representatives in the field of geometrical abstraction. Around this time, she started working on her “derealisations”, a new series she achieved by modifying her former material in a style sometimes similar to the aesthetics of photo-assemblage. She was also close to the group Křižovatka (“Intersection”), founded in 1964, which propounded a singular approach to a reality freed from existentialism. From 1980 to 1999, she and her husband lived in Paris. She attached fundamental importance to her assemblages, in which she still made use of traditionally female objects, such as in Rolls of Brown Hair (1980). Her later work demonstrated her reflections on space and perception, as in Untitled (2005), which consists of three glass plates encrusted with motifs and presented in three dimensions. B. Kolářova never ceased to experiment throughout her later years, inventing new means of expression at the crossroads of abstraction and reality.

Maïa Kantor

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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