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MOUNTAIN OF MOUNTAINS - Aleš Veselý’s Desert Projects

The Jewish Museum in Prague –Robert Guttmann Gallery
U Staré školy 1,3, Prague 1, Czech Republic
12. 2. – 6. 4. 2003

Aleš Veselý: / Mountain of Mountains and Rock of Rocks / 1999The exhibition Mountain of Mountains: Aleš Veselý’s Desert Projects is a presentation of the artist’s large-scale projects for the deserts of Israel (chiefly the Judean and the Negev), which he has intensively worked on since the mid-1990s.

Called at times by Veselý „utopias which should still come into being,“ these desert structures remain connected to the reality of their surroundings despite their ethereal quality and the extensive modeling of the environment. All the projects he has under consideration could be realized at any phase of their development. In the relatively early stages of a project Veselý devotes considerable attention to the technical problems associated with determining static relationships in his structures and their particular optical, acoustic, and climatic effects in the very specific desert environment.

Aleš Veselý: Mountain of Mountains – variant I / 2000Unlike the vast majority of classical conceptualists, Veselý considers the very process of realizing his ideas to be an integral part of his work as an artist. His works are authentic expressions, not just mere enlargements that could be executed by anyone following his project design. In considering all the details of what impact his structures in their final form will have, Veselý has given them the ability to carry on a continual dialogue with the viewer. Indeed, each one of his projects requires the viewer’s active participation.

These particular qualities are based on a conscious and sensitive handling of proportion, sound, and space. Although the desert projects are singular monumental sculptures by nature, they are not meant to be colossi whose sole purpose is to utterly overwhelm the viewer’s feelings by the aesthetic dictates of the artist. Veselý’s sculptures always contain the dimensions of the human body. They are anthropometric structures, interactive constructions continually testing the possibilities of human perception of time and space, memory, and the ability to recall the past. Through their universality, these „structure-loci“ become unique spaces of human existence, and in this sense Veselý could be called an advocate of neo-humanistic values.

Aleš Veselý: Kadesh Barnea Monument (variant with block of steel on a stone base) – computer simulation / 1998In this respect, the desert projects could also be interpreted as a type of mental construct produced by human memory coming into visual contact with the desert landscape. The sculptures suddenly and unexpectedly rise up from the empty spaces, yet at the same time they seem to have existed in this apparent void since time immemorial only to have materialized retrospectively through our memories. Memory behaves as a continuum in constant flux, a stream of mental associations where at each point our past experiences intersect with reality — even though at the moment of perception a subjective interpretation has already been made. Through this process the work becomes a living organism, the viewer’s equal partner. It is at once a source of stimuli and able to „reply“ to the questions it has evoked in the viewer. The desert imbues these structures with a dream-like nature: the material objects appear to be mirages in the quivering desert air, creating the impression of zero gravity, a „close distance“ and a „full void.“ We „touch“ the sculpture with our gaze (or directly enter into it), and through this not only do we reinterpret it, but actually reconstitute it. Our gaze fills the chronologically undifferentiated matter with meaning, introducing a temporal quality to the universal unity of spatial forms. The originally undifferentiated space is presented to our perception as conditioned by time, as a „space usurped by time.“
Aleš Veselý’s desert projects are monumental, universal concepts that blur the boundaries between sculpture, architecture, and land art. They articulate basic human doubts about the irreversibility of things and are pure expressions of the relationship between the microcosm and macrocosm. They are sublime, not beautiful, works of art. Not meant to fulfill any aesthetic canon, their structures are formulations of absolute values of existence at the intersection of historical and mythical time.

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Aleš Veselý: Kadesh Barnea Monument (variant with block of stone on a steel base) – computer simulation / 1998 A 120-page bilingual Czech-English catalogue is being published for the exhibition. The catalogue contains an introductory text about the beginnings and development of the desert-project concept in addition to original texts by Aleš Veselý himself and numerous illustrations of his work .

The main purpose of the exhibition is to present Veselý as an artist who is interested in sculpture first and foremost as an art of spatial forms. Through the drawings and models on display we can observe Veselý’s yet unrealized projects along with the design plans for projects he is currently working on (e.g., Kadesh Barnea Monument, the site for which was inaugurated in 1997 by President Václav Havel and President Ezer Weizman of Israel). We expect the exhibition in Prague to be followed by exhibitions in the U.S. and Israel. One of the goals of the current show is to bring Veselý’s projects to the greatest number of viewers and thereby garner support for the realization of some of his projects. We believe this initiative will be a significant contribution in spreading awareness of contemporary Czech art abroad.
The exhibition is a non-profit activity. It would have been impossible for us to undertake this without the contributions of various organizations, in particular the Jewish Museum in Prague, The Project Judaica Foundation, and Carosso, LLC Fine Art, New York , who offered generous financial support.

January 20, 2003

Michaela Hájková
Curator of Fine Art Collection
Jewish Museum in Prague
[email] michaela.sidenberg[at]jewishmuseum.cz

Further information about Aleš Veselý: www.ales-vesely.cz

For more information and free copies of the exhibition catalogue for reviews, please contact our Public Relations Department:

Dr. Jana Smékalová
Jewish Museum in Prague
U Staré školy 1,3
110 00 Prague 1
Tel: +420 / 221 711 511 or 221 711 585 (direct line)
Fax: +420 / 222 749 300
[email] josef.nechvatal[at]jewishmuseum.cz or [email] info[at]jewishmuseum.cz


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