Jiří Kolář (1914-2002) was a prolific Czech artist across media: a poet, writer, and translator who expanded the boundaries of modern art by deconstructing the printed image and word. In reassembling and constructing images in collage, he created often absurd commentaries on modern life and the turmoil he faced as a political dissident in Communist Czechoslovakia.

Kolář worked across artistic media from the start of his career, with poetry and collage at the heart of his practice. His collages were first exhibited in 1937 in a Prague theatre vestibule, while his first poetry collection was published in 1941. Early in his career he was a founding member of the influential Group 42, an artist collective who sought to remove academicism from modern art and instead reflected modern urban life in their work.

When in 1952 police found his manuscript, Prométheova játra (Prometheus’ liver) in the property of the writer and philosopher Václav Černý he was arrested and spent several months in prison.Kolář was one of a group of several artists (including Václav Havel, Václav Černý, Jan Vladislav and Josef Hiršal) who kept a table in Prague’s Café Slavia, both during the period leading up to the Prague Spring (January 1968) and through the months of normalization that followed. The failure of the Prague Spring in August 1968 brought Kolář and his work into official disrepute again. Kolář was a signatory to the human rights document Charta 77 and while on a scholarship to West Berlin, the government forced him to emigrate; from 1980 onwards he lived in Paris, only resuming visits to his homeland around the time of the Velvet Revolution (November 1989).

Kolář produced thousands of collages, seeing the art form as a natural continuation of his written poetry. The collages frequently juxtapose fragments of text and images, and over the course of his career he contributed to the invention of several new collage techniques. Yet many of his collages fit several of his own technique categories, or defy categorization all together in favour of visual impact. It is perhaps his chiasmage works, in which text is disintegrated and reassembled, that best represent his creation of a new visual poetry reflecting the fractured modern world.

Exhibition Opening Hours
Early closure: The Gallery will close at 3 PM on Thursday, 14 September. We apologise for any disappointment caused.

4 September – 19 October 2023

Monday to Thursday. Closed on Friday.

10.00 AM – 12.00 PM (last entry 11.30 AM)
2.00 PM – 4.00 PM (last entry 3.30 PM).
Information for Visitors

To arrange access to the Exhibition please call at the Porters’ Lodge, Magdalene College, Magdalene Street, Cambridge, CB3 0AG.
entrance will be to the Gallery only
visitors are requested to call in at The Porters’ Lodge in First Court before visiting the gallery
visitors are requested not to enter other parts of the New Library or Magdalene College

Image: Jiří Kolář: Homage to Jan Palach (1968–1969), rollage and collage