Aleš Veselý's are linked with informel - the local version of international post-war abstraction. Several artists of differing generations arrived at it from different positions at the end of the 1950s. Veselý created his object-pictures from non-art materials (sheet metal, fabrics, old frames) that he connected with varnishes, scorched with a blowtorch, and thereby preserved or emphasised their rawness. At first they were very similar to the work of his fellow artists from informel's younger generation, but soon his work took on an unmistakable form.
The basic motifs consisted of either barbs and spikes that protruded from the objects, or crevices bringing to mind open wounds; the artist called these works Stigmatic Objects. All this gives the impression that these objects went through a painful process of a kind of purgative spiritual transmutation. This partly destroyed them and also wholly transformed and spiritualised the material from which they are created, so that they give the impression of old and rare relics despite their rawness. His later works Enigmatic Objects or Enigmata bring to mind with their treatment religious or military standards and, owing to their symmetry, vertically graded segmentation and gilding, they have a certain hieratical character that again links to religious and military symbolism. Today we could imagine them as the insignia of a dark prince from current fantasy films trying to use black magic and brutal force to rule the world.
This also applies for the anthropomorphic welded sculpture Chair Usurper (1964), in which an accent is already evident on the symbolic element of dark force and power. This sculpture also brought him his first significant recognition when he received the Critics’ Prize in Paris at the 4th Biennale. All of Veselý's work at that time featured imaginative and fantastic aspects. The pinnacle of the stage was the monumental Kaddish that he created with other sculptures in 1967 at the International Symposium of Spatial Forms in Ostrava. The chance to work in this unique milieu captivated him to such a degree that he remained there even after it had ended. Here, too, the title has a sacral dimension: during the symposium his father died, so Veselý named the sculpture after the Jewish prayer for the dead.
In 1969, Kaddish was transferred to the Sculpture and City exhibition in Liberec where the artist received the M. Braun Prize of the 1st Degree for it. Another of his sculptures of a similar nature is the three-meter high Memento (1968), intended as a preparatory study of the ten-times larger, unrealized sculpture for the Terezín Monument. Here there already appears the motive of a suspended load that prefigures his later work.
In the late 1960s, Veselý was a successful sculptor approaching international recognition. But then came a fateful turning point. The transformation of social relations following August 1968 and serious personal reasons led him to withdraw into a reclusive life. He began to gradually build a studio for his monumental works in an abandoned and dilapidated farm in Středokluky not far from Prague. He placed his works in the farm's exteriors and in doing so created a large sculpture environment. His work maintained a monumental scale and expression. He began to work with found objects (beds, chairs, wagons), leaving on them the patina of age and decay and shifting them to an existential expression.
Later at the turn of the 1980s, physical forces themselves entered into his sculptures in the form of giant boulders, tree trunks and metal plates or the tension of large springs. His pendulum, compasses or weights break away from the oppressive existential theme linked to the period of their creation toward and move toward deeper archetypal contents. Starting in the early 1990s, he added another such theme – the gate. At the same time he created monumental designs, sometimes even utopian-like projects of a land art nature that were especially meant for a desert environment.
After 1989, Veselý received full rehabilitation. He became a professor of the Prague Academy, organized a large exhibition (Prague Castle) and made several sculptures around the world. He was also accompanied by a certain sadness – Kaddish never took hold for long, even if the architect Masák enlisted him starting in the early 1990s for the vestibule of the new renovated Veletržní Palace. A Cliff for One, one of his most impressive sculptures, broke while transferring it to Klenová following an unfortunate purchase to a private collection where it was to be permanently exhibited in a park of sculptures there; not even his monumental sculpture in front of the gallery in the Jesuit college in Kutná Hora was realized in the end. The Kadesh Barnea Monument Israel still hasn't been carried out. A 12-meter monument made of a massive stone block of triangular shape and weighing nearly 500 tonnes was to loom over the Negev Desert. It was to be positioned on a supporting structure consisting of a stainless steel triangle so that both shapes formed the Star of David. The project, however, has not advanced past the inauguration at the very place in 1997 attended by the Czech and Israeli presidents at that time, Havel and Weizman, respectively. Following the year 2000, the artist continued to create with remarkable vitality. In 2009 he presented in the urban milieu of historical Litomyšl a series of monumental objects in which he once again works with reflections in plates of perfectly polished stainless steel.
Sculptures in Public Spaces:
2008 Holocaust Memorial, před bývalou synagogou v Kutné Hoře, kámen, nerez ocel, železo, 200 x 200 x 200 cm
1998-2001 Chamber of Light, Europos Parkas, Vilnius (Litva), železo, ocel a balvany, 777 x 430 x 430 cm
1999 Messenger, Sculpture Park, Wijk aan Zee (Nizozemí), ocel a balvany, 530 x 376 x 609 cm
1996 Memento, socha z roku 1968 permanentně umístěna ve městě Vernay (Nizozemí), nerez ocel, v. 450 cm
1995 Magen David, Památník Terezín, nerez ocel, pobronzované železniční koleje, balvany, v. 560 cm
1994 Doublebench, Faret Tachikawa, Tokyo, nerez ocel, diorit, 240 x 240 x 70 cm
1988 Testimony, socha z roku 1968 permanentně umístěná v Olympijském parku v Soulu, nerez ocel, v. 280 cm
1980 Ten - Onen, svařovaná socha z nerez oceli před školou Ed. Sprangera, Hamm (Německo), v. 12 m
1979 Iron Report, městský park, Bochum (Německo), soubor tří železných soch, I. 750 x 900 x 220 cm, II. 330 x 360 x 180 cm, III. 280 x 220 x 110 cm
1973 Trouba z Jericha, Nové Sedlo u Karlových Varů, nerez ocel, 210 x 390 x 230 cm
Catalogues of individual exhibitions from 1992:
Netopil, Pavel; Pleskot, Josef; Slabá, Jolana; Rousová, Hanna; Veselý Aleš; Zadrobílek, Vladislav. Aleš Veselý v prostorách Josefa Pleskota. Litomyšl. 2009
Veselý, Aleš. Nové projekty a starší objekty. Plzeň: Západočeská galerie, 2007.
Machalický, Jiří; Zdeno Pavelka. Aleš Veselý – Vybrané práce z let 1959 – 2005. Praha: 2006.
Hájková, Michaela. Aleš Veselý – Three Gates. Praha: Židovské Museum, 2005.
Carosso Fine Arts. Veselý Aleš - Infinite Point. New York: Carosso, LLC, 2003.
Hájková, Michaela; Veselý, Aleš. Hora hor – Pouštní projekty Aleše Veselého, Praha: Židovské muzeum, 2003.
Kober, Rudolf; Linder, Gerd. Utopie und Reflexion: Bad Frankenhausen: Panorama Museum, 2000.
Hlaváček, Josef; Lowenstein, Tom; Nešlehová, Mahulena; Raimanová, Ivona; Restany, Pierre; Šmejkal, František; Veselý, Aleš – Obsese-realita-utopie. Hradec Králové: Galerie moderního umění, 1998.
Kotík, Charlotta; Messer, Thomas; Raimanová, Ivona. Aleš Veselý – Point of Limit, Praha: Správa Pražského hradu, 1992.
Monographs and Catalogues of Group Exhibitions from 1992:
Schonberg, Michal. Projdi tou branou! Rozhovory s Alešem Veselým. Praha: Torst, 2006.
Kolektiv autorů. České ateliéry. Praha: Art CZ, 2005.
Schonberg, Michal. Walk through that gate! Conversation with Aleš Veselý. Praha: Torst, 2005.
Potůčková, Alena. Exprese, Praha: České museum výtvarných umění, 2005.
Juříková, Magdaléna. Šedesátá. Praha: Galerie Zlatá Husa, 2004; 380-391.
Mládková, Meda; Machalický, Jiří. Práce na papíře. Praha: Museum Kampa, 2003.
Primus, Zdenek. Umění je abstrakce. Praha: Kant, Arbor Vitae, 2003; 96-99.
Nešlehová, Mahulena. Poselství jiného výrazu. Pojetí “informelu” v českém umění 50. a první poloviny 60. let, Praha: Ústav dějin umění AV ČR/Art et fact, 1997; 47, 48, 55-57, 59, 66, 116, 145,, 150, 151, 154, 173, 174, 177, 184, 193, 238-240, 245-247, 249, 258, 260, 262-264, 266, 269, 271, 272, obr.: 3, 52, 53, 147-149, 172, 185-187.
Šmejkal, František. České imaginativní umění, Praha: Galerie Rudolfinum, 1996; 385, 414, 417, 427-434, 455, 471, 554, 581, repr.: 427, 430, 431, 520, 552, 553, 554.
Potůčková, Alena. Umění zastaveného času. Česká výtvarná scéna 1969 – 1985, Praha: České museum výtvarných umění, 1996..
Kimura, Mitsuhiro; Kitagawa, Fram. A “New Century” for City and Public Art. Faret Tachikawa Art Project, Tokyo: Gendaikikushitsu Publishers, 1995.
Judlová, Marie. Ohniska znovuzrození.České umění 1956 – 1963. Praha: Galerie hlavního města Prahy/ Ústav dějin umění AV ČR, 1994; 10, 114, 154, 192, 292, 303-304, 325-326, obr.: 114-117, 184-187
Restany, Pierre. Visionaire de la modernité industrielle. Praha: Galerie Pallas, 1994.
Čiháková-Noshiro, Vlasta. Archetypy, Praha: Mánes, 1993.
Feddersen, J. Soft Sculpture and Beyond. An International Perspective. (East Roadsville, Australia, 1993); 9, 158-161.
Wittlich, Petr. „Situace 92”. In: Situace 92, Praha, 1992.