Tendencies labelled as constructivist started to appear in Czech art during the first half of the 1960s. Despite its name, however, the character of these tendencies did not have very much in common neither with classical Russian constructivism, nor with the Bauhaus movement of the 1920s. Their basic principles, mainly the negation and refusal of all past art, as well as the belief that constructivist art is predetermined to immediate transformation of the world, were not shared in the Czech context.
However, local constructivism has some common traits with the avant-garde movements from the beginning of the 20th century after all, primarily the interest in clean artistic media void of any random and subjective elements, minimized to primary shapes and compositions using neutral and clean colours. The artists identified with the achievements of the modern world, technical inventions and “new nature” created by man – unlike organic nature with which they announced a radical breakup. The core of the constructivist group was made up of Jiří Kolář, Zdeněk Sýkora, Karel Malich and Hugo Demartini. These artists presented themselves for the first time at the exhibition of the Umělecka beseda in January and February 1964.
Arising from the need to formulate a program the group Křižovatka (Intersection) was founded in 1963 in Prague. Its members included Vladimír Burda, Richard Fremund, Josef Hlaváček, Jiří Kolář, Běla Kolářová, Jan Kubíček, Karel Malich, Pavla Mautnerová, Vladislav Mirvald, Jiří Padrta, Otakar Slavík and Zdeněk Sýkora.
The first collective exhibition took place in March 1964 in the Gallery of Václav Špála, but the constructivists did not present themselves independently here yet. The catalogue that was put together by Jiří Padrta contained a formulate program of the so-called “objective tendencies”, which later became the foundation for the formation of the whole movement. The exhibition was supposed to be a “confrontation of eight different artistic expressions. Some of them identified with such ideas that until then had no direct predecessors or traditions in Czech modern art. That goes mainly for those tendencies in today’s art of painting that try to confront the dominance of romantic sentiment.” [see Hlaváček, Josef. Český konstruktivismus 60. let a jeho vyznění, in: Hlaváček, Josef; Sekera, Jan. Poesie racionality. Konstruktivní tendence v českém výtvarném umění šedesátých let, Praha 1994, pp.55]. These so-called “objective tendencies” therefore represented an antipole of the excessive subjectivity typical mainly for lyrical abstraction and Informel, and they leaned on the consistent principles of constructive order anchored deep in the laws of mathematical-geometric lines and structures.” However, not all artists that participated in the exhibition were strictly creating in the constructivism spirit.
Hugo Demartini, Karel Malich, Jiří Kolář and Zdeněk Sýkora introduced themselves in 1966 at an exhibition in Louny entitled Konstruktivní tendence(Constructive Tendencies). A second group exhibition called Křižovatky (Intersections) did not take place until 1968 in Brno and in Karlovy Vary under the name Nová citlivost (New Sensitivity) (then in Prague under the title Křižovatka a hosté / Nová citlivost (Intersection and Guest / New Sensitivity). An exhibition reflecting “a new type of sensitivity, opened to the current world, captivated by its visible phenomena, as well as concealed principles,” [see Jiří Padrta’s text in the catalogue Nová citlivost, in which he refers, among other things, to the German group Zero and the French New Realists] introduced also 29 invited artists in addition to the group members. Some of the exhibiting artists were again distant from the strictly constructive program (one of the exhibitors was, for example, Alena Kučerová), and there were others who worked with constructive principles, but had a different orientation in meaning (Václav Boštík, Stanislav Kolíbal). Members of the Concrete Artists’ Club (Radek Kratina and Jan Kubíček) also took part in this exhibition and their work was also in the spirit of constructivism.
By the end of the 1970s individual artists were arriving at other foundations and constructivist tendencies of the second half of the 1960s led to their zenith.
Nová citlivost: Křižovatka a hosté, Mánes, Praha
Nová citlivost: Křižovatka a hosté, Galerie umění Karlovy Vary, Karlovy Vary
Nová citlivost: Křižovatka a hosté, Dům umění města Brna, Brno
Křižovatka, Galerie Václava Špály, Praha
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Nová citlivost, neokonstruktivistické tendence. In: Tetiva, Vlastimil. České umění XX. století. 1940–1970 (kat. výst.), Hluboká nad Vltavou: Alšova Jihočeská galerie, 2006. str. 153–177.
Hlaváček, Josef; Sekera, Jan. Poesie racionality. Konstruktivní tendence v českém výtvarném umění šedesátých let, Praha: České muzeum výtvarných umění, 1994.
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Lamač, Miroslav. Nová citlivost, nová angažovanost, Literární listy, 1968, roč. 1, č. 3, s. 10.
Nová citlivost, Výtvarná práce XVI, 1968, č. 7, str. 5;
Nová citlivost, Výtvarná práce XVI, 1968, č. 16–17, str. 6.
Padrta, Jiří. Konstruktivní tendence, Výtvarné umění XVI, 1966, č. 6–7, str. 327–331.