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Jiří Kolář, Words in Music, 1966

“I believe that every creative artist must one day try, whether he likes it or not, to bring about what might be called a revolution. In other words, a reshaping and rebuilding of – in my case – the whole art of poetry, regardless of how great or small its previous prestige has been.”
Jiří Kolář

What is it?

This collage is composed of fragments of Czech text, numbers, musical notes and hieroglyphs arranged in concentric abstract patterns.

Why collage?

For Kolář, collage was “the only logical and suitable means to record the plurality of experiences, the several layers which form each individual, the simultaneous existence of different, and often contradictory opinions which exist within each person”.  Collage from the French coller – to glue – is a practice most significantly associated with Modernism and the first half of the 20th century, when artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque (and later Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters) started to incorporate pieces of newspaper cuttings, images or found objects into their paintings, drawings and prints. Collage was quickly adopted as a way of referencing current events in artworks; it developed against a rapidly changing European backdrop of political upheaval, growing cities, mechanization and the proliferation of printed matter. Kolář was aware of the socio-political climate in which he was working: he stated that “the world attacks us directly, tears us apart through the experiencing of the most incredible events, and assembles and reassembles us again. Collage is the most appropriate medium to illustrate this reality.”

About the artist

Kolář was born in Protivin, Bohemia and was a key artistic and cultural figure in the Czech Republic. A co-founder of Group 42, he began his career as a poet but in the 1950s Kolář’s poems began to reach out to the visual realm, in a variety of media. Kolář was the subject of persecution during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and was imprisoned for a year, after which he became very politically active. Notable retrospective exhibitions were held at the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1971), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1975) and Kettle’s Yard (1990). Find out more about him here.

Where can I see it?

This artwork can be found in the library at Kettle’s Yard.