Jan Kaláb
(Czech Republic, b.1978)

When Jan Kaláb was born in 1978 in Czechoslovakia, graffiti was not to be seen in the Eastern World. In the nineties, as the country was opening itself to western influences, he became one of the pioneer of the local scene, and founded an iconic crew, the DSK. Sleepless nights around train yards, light tubes at police stations and above all hard work on his style: he went through all the classical steps of a writer’s career. Through Europe, he made a name for himself as Cakes. Next step to the Hall of fame: New York, where he made a big impression by painting whole cars in 2000, alongside with Key and Rome. Around the same time, he found a new way to push his own limits and challenge himself: 3-D Graffiti. Under the name of Point, he sculpted huge abstracts letters he chose to put in the streets and on the walls. The highest the better. This was another form of graffiti, in daylight, and without a spray, but truthful to the spirit of competition and innovation of the urban scene.

EXPO Pavilion of Czech Republic Shanghai, China 上海世博捷克館

DE DENTRO E DE FORAMuseu de Arte de São PauloSão Paulo, Brazil 巴西聖保羅藝術博物館

Albin Polasek Museum, USA

Ex Chiesa Di San Mattia, Bologna, IT 聖馬蒂亞斯教堂

Concentration 圓的進化 ,Bluerider ART 個展

Those sculptures lead him to abstraction, a path he’s been exploring through canvas from 2007, using acrylic painting and brushes. In the meantime, this admirer of Kupka graduated from the Academy of fine Arts of Prague – becoming the first Czech writer to do so. 
Jan Kaláb had his first solo exhibition in 2008 in Prague. Others solos took place in Romania, Argentina, Germania or in the United States. With time, his forms became more and more geometric. He used colourful squares and circles as an obsessive vocabulary for infinite variations around depth, time, and motion. Playing with circles conveyed organic imperfection and swing into his work. Dynamic is also crucial in his recent experiments, when he took pictures of some of his paintings in the streets of New York or other cities. The project became a social one when he realised he needed help from strangers to carry the canvas. This is no surprise, since collective energy is crucial in his creative process. The artist is very invested in collective events. He’s the co-creator of a highly dynamic cultural space in Prague, called Trafačka. More than 160 exhibitions took place there from the opening in 2006 till the closure in 2015. On his own or collectively, the motto is the same: always getting higher, always inventing new forms – a tribute to the soul of graffiti.

Jan Kaláb had his first solo show in Asia with Bluerider ART in 2018. For 2023 solo exhibition "Blue Horizon", Jan Kaláb had exclusively created a new series of work for the show. In this body of work Kaláb reduced colour palette and focused on calming down the dynamic shapes on paintings. From one key colour on the painting, all the visual tension is played out between delicate difference of the tones. It was very different from Kaláb’s other series where the visual tension (or harmony) is played between different colours. Pieces like Vibrating Turquoise Square are based on creating visual effect of graduation of colour stripes. The perspective is created by receding the silhouette into the dark tones. 3D version of this “gradient perspective” develops into a suspended installation in shape of medusa named Carbunculus Bulla (Blue Bubble in latin), which is build out of 13 aluminum ellipses changing their tones and shapes in each layer to create a hollow object inspired by jellyfish or air bubble under water. There are two kinds of color gradient created by paint brush and spray gun. In multiple canvases works like “Melting Purple Ellipse 0123” and “Bracing Embrace 0123” are the two gradients combined together in shape interaction where one shape flows over the other.

Education

2006    Magister of Art, Academy of Fine Arts in Prague

Prize

2010 ART PRAGUE Young Award, Prize of UniCredit Bank at Art Prague artfair

Solo Exhibitions

2023 Blue Horizon, Bluerider ART, Taipei, TW
2022-2023 Mirage, Castanier Gallery, Miami, USA
2022 Anatomy of Rainbow, Ex Chiesa Di San Mattia, Bologna, IT2022 Shape Of Mind, HOFA Gallery, Mykonos, GR
2022 Calor, Galeria Movimento, Rio De Janeiro, BR2021 Harmony & Soul, Danysz gallery, Shanghai, CHN
2021 Symmetry & Soul, Castanier gallery, Miami, USA
2021 Kód Geometrie, Villa Pelle, Praha, CZ
2021 Cosmic Spring, Macadam Gallery, Brussels, BE
2021 On Vision and Colors, Danysz Gallery, Paris, FR
2020 Melted Sun, Kreisler Gallery ,Madrid,SP
2020 Stripped, BC Gallery, Basel, CH
2020 Solar, Rhodes Contemporary gallery, London, UK
2019 Atomic Bubble, MAGMA gallery, Bologna, IT
2019 Bent Horizons, Plastic Murs gallery, Valencia, SP
2019 Concentration, Bluerider ART gallery, Taipei, TW
2019 Shape & Tone, Castanier Gallery, Miami, USA
2018 Point of Space, Trafo gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2018 The Soul of Graffiti, Albin Polasek Museum, Winter Park, Florida, USA
2018 Perspective of Clouds, Mirus Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2017 ZOOOM, Magma Gallery, Bologna, Italy
2016 Pluriforme, Openspace Gallery, Paris, France
2016 Pulso Cromático, Castanier Gallery, Bogota, Colombia
2015 TENSION, BC Gallery, Berlin, Germany
2015 ODYSSEY, Lollipop Gallery, London, UK
2015 EXTRA, Villa Pellé, Prague, Czech Republic
2015 Getting Up, Partisan Creative Corner, Soest, Germany
2014 ART IN PUBLIC, Pop up exhibition, Šmeralova 6, Prague, Czech Republic
2014 ART IN PUBLIC, Pop up exhibition, 103 Allen Street, New York, USA
2014 AROUND THE POINT, HIC Gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2013 SALUT, H’art Gallery, Bucharest, Romania
2013 FROM POINT TO CIRCLE AND BACK, Oko Gallery, Opava, Czech Republic
2013 POINT / ALTERNATE PLAN(E)S, the Chemistry Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2012 GOOD CHOICE, Czech Centre, Sofia, Bulgaria
2011 KALÁB 33 / PLANETS CROSSING, Trafačka, Prague, Czech Republic
2008 POINT SHOP, Trafo Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic

Selected Group Exhibitions

2023 Dias Melhores, VERAO, Movimento Gallery, Rio e Janeiro, BR
2022 Vibrations, Danysz gallery, Shanghai, CN
2022 Ripple Effect, Hashimoto gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2022 Wall Street, Villa Pelle, Praha, CZ
2021 Divertimento, Collegiale Saint-Pierre-Le-Puellier, Orleans, FR
2020 New Rules, Castanier Gallery, Miami, USA
2020 Venit Occursum, Danysz Gallery, Shanghai, CN
2020 Collective Exhibition, Macdam GalleryBrussless,BE
2019 Shapes & Illusions, Danysz Gallery, Paris, FR
2019 Watch This Space, LAZinc gallery, London, UK
2019 Capture the Street, Oberhessisches Museum Giessen, Giessen, DE
2019 Letní salón, Galerie Kodl, Praha, CZ
2019 Get Out While You Can, Maddox Gallery, London
2019 CHROMA: Summer Group Exhibition, Rhodes, London
2019 GEOMETRIC HEAT: Marco Casentini, Jan Kalab, Adam Lucas, Daniel Rich, GR Gallery, New York
2019 Get Out While You Can, Maddox Gallery, Gstaad
2019 “Summer Reflection” Group Show, Fabien Castanier Gallery, Miami
2019 Praha-Berlin Barter, Urban Spree Galerie, Berlin
2018 This Is Now, Wyn317, Miami
2018 A Matter of Form, MAGMA gallery, Bologna
2018 MAGMA presents, MAGMA gallery
2018 Grand Opening Group Exhibition, Mirus Gallery, Denver
2017 Urban Art Biennale, Völklinger Ironworks, Völkliner Germany
2017 PERCEPTUAL VERTIGO, Avantgarden Gallery, Milan, Italy
2017 NO MORE CREW, Urban Spree, Berlin, Germany
2017 ABSTRAKT FORUM, Forum Przestrzenie, Krakow, Poland
2017 AVANTARTE X UNITLONDON, the Unit London Gallery, London, UK
2016 POP-UP EXHIBITION, Fabien Castanier Gallery, Miami, USA
2016 ZMRTVÝCHVSTÁNÍ, Trafo Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2016 MIMESIS, MAGMA Gallery, Bologna, Italy
2016 FRIENDS AND FAMILY, Fabien Castanier Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2016 HZGSJK, Goldenhands Gallery, Hamburg Germany
2016 TRANSBORDER, Fabien Castanier Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2015 OpenART – art biennale, Orebro, Sweden
2015 Et Cetera, Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), Rome, Italy
2014 TRAFACKA – CLOSE, Trafacka gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2014 ARTMOSSPHERE – 1st streetart biennale, Moscow, Russia
2014 OUTSIDE / INSIDE, Tabla Rasa gallery, Brooklyn – New York, USA
2014 TRAFACKA / TEMPLE OF FREEDOM, Red Gallery, London, UK
2014 CHILDREN OF KUPKA, City Hall Putaux, Putaux, France
2013 ET CETERA, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Prague, Czech Republic
2012 STUCK ON THE CITY, City Gallery Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
2012 STREET SMART, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden
2012 THREE FROM TRAFACKA, Gallery of Modern Art, Roudnice nad Labem, Czech Republic
2011 DE DENTRO E DE FORA, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
2011 BOUTIQUE, The Chemistry Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2010 1st BIENNAL DE GRAFFITI FINE ART, Museu Brasileiro de Escultura, Sao Paulo, Brazil
2010 METROPOLIS, Pavilion of Czech Republic, EXPO 2010, Shanghai, China
2009 STORAGE, The Chemistry Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2009 60 DETAILS project, Moscow, Russia
2009 WE BELIEVE IN CRISIS, Trafo gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2008 NAMES, Trafacka gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2008 CITY’S CELEBRITIES, Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic
2008 FACES AND LACES, Moscow, Russia
2007 5+kk, Trafo gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2007 PLANET PROZESS, Senatsreservenspeicher, Berlin, Germany
2007 SPACE FOR INTUITION, City Gallery Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
2006 TRAFACKA – OPEN, Trafacka gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2006 ART BEAT, BG, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
2005 CITY OF NAMES, Kunsthalle Bethanien, Berlin, Germany
2004 OBJECTIVITY, Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, UK
2004 EVERWANTING STREETS, Röda Sten, Göteborg, Sweden
2003 BACK JUMPS (the Live issue), Kunsthalle Bethanien, Berlin, Germany
2003 GENESIS, Ten 15, San Francisco, USA
2003 DA PAINTAZ, NoD Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2003 3rd SHOW OF YOUNG ARTISTS, Regional Gallery of Fine Arts, Zlin, Czech Republic
2002 SUBCULTURE, NoD Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2002 FRESH MEAT, City Gallery Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
2001 FRAGMENTS 4, Mánes gallery, Prague, Czech Republic

Collection

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids ,USA
Museu Nacional de Belas Aertes, Rio De Janeiro, Brasil
DEJI Art Museum, Nanjing, China
OsanMuseum, Osan, South Korea
Tiffany & Co
Dior

Tralier: 藍色地平線上 Blue Horizon - 楊・克拉Jan Kaláb
藝術對談: Elsa Wang v.s. Jan Kaláb
Jan Kaláb Concentration 7.13 – 8.31, 2019

藝術對談:Blue Horizon
Jan Kaláb- Point and Cakes

Art Critique


平行世界
PARALLEL WORLDS

Petr Volf

我們回顧 Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉從創作第一幅塗鴉作品以來的 25 年,我們會看到許多豐富作品,跨越流派界限,並定期尋求新的挑戰。他讓人頭暈目眩,他讓人們不自覺地環顧四周。他讓人們有一個把頭抬起來的理由,因為他在公寓二樓的窗台上放了一個小雕像,或是讓人們悄悄檢查一下他們正在行走的人行道,因為他把它變成了一幅巨大的水平畫作。一旦人們注意到,他們就會小心翼翼地行走,就像走在禪宗花園的鵝卵石上。通過他的藝術實踐,Kaláb 打破了公共空間一貫的單調乏味。

藝術評論家通常難以找到一個詞來形容 Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉。他們在稱他為塗鴉作家、雕塑家、壁畫家或畫家之間猶豫不決。這些標籤中的每一個都是正確的,但同時又不精確。他同時進行了上述所有的事情,並同時啟動了所有活動;它們相互重疊並相互影響。有時,我們彷彿在見證整體藝術的運作 —— 將各種學科結合成一個有凝聚力的整體,一切突然以驚人的形式發揮作用。

從 Kaláb 克拉決定在夜幕降臨後帶著噴霧罐去伏爾塔瓦河上的康帕島的那一刻起,他就是一名藝術家。十五歲時,他不僅發現了自己的藝術,也發現了自己生命的意義。他顯然很有天賦,塗鴉愛好者們一直在追踪 Cakes 在布拉格牆上創作的作品,他們認為這些作品在很多方面都是一種啟示。Kaláb 克拉的做法改變了公眾的看法,「噴霧器 」(sprayers) 只不過是普通的破壞者,他們最關心的是提升自己過度膨脹的自負。他成功地與當局談判,設置了合法的圍牆,尋找最適合他精心設計的大型建築的地點。他還開始在他的一些作品中放入文本內容,對他周圍的世界發表評論,主要是在 Těšnov 特什諾夫的牆上 —— 現今我們會說它們就像在更新狀態。即使多年之後,看著現今可以被視為具有歷史意義的照片,仍然會讓人覺得很有趣。他所寫的觀點是事實,也充滿了自我諷刺。他不是無緣無故的反叛者。他只是想讓人們看到 —— 並想畫畫。他痴迷於藝術創作,彷彿有人對他耳語說:『 只有在別人無所事事的時候努力工作,才能成為大師級的藝術家』,他在最短的時間內為一個目標投入了無數個小時。捷徑是不存在的,尤其是當街道是你工作的地方,而你唯一可以依賴的就是你的別名時 ——只有少數內部人士知道你是它的真正持有者。他對每一件新作品都進行了改進,到二十世紀末,他已經製作了超過一千件的作品。他仔細地記錄了他所做的一切,並不是出於虛榮心,而是通過回顧性地檢查照片來檢視每件作品的執行與質量。除了他的家鄉布拉格,Cakes 幾乎遍布整個歐洲的牆壁或火車上:維也納、柏林、漢堡、蘇黎世、巴黎、羅馬、米蘭、巴塞羅那和倫敦,以及大西洋彼岸的紐約,世界藝術之都,1960 年代和 70 年代之交塗鴉的誕生地,這也是他作為一位塗鴉藝術家的決心及經歷嚴峻考驗的地方,包括直接面對嚴厲懲罰與威脅,例如市長 Rudy Giuliani 魯迪·朱利安尼無情地僱用他清理城市街道一樣。

2000 年左右,他開始使用 Cakes 之外的另一個暱稱,成為 Point。這是一個突破性的時刻。在千禧年之初,Point 帶來了一場變革,使 Kaláb 克拉在全球成為街頭藝術家中的翹楚。他成為第一個離開牆壁並在三維上進行塗鴉的人 —— 雕塑和物體,介於空間裝置、雕塑和建築之間,並在眾多國際博覽會上獲得成功。楊・克拉 Jan Kaláb 是很真誠的,對於一個藝術家來說,這是一個基本的前提。這與他的固執和堅韌有很大關係;他試圖自己尋找解決方法,不願意隨波逐流—— 他想成為引領潮流的人!他是一名自學者,這使他成為了獨一無二的藝術家。雖然他在藝術學校學習,但主要是想為自己遇到的創作問題去尋找解決方案,而不是讓任何事情都只聽命於自己。他最初就讀於一所以藝術為重點的高中,隨後申請在Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze 布拉格藝術、建築與設計學院  ,簡稱 VŠUP ,學習建築,後來轉到學校的雕塑工作室。每一步,他都很快的意識到過於嚴格的教學形式不是他喜歡的。

出於同樣的原因,他轉學到捷克最重要的藝術學校,Akademie výtvarného umění v Praze 布拉格美術學院,簡稱 AVU。在 AVU,他終於獲得了夢寐以求的自由。 吉特卡·斯沃博多娃 Jitka Svobodová 教授看到了他的潛力,並沒有強迫他去做任何不適合他的事情。他於 2006 年以優異的成績畢業。他的的論文標題為 Tady je tam (Here is There) ,致力於討論塗鴉現象,將其呈現為一種延伸到許多其他藝術學科的流派。他將布拉格變成了他自己的露天畫廊,並運用了相機和時間元素。論文的評價包括以下內容:『他是這個國家唯一一位成功地將這一邊緣藝術學科提升到獨特形式水平的藝術家,同時又不放棄他的初衷,包括使用刻字、他的簽名( Cakes 或 Point ) ,使用形式、顏色、對比度以及其他屬性。』在他的案例中,沒有什麼可挑剔的。

論文審查委員會的成員對他所呈現作品的數量和質量都感到驚訝,其中也有一些人承認這是他們第一次見到塗鴉藝術家。論文答辯在Veletržní palác 貿易展覽館進行,這裡收藏著國家美術館的當代藝術藏品,在一定程度上履行了傳教的作用,象徵著將當前的藝術能量注入已經僵化的機構。 Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉成為歷史上第一位獲得布拉格美術學院碩士學位的塗鴉藝術家。彷彿他在證明他曾經寫在離布拉格城堡不遠的喬特克彎下的牆上的話:『如果我想做某事,我不會問我是否能做到……』

下一個決定性的時刻是他在布拉格Vysočany 維索常尼的一個前變電站中獲得了一間工作室。他不再需要在外面的街上工作,也不再需要查看天氣預報來擔心會不會下雨。隨著地點的改變,他也改變了他的藝術媒介。就好像地點決定了接下來會發生什麼事情。從 2007 年開始,他在畫布上創作了不特定於某個特定位置的繪畫,不考慮由框架限定的表面。他用刷子和丙烯顏料換掉了他在製作大件作品時也會用到的噴霧罐和滾筒。他必須掌握這項技術,他花了幾個月的時間才獲得自信,讓他能夠捕捉到自己的幻覺。從主題上講,他從上次中斷的地方繼續;他在畫布上繪製了他的別名 Point,逐漸將其簡化為空間中的幾何元素。走上合法的藝術道路,他研究了自己實踐的本質,分析和詮釋了迄今為止他作品中最強大的方面。2008年,他剛完成畫家的轉型,就在 Trafo 畫廊舉辦了他的第一次個展——同時慶祝了他的三十歲生日。它獲得了極好的評價。藝術評論家和策展人 Jiří Machalický 伊日·馬查利基在 Lidové noviny 《人民報》上的評論中不遺餘力地讚美:『他的畫作完美地考慮了構圖,汲取了兩次世界大戰期間建構主義的線索,Mondrian蒙德里安或Doesburg杜斯伯格的抽象。藝術家的畫作自由而充滿活力,也體現了對顏色關係的微妙感覺。』這個有趣的“現象”也被藝術理論家 Karel Srp 卡雷爾先生在他的文章 Visuté roviny《懸浮平面》中記錄下來,該文章發表在 Kaláb 克拉在 Trafo 畫廊的第二次個展(2011 年)的目錄中。在那時,這位藝術家已經磨練了他早期的繪畫能力,使它們更加精確,並將它們發展和提升到一個更高的水平。Srp 還認為 Kaláb 克拉的藝術方向與上個世紀初活躍的抽象藝術先驅有相似之處,在他看來『 一方面由完全相交的平面構成的純幾何空間,另一方面是擺脫了依賴重力的宇宙空間…… 』他觀察到 Kaláb 克拉沿著他自己的軌跡到達了這一點,而不是採用已經存在的藝術詞彙。此外,他提請注意藝術家未來發展的另一個值得注意的方面:『Kaláb克拉從幾個基本的先決條件中構建他的視覺世界,以兩種對比鮮明的形式為代表——球體和立方體,圓形和正方形。這些已成為他進一步發展的資源。』無限空間中的幾何體,或穿透繪畫的多個層次,現在是他創作其作品決定性的基礎。除了鞏固他的藝術簽名外,第二個展覽的重要性在於這位 30 歲的藝術家首次以他的名字 Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉出現。

2013 年, Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉在The Chemistry Gallery 化學畫廊的個展「 Děravé plány 備用計畫」的目錄介紹中包含了他對自己提出的幾個具有哲學傾向的問題:『我經常問自己,一個人是否可以耗盡靈感?我能到達無法繼續的地步嗎?到底有沒有終點存在? 他的回答是沒有盡頭,到達的每一點都是通往另一個世界的另一扇門——我們越接近它,它就越開始包圍我們。突然之間,我們身處其中』他解釋道,『我們開始在新的地平線上看到更多的點。一旦一個人開始了這樣的朝聖之旅,他們肯定在一生中都會充滿樂趣。事實上, 有時你看不到一顆星星,因為它們被雲遮住了,但這並不意味著它們不在遠處。』不久之後,他通過了另一個門戶;他開始畫圓形和有機形成的畫,證實了他對藝術有無限可能性的信念。巧合的是,他選擇在紐約冒險一試,他說紐約是最充滿活力的城市; 令人不安,但卻促使一個人去做令人信服的工作。 多年前,當他在那裡裝飾地鐵時,世界貿易中心的雙子塔還屹立不倒。 這一次,他在布魯克林有一個工作室,在那裡,他可以平靜地創作反映這座充滿活力的大都市氛圍的抽象作品。他得到了不同的理解:『他的極簡主義幾何畫誇張、色彩豐富、充滿活力,喚起了他最近在紐約的經歷,溫暖、聲音和興奮的體驗』、『看到他的畫就是見證紐約市在任何特定時刻存在的孤獨、色彩、短暫和力量的深度。』紐約策展人 Alan Ket 艾倫凱特寫道。 

與此同時,他成功地在奥斯特拉瓦、布拉格、波哥大和倫敦繪製了巨大的壁畫,在街頭藝術展覽中構建了三維的作品,提出了球形雕塑的概念,以及在畫布上繪畫——每一次的創作都再衍伸出另一個系列。Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉不斷前行,抹去了偉大藝術與次要藝術之間的差異,抹去了街頭藝術、塗鴉藝術與畫廊藝術之間的差異,以同樣的參與度去做每件事,因為他知道沒有它,他就無法打開讓他看到了宇宙繁星的大門。沒有人兩次踏入同一條河流。通過他的實踐,Jan Kaláb 楊・克拉是 Heraclitus 赫拉克利特對時間的理解的化身。他掌握了一個重要的真理,意識到重複成功的事情會導致停滯不前。沒有人知道他下一秒會做什麼。他自己可能都不知道。然而,我們不僅可以希望,而且可以肯定,它將會是一個驚喜。

Petr Volf
捷克著名建築與藝術期刊資深編輯,藝評家,策展人,出版多本藝術與建築專書著作

PARALLEL WORLDS

If we look back on the twenty-five years that have elapsed since Jan Kaláb made his first graffiti piece, we see a surprisingly rich body of work cutting across genre boundaries and seeking new challenges at regular intervals. He makes people’s heads spin. He forces them to look around unwittingly. He gives them a reason to raise their eyes because he’s placed a little statue on the ledge of the second floor of an apartment building, or to fleetingly check the sidewalk they’re walking on because he’s transformed it into a huge, horizontal painting. As soon as they notice, they tread carefully,as if walking on the pebbles of a Zen garden. With his artistic practice, Kaláb undermines the customary drabness of public space.

Art critics often have a problem finding one word to characterize Jan Kaláb. They hesitate between calling him a graffiti writer, sculptor, muralist or painter. Each of these labels is correct, yet at the same time imprecise, being a simplification: He does all of the above concurrently, setting all his activities into motion at the same time; they overlap and influence each other.Sometimes it’s as if we were witnessing Gesamtkunstwerk in action – the combining of various disciplines into one cohesive whole, where everything suddenly functions in a striking synthesis.

Kaláb has been an artist since the moment he decided to go to Kampa Island on the Vltava River with a spray can after nightfall. At the age of fifteen he discovered not only his art, but the meaning of his life. He was evidently talented and graffiti aficionados who kept track of the pieces produced on Prague’s walls by Cakes, as he called himself at the time, thought they were in many ways a revelation. Kaláb’s practice helped change the public’s view that “sprayers” were nothing but ordinary vandals, their primary concern being to boost their own overinflated egos. He had successful negotiations with the authorities to set aside legal walls, looking for appropriate locations that would best suit his large, carefully composed forms. He also started inserting textual content into some of his pieces, making comments on the world around him, primarily on the wall in Těšnov- today we’d say they were something akin to status updates.Even after so many years, looking at photographs that could now be considered historic, it makes for interesting reading. His written views are engaged in the true sense of the word, as well as being full of self-irony. He was not a rebel without a cause. He simply wanted to be seen – and to paint. He was obsessed with making art, as if someone had whispered to him that a person can only become a master artist if they work when others are twiddling their thumbs. He devoted tens of thousands of hours to a single objective within the shortest timeframe. Shortcuts do not exist, especially if the street is where you do your work and the only thing you can depend on is your alias – and only a few insiders know that you are its true holder. He improved with each new piece and by the end of the twentieth century he’d made far in excess of a thousand.He carefully documented everything he did: He didn’t do this purely out of vanity, retrospectively he checked the quality of execution of each piece by examining the photographs. Besides his home city Prague, Cakes could be found on walls or trains practically all over Europe: Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, Zurich, Paris, Rome, Milan, Barcelona and London, as well as on the other side of the Atlantic in New York, the art capital of the world, where graffiti was born at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s. That’s also where his resolve as a graffiti artist went through its acid test, including direct confrontation with the threat of harsh penalties, as mercilessly employed by Mayor Rudy Giuliani to clean up the city’s streets.

Around 2000, he started using another nickname besides Cakes, becoming Point. It was a ground­ – breaking moment. At the beginning of the new millennium, Point brought a change that moved Kaláb to the forefront of progressive street artists within a global context.He became one of the first to leave the wall behind and make graffiti in three dimensions – sculptures and objects on the boundary between spatial installation, sculpture and architecture, which went on to reap successes at numerous international expositions.Jan Kaláb is genuine. That’s a fundamental prerequisite for an artist who doesn’t intend to follow the mainstream. It has a lot to do with his obstinacy and tenacity: He tries to find solutions to everything himself and is unwilling to follow the reigning trends – he wants to be the one setting them! He is effectively an autodidact, allowing him to be a one-of-a-kind art innovator. Although he studied at art schools, it was primarily to try to find solutions to his own creative issues, rather than to let anything be dictated to him. He initially attended an art-focused high school, subsequently applying to study at the Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze, or VŠUP (Art, Architecture and Design School in Prague), where he studied architecture, later transferring to the school’s sculpture studio. At each step, he quickly realized that an excessively strict form of tuition wasn’t to his liking.

For the same reason, he transferred to the Akademie výtvarného umění v Praze, or AVU (Academy of Fine Arts in Prague), the most important art school in the Czech Republic.At AVU he finally gained the freedom he’d been dreaming about. Professor Jitka Svobodová recognized his potential and didn’t push him into anything that didn’t fit his focus. He graduated in 2006 with an excellent degree. His entire dissertation entitled Tady je tam (Here is There) was devoted to the graffiti phenomenon, presenting it as a genre extending across many other art disciplines. He transformed Prague into his own open-air gallery, as well as putting into play cameras and the element of time.The appraisal included the following: “He is the only artist in this country who managed to elevate this marginal art discipline to the level of distinctive forms, without relinquishing his basic starting points, including the use of lettering, his signature (Cakes or Point), work with form, color, its contrasts, as well as other attributes.” In his case, there was nothing to find fault with.

Members of the examination committee were surprised by the unprecedented quantity and quality of the work presented, some admitted that it was the first time they’d met a graffiti artist in the flesh. The dissertation defense took place in Veletržní palác (Trade Fair Palace), which houses the National Gallery’s collection of modern and contemporary art, and in part fulfilled a missionary function,symbolizing the injection of current art energy into somewhat of a fossilized institution.Jan Kaláb became the first graffiti artist in history to receive a master’s degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. As if he was proving the words he’d once written on the wall under Chotek’s Bend, not far away from Prague Castle: “If I want to do something, I don’t ask if I can do it…”

The next defining moment came when he acquired a studio in a former electrical substation in Prague’s Vysočany. He no longer had to work outside on the street, checking the weather reports, worrying about whether it would rain.With the change of location, he also transformed his art medium. As if the location determined what was going to happen next. From 2007 onwards, he made paintings on canvas not specific to a particular location, discounting the surface delimited by the frame. He swapped his spray cans and rollers, which he also used when making larger pieces, for brushes and acrylic paints. He had to master the technique, and it took months before he acquired the self-assurance that would allow him to capture his visions. Thematically he continued where he’d left off: He painted his alias Point on canvas, progressively simplifying it into geometrical elements in space. Taking a legitimate artistic path, he investigated the essence of his practice, analyzing and interpreting the strongest aspects of his work so far.

In 2008, as soon as his transformation as a painter was complete, he held his first solo exhibition in the Trafo Gallery – also celebrating his thirtieth birthday.It received excellent reviews. Art critic and curator Jiří Machalický spared no superlatives in his review in the Lidové noviny newspaper: “His paintings have perfectly considered compositions, picking up the threads of interwar constructivism, the abstractions of Mondrian or Doesburg. Free and dynamic, the artist’s paintings also manifest a subtle sense for color relations.”

This interesting “phenomenon” was also pointed out by art theorist Karel Srp in his text Visuté roviny (Suspended Planes), published in the catalog accompanying Kaláb ‘s second solo exhibition in Trafo Gallery (2011). By then the artist had honed his earlier endeavors in painting, making them more precise and developing and elevating them to an even higher level. Srp also felt that Kaláb ‘s artistic direction had an affinity with the pioneers of abstract art active at the start of the previous century, who in his view had come up with “pure geometrical space constructed from stark intersecting planes on the one hand, and cosmogenic space, liberated from dependence on gravity, on the other…” He observed that Kaláb arrived at this point along his own trajectory, rather than by adopting an already existing artistic vocabulary.Additionally, he drew attention to another noteworthy aspect of the artist’s future development: ” Kaláb constructs his visual world from several fundamental prerequisites, represented by two contrasting forms – the sphere and the cube, the circle and the square. These have become resources for his further development.” Geometrical bodies in an infinite space, or penetrating several layers of the painting, are now the determining building blocks from which he composes his work. Besides consolidating his artistic signature, the second exhibition was also important in that the thirty-year-old artist presented himself for the first time under his civilian name Jan Kaláb. That was to be the case from then on.

In 2013, Jan Kaláb ‘s introduction to the catalog of his solo exhibition Děravé plány (Alternate Plan(e)s) in the Chemistry Gallery included several philosophically inclined questions that he posed to himself: “I often ask myself whether one can exhaust inspiration. Can I reach a point where I can’t continue? Does any kind of end point exist at all?” His answer was that there is no end, and each point one reaches is another gateway to yet another world – the closer we approach it, the more it begins to encompass us. “Suddenly we are inside it,” he explains, “and we begin to see more points on the new horizon. Once a person sets out on a pilgrimage like that, they’re guaranteed to have fun throughout their lives. And the fact that sometimes you can’t see a single star because they’re obscured by clouds, doesn’t mean they’re not there in the distance.” A short while later, he passed through another portal: He started painting circular and organically formed paintings, confirming his stated belief in the infinity of artistic possibilities.By coincidence he took the plunge in New York, which he talks about as the most energetically charged city; unnerving, yet urging a person to do compelling work. Years before, when he was there adorning subway trains, the twin towers of the World Trade Center were still standing. This time round he had a studio in Brooklyn where he had peace and calm to make abstract works reflecting the atmosphere of the pulsating metropolis.He found understanding: “His minimalist geometric paintings are bombastic, colorful, and energetic, evoking the warmth, sounds and excitement that have been his recent experience in New York,” wrote New York curator Alan Ket. “To see his paintings is to witness the depth of loneliness, color, transience, and power that exists in New York City at any given moment.”

At the same time, he managed to paint huge murals in Ostrava, Prague, Bogota and London, construct three-dimensional Point pieces at street art exhibitions, come up with the concept of spherical sculptures, as well as painting on canvas – one activity generated another. Jan Kaláb is constantly on the move, wiping away the differences between great and minor art, between the milieus of street, graffiti and gallery art, doing everything with the same degree of engagement because he knows that without it he couldn’t open the doors that allow him to see the stars in the Universe. No one steps in the same river twice. With his practice, Jan Kaláb is the personification of Heraclitus’ understanding of time. He has grasped an important truth, realizing that repeating something successful leads to stagnation. No one knows what he will do in the next moment. He may not even know it himself. However, we can not only hope, but we can be sure, that it will come as a surprise.

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