Jan Kaláb's Solo Invitation Exhibition

<Beyond the Atolls>

2 May - 22 June, 2023

"Jan's Pure Geometric Abstraction,

a Welcoming Window to a New World"

In collaboration with HORI Artspace (CEO Kim Nari) and Regina Gallery (CEO Hong Jung-Yeon), the first solo exhibition in Korea by Czech contemporary artist Jan Kaláb (b. 1978-), titled "Beyond the Atolls," is being held. This exhibition follows his previous show in Taiwan in March, making it his second solo exhibition in Asia. Jan Kaláb grew up during a period of political turmoil in Europe, including the reunification of East and West Germany. He expressed his sensitivity to the era's changes through his artwork, which received significant attention. In particular, he has constructed a unique artistic world through his graffiti artist activities, which began in his late teens and couldn't be seen in the Czech Republic.

As hinted by the exhibition title, 《Beyond the Atolls》, Jan Kaláb's abstract paintings contain dreamlike and utopian elements. Like encountering coral reefs in the vast ocean, his artworks provide a welcoming gateway that leads to a new excitement and unknown world. The exuberant and emotional celebration of colors is truly mesmerizing. The organic forms that blur the boundary between painting and sculpture take on a different vitality depending on the viewer's perspective. They capture the moment when small cells sprout one by one, evoking a mystical sensation that makes these works truly unique.

Jan Kaláb, born in Prague in 1978, is a prominent Czech graffiti artist of the second generation. His youth was marked by the Velvet Revolution, a period often described as "having achieved a revolution without shedding blood." In 1989, the communist regime in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) collapsed, and with the opening of the borders, graffiti culture from outside played a decisive role in awakening Jan's artistic sensitivity, which was highly sensitive at the time. In the early 1990s, 15-year-old boys roamed the streets of Prague late at night, and when they found a suitable location, they tagged their own graffiti with spray paint. Of course, Jan was the leader and was arrested several times.

Jan and his crew, DSK (Da Style Killas), became icons as they embarked on a pilgrimage through Europe, starting with their initial trip to Berlin in 1994-1995 and eventually making their way to New York. During this time, they went by pseudonyms such as "SLESH, CAK, CAKES, Point" for their tags, and had painted over 250 subway and train cars during their journey to New York in the early 2000s. However, Jan's artistic growth did not solely happen on the streets. In 2002, he enrolled in the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest and most prestigious academy in the Czech Republic. There, he deeply explored the relationship between writing forms and content through his graffiti, which he had been practicing since he was young. Jan expanded the realm of expression by developing 3D graffiti sculptures with greater volume through the analysis of letter shapes, colors, line nuances, and scales, exhibiting them on the exteriors of buildings around the school.

Jan Kaláb attributes František Kupka (1871-1957), a Czech painter and graphic artist, as his greatest artistic influence. Kupka began his career with early realism painting and later became known for his works in Orphism, a branch of the European abstract art movement that focused on rich color and dimensional abstraction. Perhaps because of this, the sensuous coordination of vivid colors and the original formalism of the composition are the primary impressions and strengths of Jan Kaláb's works. He has also demonstrated his unique vision, such as filling cracks or empty spaces on roadways with small stones painted in bold colors, or experimenting with geometric compositions to paint large areas of walkways, which form the foundation of his artistic world.

Jan Kaláb's refined and complex "Jan Kaláb Style Abstract" is based on the speed and scale of guerrilla graffiti that he practiced from a young age, as well as his exploration of new and experimental forms of graphic expression. His admiration for Kupka led him to develop his own formal language of "pure geometric painting," which he completed while learning about Prague's art, architecture, and design from Czech-born British architect Eva Jiřičná. Jan's pursuits of infinity, reinterpreted gravity, and constantly changing geometric experiments have become the driving force behind the universe he creates and establish new orders. 

Since 2011, Jan's current style is based on simplified cube and circular shapes. Despite it being 26 years since he created his first graffiti work, the essence and symbolism of "Jan Style Graffiti" remained present. His artwork presents a world that reflects his unique harmony, as if constructing a limitless virtual world. The combination of different specific colors creates various emotions, similar to how the body temperature is shared. This is the language of color art that Jan pursues, and it serves as a starting point for communication. The various ideas and emotions that Jan embeds in his work can only be interpreted through the emotional language that colors evoke.

Jan sees the circular shape as a concept with many facets. Although it appears to be the simplest and easiest shape at first glance, the circle is also considered the "most challenging shape to interpret." Jan's circle simultaneously satisfies the concept of the presence of a sphere and the concept of a void as a hole. It holds a strange vitality that encompasses conflicting emotions of wholeness and incompleteness, movement and stillness. These characteristics could be described as Jan's pursuit of "microcosmic representation." As a result, Jan's paintings can be interpreted in various shapes and meanings, depending on the viewer's perspective. Some see them as resembling the mysterious waves of the sea, while others see them as stars or planets shining in the dark night sky, scenes of cell division, nameless bacteria, or the existence of celestial bodies beyond the universe. In this sense, one may wonder about the thoughts that Jan Kaláb's paintings contain. What kind of meaning is embedded in Jan's abstract paintings that feel very concrete in nature?

"My paintings reference the material world, but I'm not attempting to capture anything tangible. Rather, I endeavor to create something that has not yet existed in our world and visually manifest its essence. At times, the shapes are fluid and evoke biological forms, while geometric shapes may evoke thoughts of the macrocosm of the universe. It's simply a process of forms in transition. What matters most to me is how much the artwork embodies the essence of the universe."

Jan Kaláb's paintings achieve a balance between the perfection of painterly texture and the spatial beauty that can be viewed from multiple perspectives through the combination of colors. His work seems to capture the vitality of some undiscovered force of nature through his artistic inspiration. Unlike well-known artists such as Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, Ugo Rondinone, and Anish Kapoor, Jan Kaláb's spherical shapes exhibit unique characteristics. The masterful blending of colors in gradations is the result of pure manual labor in the completion process. Thanks to this, we can experience unparalleled peace and tranquility through the gateway of abstraction presented by Jan's art. 

* Hosted by Nari Kim (CEO of HORI Artspace), 

Hong Jung-Yeon(CEO of Regina Gallery)

* Directed by Yoon-sub Kim (CEO of AIF Art Management)


Installation Views


Artist Talk

Related Artists

Jan Kaláb

얀 칼럽, (1978-)