‘Odyssey’ showcases the journey of Jan Kaláb from his graffiti roots which took him to New York 15 years ago to the cerebral abstraction he is now creating in his hometown of Prague. His is not a conventional journey: he started on the streets and founded the iconic DSK crew but later graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in 2007 and transitioned into the fine art scene. He has had solo shows in Prague, New York, Argentina, Romania and Germany but this London show is the largest survey of his work to date, exploring his invention in and around geometric shapes. This show aims to highlight that this is an artist on a journey, continuously challenging concepts of space within a painterly practice.
He stands as a worthy heir to some of the 20th century greatest minimalists: Albers; Fontana; Mondrain; Klein; Malevich; Newman; Palermo and seems to touch on something of all of them and yet have a new and distinct take on this form of abstraction. As he has matured his lines have become cleaner and more polished: the early raw constructivist graffiti gives way to perfectly crafted pieces with vivid colour and high production values. Whereas Malevich in his day could paint a black circle and utterly transform the world of art, Kaláb paints a black circle and adds colour seeping organically from the sides like the light of the corona of a lightless sun: nodding to what has gone before but pushing it forward for the current times. He begins with basic two dimensional forms and shapes but lends them a metaphysical dimension through painting them with depth, and shading the simple edges of their forms. Like Escher, Kaláb draws the viewer into his optical illusions, escaping the traditional limitations of the plane of a canvas with his geometric morphology. Seldom have we witnessed minimalism with such depth. He strives to conjure depth and dynamism from that which is often two dimensional and always static.
‘Odyssey’ is the story of an artist on a journey who has gained inspiration and skill through his travels and his many projects including the Trafačka cultural space he co-founded in Prague. In our view, it is partly his non-traditional trajectory which makes him one of the most exciting abstract artists painting today.