If I was tasked with choosing just one artist who would represent my generation born in the mid-seventies, I would undoubtedly end up choosing Josef Bolf. The generation of the baby boom, prefab panel-built housing estates, weekend cottages, black-and-white television and the Škoda 120 L, the generation whose late puberty was marked by a social and cultural revolution, will immediately identify the fragments of panel-built “non-places” that are the settings for Bolf’s paintings. They will recognize the juvenile characters (I want to write “heroes”) that appear in them. His works are a bit like their collective self-portrait. At the time, there were usually more than thirty students in a classroom. Today, they will be forty years old or more and they have more in common than they would like to admit. An unexplored iconography of memories. Unverified archetypes of traumas. Perhaps this is why some people find it difficult to turn away from Bolf’s oneiric constellations, dotted with the accoutrements of a gentle but all the more painful (perhaps somewhat far Eastern) violence that fits well with the real modernism of panel architecture. The paintings have an overburdened ecosystem of narration filled with imminent implosion, catastrophe, cataclysm.
Since the late 1990s, Josef Bolf has followed a trajectory from drawing towards painting. Each step forwards, every strengthening of the element of painting, was difficult for the audience as well, which reluctantly watched the abandonment of the “iconic” style of the earlier period. Today – and the exhibition at GAVU is proof – the moment has come to look back, recapitulate, and deconstruct the past two decades. In a figurative sense, the medium for this process is collage, cutting up and reassembling, post-production. The dominant element is the whole, but each part, every shift and every perspective, are equally important. The exhibition covers and deflects this process: Searching can be interchanged with investigation, the space of the studio with an allusion to a post-apocalyptic crime story. It is like the feeling you get when, after seeing two episodes of a TV series, you have no idea what you are watching or why you are watching it, but you start the next episode anyway.