Flickering with the glint of metal paper fasteners against a sapphire ground, Five by Four is one of several meditative grid assemblages Kolárová made in the mid-1960s. Through her use of ordinary domestic materials, she inserted a feminine vocabulary into the nascent conceptual art scene in Prague, where the home she shared with her partner, the artist and poet JiYri Kolár, became the center of a progressive artistic and intellectual community. The couple was affiliated with the Kriovatka (Crossroads) art movement in Prague, which, in opposition to Soviet-sanctioned Socialist Realism, oriented itself toward the international avant-garde and its strategies of abstraction.
Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 - August 13, 2017.
Kolárová was a key figure in Prague's intellectual circles in the decade of the 1960s, a time of great optimism in Soviet-bloc Czechoslovakia, one of both relative political freedom and cultural searching. In its exploration of the strangeness and beauty of ordinary things, and in her experimentation with the mediums of photography, collage, and assemblage, Kolárová's body of work reflects the legacy of Dada and Surrealism.
Her assemblages incorporated the utility objects of modern culture—small mass-produced things such as paper clips, paper fasteners, matches, metal washerswhich she described as having "no value for advertising or sale." Five by Four is the most ambitious and historically significant of this series of works. Groups of paper fasteners are mounted in gridded blocks on blue-painted plywood, their tiny prongs casting animated shadows.
Publication excerpt from Leah Dickerman, Excerpt from "Bela Kolárová's 'Five by Four'", Post: Notes on Modern & Contemporary Art Around The Globe. 2015.