Tomas Rajlich | Fifty years of Painting

video teaser from the anthological show curated by Flaminio Gualdoni. Video by Elena Adonide
May 4, 2018

Born in 1940, Rajlich grew up in the avant-garde Klub Konkretist┼» in Prague, which was orientated towards the international neo-avant-gardes represented by Azimut in Italy, ZERO in Germany and Nul in the Netherlands. Exiled from his native Czechoslovakia in 1969 after the Soviet invasion, Rajlich moved to Holland, where the avant-garde climate was particularly fertile and where his construction of works on orthogonal grids closely akin to the colourless achromes of Piero Manzoni was immediately viewed favourably in the ascendant Conceptualist circles.Rajlich held decisive solo exhibitions in 1974 in the Yvon Lambert gallery in Paris, Art & Project in Amsterdam, and Françoise Lambert in Milan – for many years his preferred galleries – and the following year featured with Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Gerhard Richter and others in the memorable exhibition “Fundamentele schilderkunst : Fundamental painting” in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It was a milestone in the international recognition of analytical painting.

Very soon his work gravitated towards the recovery of a fully chromatic dimension, open to symbolic and poetic suggestions, more open gestures and an irrational vitalism, with the introduction of a spectrum ranging from yellow to red, from pale blue to pink and beyond to gold, without implying any modification of the process of rigorous basic structuring of the monochromes.

As Flaminio Gualdoni has written in his essay on the exhibition: ““Colour, splashed on in short, tormented cadences, occupying by itself the whole of the image, is devoid of any instrumental or compositional logic and any linguistic hierarchy: it is, and offers itself, as image, as a substance that is itself to be seen: as light”.

In 1993 it was Gualdoni himself who curated the first retrospective of Rajlich in Palazzo Martinengo, Brescia, followed by those in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague in 1994, Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe in 1996, the National Gallery, Prague in 2008, once again the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague in 2016, MuseumKampa, Prague, in 2017, and Boijmans Museum, Rotterdam in 2018. Rajlich is rightly seen as one of the leading figures of the international neo-avant-garde.  

From 1999 to 2002 Rajlich was artist in residence at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. His works are held in the collection of that institute as well as by the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, the Musée d’Art et d’Industrie, Saint Étienne, the Musée Cantini, Marseille, Museum Boijmans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery, Prague, the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, Amsterdam, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the S.M.A.K., Ghent, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam, the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, the Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft, and others.