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Published: Thursday, 11/3/2005

Czech artists transform ideas at CVA

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Milena Dopitova sits in front of
her work Sixtysomething.
Milena Dopitova sits in front of her work Sixtysomething.
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Walking in a park in Prague with her little boy, Milena Dopitova came upon an open-air pavilion where older people were happily dancing.

It had a strong emotional impact on me, she said.

While they danced, they forgot their aches and pains, their loneliness, their lack of money.

They had spent decades working at jobs and rearing children as governments changed around them. Dop-itova, 42, began creating a project around questions that filled her mind: What do we fear most about growing old? Why don t governments treat older people better?

Her resulting Sixtysomething, including video and three-dimensional pieces, is part of an innovative exhibit opening tomorrow with a public reception at the Center for Visual Arts Gallery and continuing through December. The gallery, operated by the University of Toledo s art department, is adjacent to the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.

Cultural Domestication Instinctual Desire comprises the art of six artists in their 30s and 40s from the Czech Republic.

Costing about $120,000 and taking four years to mount, the exhibit began with an idea UT faculty member Debra Davis had on a seven-week study trip to Prague in 2001. She met artists and curators and returned for yearly visits. She kept in touch by reading the Prague Post.

Davis was curator the show in conjunction with Martina Pachmanova of Prague. It includes short Toledo residencies for the three male and three female artists.

Central to Dopitova s Sixtysomething is a video that fills a wall. In it, she and her identical twin have been aged with makeup and wigs to look as if they are in their 60s. Wearing wool coats and black boots, they dance arm in arm in the puddled pavilion. In another scene, they each contribute a hand to a grand piano s keyboard and play a slow dance melody, occasionally looking at each other.

She also made a huge butterfly of pale green fabric on a metal frame. Butterflies seem to dance, she said, and they live for such a short time.

Photographs shot in the diamond district of Manhattan are by Alena Kotzmannova. Jewelry display cases are empty of treasures, but the gently-crushed velvet is shadowed where they rested. In a video component, she re-edited the 1992 film The Bodyguard, replacing key scenes with blank frames.

A dozen small fabric characters scattered across a wall show scenes of daily life: A woman hangs clothes on a line, a policeman checks a man asleep on the street, a beefy fellow heads for the beach. Called Pincushions (daily voodoo) by Jiri Cernicky, they re stuck with needles from which dangle red threads, like thin blood lines.

Jan Mancuska starts his linear string drawings with paper templates. Earlier this week, UT students taped the templates to walls and hammered nails where indicated. Then they pulled out the nails, removed the templates, and reinserted nails so they d protrude an inch. Colored string was tied from nail to nail, creating pictures that are a bit tricky to pick out two boxes, a plant on a table, a ladder. A trio of tables and straight-backed chairs (displayed on the CVA s third-floor) speak to relationships. They re named In my mother s flat I always sit on the left, In my father s flat I always sit in back, and In my mother-in-law s flat I always sit on the right.

In conjunction with the exhibit, several free, public talks will be given. Today at 7 p.m., Andrew Hershberger of Bowling Green State University will speak on Czech photography at the CVA s Haigh Auditorium. Tomorrow at noon, two Czech artists will speak at the Toledo School for the Arts.

Monday at 12:10 in the CVA Gallery, Michal Kolecek, of the J.E. Purkyne University in the Czech Republic, will speak about cultural exchanges.

Tuesday, artists will speak at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. in the CVA s Haigh Auditorium and concurrently in the museum s Little Theater. At 6:30 p.m., Michal Kolecek will speak in the Haigh Auditorium.

Cultural Domestication Instinctual Desire, opens tomorrow with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m., at which five of the featured artists will attend. Free and open to the public, the exhibit continues through December in UT s Center for Visual Arts Gallery, 620 Grove Pl., adjacent to the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Information: www.CD-IDCzechArt.utoledo.edu and 419-530-8300.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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