This is Ladislav Sutnar’s rebirth year. The life and work of the versatile industrial designer, graphic designer, educator and painter is mapped in an extensive project, The Return of Ladislav Sutnar, one of the flagship initiatives within the Pilsen (Czech Republic)—European Capital of Culture 2015 project. The goal of this initiative is both the return of this famous Pilsen native son to Pilseners and the return of Pilsen as Sutnar’s native town and the Czech Republic as his native country, as Sutnar was deliberately neglected and virtually wiped out from the cultural history by the country’s former regimes.
Radoslav Sutnar representing the Sutnar family in the United States has been in the forefront of this herculean push to reestablish Mr. Sutnar’s reputation as the leading designer of the Czech Republic by helping to establish institutions and awards that honor the once exiled maestro.
The project comprises a number of activities in which Sutnar’s work will gradually, during the course of 2015, be presented to the public in the center of Pilsen. The exhibition of Sutnar’s book design opened at Ladislav Sutnar Gallery in mid-March, and will soon be followed by the presentation of his applied art in the West Bohemian Museum, and later on, of his paintings at the Gallery of the City of Pilsen. In addition to the series of concurrent exhibitions, a permanent exposition of Ladislav Sutnar’s work will open in the West Bohemian Museum in Pilsen this June.
The project also includes an international art and design competition for university students, the publication of several books and a documentary devoted to the work of this versatile artist. Next, several hundred copies of his famous building block set are planned to be produced, and a monument is to be installed in the city center.
Sutnar‘s return to his hometown is not only symbolic—in November 2014, 75 years since his departure to the US, Sutnar and his wife Františka’s remains were buried in the Pilsen Central Cemetery. Doc. Petr Vogel from the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art designed the tombstone.
The official lineup of events:
Ladislav Sutnar – Book Design: Ladislav Sutnar Gallery / March 11–Aug. 29, 2015.In its extraordinarily comprehensive selection of examples of graphic solutions to books, magazines and occasional prints, the exhibition presents in a comprehensive and detailed way the individual stages of Sutnar’s work from the ’20s to the ’60s of the 20th century. It follows the artist’s Pilsen beginnings and his gradual shift toward the progressive principles of new typography, clearly apparent in his works for the Družstevní práce (CooperativeWorks) publishing house and culminating in his cover designs for the Výtvarné snahy (Fine Art Endeavors) and Žijeme (We Live) magazines. The top exhibits include examples of editing sheet music and publications of the State Graphic School in Prague. Sutnar’s privatissima—his uniquely preserved New Year greetings—attract, no doubt, well-deserved attention, too. The exhibition also presents the artist‘s postwar American works of art, now globally recognized as a major breakthrough contribution in the field of visual communication and a constantly challenging basis for the development of modern visual design.
Ladislav Sutnar – Applied Art: The West Bohemian Museum in Pilsen / March 15–Dec. 6.The exhibition will represent Sutnar’s progressive functionalist design in the ’30s, and enhance the idea of its aesthetic values. This will be done through a collection of numerous exhibits, for the first time including all variants of his famous porcelain and glass table sets, cutlery and other metal accessories designed for Krásná jizba (Beautiful Parlour). What will help create a deeper understanding of Sutnar’s art of design thinking is also the installation of the exhibition itself, which will, deliberately, be similar to Sutnar’s concept of the presentation of objects in the shop windows and printed materials of Krásná jizba. For variety’s sake, the exhibition will include a collection of Sutnar’s toys—means of transport and animals, and the only set of Sutnar‘s unique Postav si město (Build the Town) blocks left in Bohemia, borrowed from the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.
Ladislav Sutnar – Venuses: Gallery of the City of Pilsen / May 22–Aug. 6, 2015.The exposition will focus, in addition to several paintings where the artist experiments with geometric figures, on Sutnar‘s famous cycle of female nudes, which he called Venuses. The exhibition will present a selection of paintings and posters both from public and private collections. What makes this exhibition so special: The building that houses the Gallery of the City of Pilsen is the birthplace of Sutnar. The exhibition will be complemented by the works of students from several studios of the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art, participants in the Tribute to Sutnar project, who respond to and reflect on the artist’s work and his art principles. The display will include animation, toys, paintings, books, jewelery and other objects inspired by Sutnar.
Ladislav Sutnar – a World Designer from Pilsen / Opening June 25, 2015.A permanent exposition in the main building of the West Bohemian Museum in Pilsen will remind everyone of the work and significance of Sutnar. In a representative cross-section, visitors will get acquainted with all areas of his versatile and extensive work. The section devoted to applied art design will be dominated by functionalistic porcelain and glass sets for Krásná jizba. Sutnar’s graphic design will be represented in both book typography arising mainly from the cooperation with the Družstevní práce publishing house, and progressive new typography magazine covers from around 1930. The author’s American period will be documented in publications that summarize his pioneering role in the area of visual communication and design.
Hommage à Sutnar – Europe, Culture: Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art / May 8–May 29, 2015.Here, through posters, students of art universities and colleges will pay tribute to Sutnar. At the same time, they reflect on the question of cultural values in contemporary Europe.The project
is coordinated by Doc. Josef Mištera and Prof. Karel Míšek. The other art universities involved besides the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art are the Faculty of Art and Design of the UJEP in Ústí nad Labem, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The project outcomes will be presented in Pilsen in May 2015 and at Vaclav Havel International Airport in Prague in autumn 2015.
Books and other projects in the works:
Jan Mergl, Dominik Mačas, Radoslav Sutnar, Josef Mištera / The Return of Ladislav Sutnar—monograph on the life of Sutnar, including interviews with his son Radoslav Sutnar. The book will be complemented by a radio series.
Tomáš Vlček / Venuses—a book about Sutnar‘s paintings.
Jan Mergl, Tomáš Sanetrník / Ladislav Sutnar—Applied Art (working title)—the first full inventory of Sutnar’s interwar works.
Josef Mištera, Jan Mergl / Ladislav Sutnar and Pilsen—a brief biography of Sutnar.
Steven Heller / Ladislav Sutnar for Children and Youth—publication of a pop-up book for children. The concept and design of the book is created by an illustration student, Marcela Konárková (under the supervision of Doc. Josef Mištera).
The Return of Ladislav Sutnar—a 30-minute television documentary mapping the return of a famous native to Pilsen.
Build the Town—implementation and installation of a monument inspired by Sutnar‘s building block set in the center of Pilsen.
Build the Town—implementation of copies of the famous building block set and its production in a limited number.
[Watch this space for news on the facsimile reprint of Ladislav Sutnar: Design in Action]